Mirror neurons, a discovery that needs special consideration for school

30 years ago, a group of researchers from the University of Parma discovered i.a mirror neurons. Few discoveries have produced the same impact about our lives: from spastic paralysis rehabilitation in children, to psychology, to education, to mental health prevention. When we learn something, mirror neurons are in action. Knowing more helps us learn better and adapt difficult situations that we encounter in life.

A few days ago we celebrated the forty years since Italy’s victory in the 82nd World Cup and almost all of us know by heart the names of the players who won the trophy. It’s me instead unknown to the general public scientists who discovered mirror neurons. The team was coordinated by Giacomo Rizzolati and consisted of Luciano Fadiga, Leonardo Fogassi, Vittorio Gallese and Giuseppe di Pellegrino. Researchers of which our country can be proud.

In a world where mental illness is rampant, can we afford to ignore neuroscience?

When we are small we learn very difficult things thanks tolearning by imitation. We learn to speak a language without going to school one day, but “imitating” the sounds uttered by those who take care of us. This is just one example of how mirror neurons allow us to learn and adapt to the environment we are in submerged. Now that we are living in a veritable epidemic of learning disabilities and mental illness more generally, can we ignore the opportunities that come from discoveries like this?

From studies about the brain, stimuli to support young people at school and beyond

A few days ago in the magazine Trends in Cognitive Science A study has been published that tracks scientific history of mirror neurons in the last thirty years also to understand how today we can exploit this wealth of knowledge. For example within prevention of mental health, Vittorio Gallese, one of the first discoverers of mirror neurons, talks about it in this video, and one of the authors of this recent study:

If winning the 82nd Football Championship remains on the bulletin board, the tools that come from neuroscience they can support young people at a time when mental disorders are widespread. The situation, which was already serious before the pandemic, has done nothing but get worse. Those who teach, or have a child who attends school, know this well.

It is not charitable to put empathy at the service of skill

In school is this kind of knowledge essential. For example, there are countless sources that tell us that knowing how to create a welcoming and empathetic environment in school is not at all a feel-good message that is at the expense of the acquisition of skills, but quite the opposite services. With many regards to the nostalgia of the authoritarian teacher of the past.

They are not opinions, but physiological evidence which shows us how the brain learn better in a welcoming relational context. From here come indications for policy (reducing the number of students per class is not optional!) and practice didactic specifically to develop greater empathy in the relationship with students and help them find more motivation and concentration.

Mental health prevention can also start at school

These days there is a lot of talk about education and update with regard to the school world and also Daily facts by announcing its new project “School without borders” it goes in this direction. Despite the context is changing quickly it seems to me that still little or nothing is moving towards the adoption of di teaching practice validated by neuroscience in school. Improve the emotional environment in which you learn without giving up competence development, would immediately allow to start what is a real action to prevent mass mental health. Can we afford to do without it?

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