The Anatomy of Empathy

Joel Salinas’ condition might sound straight out of a sci-fi novel, but there is a potential neurological explanation that is very of this world: Mirror touch may be an exaggerated form of a process all our brains have — the ability to mirror, or somewhat simulate, what others are doing and feeling. For most of us, this mirroring happens beneath the surface of our consciousness; Salinas’ brain appears to plumb those depths regularly. Mirroring might be an integral part of how all humans experience empathy, and studying mirror-touch synesthetes like Salinas could offer scientists a rare look into how that all-important emotional impulse works in our brains.

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