A Baby’s Neurons Smiled at Me Yesterday

 
saralynn
 
Avatar
 
 
saralynn
Total Posts:  9284
Joined  29-01-2010
 
 
 
11 March 2012 14:04
 

Yesterday I babysat for a 6 month old and, since babies make me nervous because I never had one, I sat and stared at it for 15 minutes straight just in case it stopped breathing or choked on its own fist or some other catastrophe occurred.  I noticed two things that interested me.  First of all, the baby stared at me very intently and I stared right back.  Not in a creepy way…a neutral way.  I remembered that someone told me that if you look into a baby’s eyes, you see eternity, and I understood why they said this because there was something mesmerizing about that baby’s eyes.  Then I figured out why….the baby hardly ever blinked.  I blinked about ten times more frequently than the baby did.  Then I thought….hey, I wonder if the baby isn’t blinking because his brain is going through the “reptilian” stage of development I mean, lizards don’t blink much, do they?  And, if you take away the cuteness, the baby and lizard are quite similar.  It’s all about eating and sensations.

Yes, I know there is a huge differences between a baby and a lizard, but could it be that the primitive part of the brain is developing at this time…6 months..and therefore it is temporarily at the same general level as a lizard.  Again, of course the two are different,....lizards don’t have much of a social life, do they? But this blinking business startled me. Doesn my theory make sense or have I drifted off into some kind of scientific fantasyland?

The second thing I noticed is that the baby imitated me.  If I smiled, he smiled. If I frowned, he frowned.  I wanted to try scowling at the baby and looking at him in a threatening way, but I thought it would be unethical.  Okay, I might have tried it for a split second, but I thought there might be nannycam hidden in a light bulb.  I tried lifting my arm to see if he would do the same, but he didn’t.  It was only emotional responses that he imitated. So….I started thinking about mirror neurons and how scientists are all so excited by them.  I wondered…what’s the big deal?  Everyone knows babies imitate and humans empathize with others.  Why is this so revolutionary?  Is it because scientists have “islolated” a mirror neuron or is there something I don’t know?

I googled a bit, but all I came up with is that certain parts of the brain light up when people feel empathy.  Ur…..so what?  Any mother could have figured this out after 6 months of watching a baby develop.

Oh yeah…one more thing.  If neurons are activated when people feel empathy, does this mean that the empathy is a result of the neurons?  If so, why can’t we stimulate the empathy part of psychopath’s brains while simultaneiously having them interact with a human being.  Okay…better…stimulate empathy in racists while they are in the company of people they hate?

 
hannahtoo
 
Avatar
 
 
hannahtoo
Total Posts:  7176
Joined  15-05-2009
 
 
 
11 March 2012 14:32
 

Yep, you can figure out a whole lot by staring at a baby.  I hope you got to cuddle and feed the baby too.  It’s all about releasing endorphins and nurturing consciousness and being present in the present.

Children are our some of our best teachers, as I know you appreciate from the tutoring you do.

Mirror neurons are thought to be the means by which we infer that other people are thinking and what other people are thinking.  So it is not just about imitating actions, but also reading intention and anticipating the future.

 
saralynn
 
Avatar
 
 
saralynn
Total Posts:  9284
Joined  29-01-2010
 
 
 
11 March 2012 14:53
 

Hannah: Yep, you can figure out a whole lot by staring at a baby.  I hope you got to cuddle and feed the baby too.  It’s all about releasing endorphins and nurturing consciousness and being present in the present.

Children are our some of our best teachers, as I know you appreciate from the tutoring you do.

Mirror neurons are thought to be the means by which we infer that other people are thinking and what other people are thinking.  So it is not just about imitating actions, but also reading intention and anticipating the future.

Oh no, I didn’t pick up the baby or feed it.  As I said, I was the youngest child and never had children, so babies are alien to me. I’ve often thought that,  since I am childless, I may have missed out on one of the most profound experiences a human being can have, but I have also known a lot of women who have confided to me that they wish they didn’t have children, so…who knows?  I do have three cats (what is it about middle-aged women and cats?) who I practically breastfeed, so I know about that bonding stuff.

I understand in a very elementary way what mirror neurons do, I just don’t understand why we can’t stimulate the areas of the brain that contain them so that we can make people more empathetic and sociable.  We could start with eith GAD or Antisocialdarwinist.  Ho ho ho!  Just joking!

 
hannahtoo
 
Avatar
 
 
hannahtoo
Total Posts:  7176
Joined  15-05-2009
 
 
 
11 March 2012 21:29
 

I understand in a very elementary way what mirror neurons do, I just don’t understand why we can’t stimulate the areas of the brain that contain them so that we can make people more empathetic and sociable.

Not sure if they’re all about good empathy.  Wouldn’t some mirroring involve the negative emotions or intents as well?

Boy, I just saw an intense movie that is all about reading intentions, The Separation.  Extremely well-acted and interesting…but de-pres-sing!  Got best foreign film.