Last week, my Neurobiology class was assigned to watch this TED Talk by Vilayanur Ramachandran (link posted below). He discusses many of the themes we have discussed this semester, such as evolution, the neurological process of learning, and what constitutes the self. Ramachandran attributes the evolution of human culture to the emergence and development of mirror neurons, a type of interneuron that allows individuals to mimic one another. The use of tools, fire, shelters, language, and theories of mind, all developed from interpersonal process emulation by mirror neurons. Once these neurons evolved, skills could spread horizontally through a population at an unprecedented rate.
Ramachandran also discusses these mirror neurons as being the fundamental source of interpersonal experience on a neurological level. These “Ghandi Neurons” allow us to neurologically empathize with others, a finding that integrates cultural and social experience to the biological world.
He explains it much better than I can… Its a great seven minutes!