Which is more hyped? Mirror neurons or oxytocin? I guess it depends on the day you're asking, or the blogs you are reading, or the conferences you are attending. There's is no doubt that the silliness surrounding both is a wonder to watch. Some people have a need to reduce their worlds to simple notions; mirror neurons and oxytocin are two concepts they've grabbed onto with avid vigor and ignorant excitement.
Motor cells that respond to the sight of other people moving are intriguing, there’s no doubt. It’s likely they play a role in important social cognitions. But to claim that they make us empathic, and to raise them up as neuroscience’s holy grail, as the ultimate brain-based root of humanity, is ridiculous. The evidence I’ve mentioned is admittedly somewhat biased, designed to counteract the hype and show just how much debate and doubt persists. In fact, the very existence of mirror neurons in the human brain is still disputed by some. That’s where we’re at with the study of these cells. We’re still trying to find out whether they exist in humans, where they are, and what exactly it is they do. Mirror neurons are fascinating but they aren’t the answer to what makes us human. [Sorry. I can't get Typepad to indent the quote.]
Click to read the rest. The post's a good antidote to the presentations one hears and reads by those overly taken with mirror neurons.