Wicker B, Keysers C, Plailly J, Royet JP, Gallese V, Rizzolatti G. (2003) Both of us disgusted in my insula: the common neural basis of seeing and feeling disgust. Neuron 40, 655–664 http://www.sciencedirect.com/scienc...serid=10&md5=a58d6c91ce2a4cf27529d85a812f34ee A relatively recent and important discovery in the neurosciences is that of the mirror neuron system. Briefly, mirror neurons are activated both when a subject performs a particular kind of action and when the subject observes another person performing that same action. It has been argued that mirror neurons facilitate our ability to understand the actions of others by means of a sort of empathy-- observing others' actions automatically causes us to "simulate" those actions in our own minds as if we were doing them ourselves. In essence, the idea is that mirror neurons spontaneously put us in the other guy's shoes. The article I'll be presenting (reference above) discusses a similar kind of neural mirroring system, but one that is sensitive to emotion rather than action. In particular, the authors use fMRI imaging to analyze how the brain is activated during the perception of disgusting, pleasant, and neutral olfactory stimuli in self and others. The core finding is that some brain areas (left anterior insula and right anterior cingulate cortex) are active both when one perceives disgusting stimuli and when one observes the facial expressions of others who have been exposed to disgusting stimuli. The authors propose that this mirror neuron system for disgust underpins our ability to understand the same emotion in others, again essentially by means of a kind of automatically generated empathy. A brief review article on mirror neurons can be found here: A unifying view of the basis of social cognition. The authors of this paper discuss mirror neurons in both the motor and emotive modalities-- drawing extensively from the Wicker et al. paper presented here for the latter topic-- and put forth the case for mirror neurons as grounding empathic understanding of others. A more laymanesque discussion of mirror neurons is available at PBS's Nova site.