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★Are we naturally selfish or sympathetic? Is our empathy stronger than our fear of others? Through an intense narrative, we journey with the discoverer of mirror neurons beyond the clichés to the discovery of a new human science.
★“There is a biological mechanism that makes us social, that allows us to consider others as ourselves.”
Why is it that sometimes we understand the actions of those standing in front of us and other times we don’t? Are we biologically programmed to be alone or to be with others? In recent years a group of scientists have revolutionised studies of the brain and can give us more convincing answers to these questions. Giacomo Rizzolatti is the most noted among them for the discovery of a particular type of cell, the mirror neuron, which is equipped with the characteristic of activating itself when we observe an action or when we act ourselves. These are our empathy neurons. Within them we can find many explanations regarding our individual and social behaviour, how it changes our way of understanding, our perceptions, actions and language. According to some, the discovery of mirror neurons has revolutionised the idea that we have of the human mind “just as DNA revolutionised biology”. According to others it may well reduce the difference between reason and emotion to zero. In this book that debunks many commonly held beliefs, both philosophical and social aspects are addressed together with the great clinical prospective that mirror neurons may lead us to a cure for the most mysterious illness of all: autism. Perhaps a new era will open, following the homo homini lupus one: science is now telling us that we are biologically built to be together and to experience the same emotions as others do.
GIACOMO RIZZOLATTI directs the department of Neuroscience at the University of Parma. An academic of Lincei, he has won numerous awards, including the 2014 Brain Prize, the most important recognition worldwide for the study of the brain. He has published articles in mainstream international scientific magazines and, with Corrado Sinigaglia, So quel che fai (Raffaello Cortina 2006).
ANTONIO GNOLI writes for Repubblica, where he was Chief Editor of the cultural pages. He has covered Chatwin, Rilke, Junger, Kojève. He has also worked alongside Franco Volpi, with whom he wrote, among others, L’ultimo sciamano. Conversazioni su Heidegger (Bompiani 2006). His most recent book, with Francesco De Gregori, is Passo d’uomo (Laterza 2016).
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