The Neurons that Shaped Civilization
Vilayanur Ramachandran | 10:18
I'd like to talk to you today about the human brain, which is what we do research on at the University of California. Just think about this problem for a second. Here's a lump of flesh, about three pounds, which you can hold in the palm of your. But it can contemplate the vastness of intel space. It can contemplate the meaning of infinity, ask questions about the meaning of its own existence, about the nature of God, and this is truly the most amazing thing in the world.
It's the greatest mystery confronting human beings. How does this all come about? Well, the brain, as you know, is made up of neurons. Looking at neurons here, there are 100 billion neurons in the adult human brain, and each neuron makes something like a thousand to 10,000 contacts with other neurons in the brain.
And based on this, people are calculated that the number of permutations and combinations of brain activity exceeds the number of elementary particles in the universe. So how do you go about studying the brain one. Used to look at patients who had lesions in different part of the brain and study changes in their behavior.
And this is what I spoke about in the last 10. Today I'll talk about a different approach, which is to put electrodes in different parts of the brain and actually record the activity of individual nerve cells in the brain and sort of eavesdrop on the activity of nerve cells in the brain. now, one recent discovery that has been made by researchers in Italy in Palm by and his colleagues is a group of neurons called mirror neurons, which are in the front of the brain in the frontal lobes.
Now it turns out there are neurons, which are called ordinary motor command neurons in the front of the brain, which have been known for over 50 years. These neurons will fire when a person performs a specific action. For example, if I do that and reach and grab an. A motor command neuron in the front of my brain will fire.
If I reach out and pull an object. Another neuron will fire commanding me to pull, might pull that object. These are called motor command Neurons be known for a long time, but what found was a subset of these neurons, maybe about 20% of them, will also fire when I'm looking at somebody else performing the same action.