Do you remember those days of the Covid – 19 Pandemic? Schools were shut down. Zoom meetings were the norm. Graduation parties, birthdays, and weddings all felt like another era. But, worst of all, the number of people who succumbed to this virus and lost their lives was just horrific. More people died from Covid, than during 9/11 or World War 2. Those people were brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, aunts, and uncles. Each of them meant something special to someone else. Perhaps, the saddest part of it is that each of these deaths could have been prevented if some simple measures had been taken, such as social distancing and mask wearing. However, for many reasons, a significant portion of Americans did not take these precautions. Now research has come up with a reason for why that might be the case, Mirror Neurons!
Mirror Neurons are not always talked about as frequently as certain other types of neurons. However, the reality is that they are actually quite significant. For instance, did you know that Mirror Neurons are the reason why we flinch when someone gets a papercut? Did you know that they are the reason why we cringe when someone does something embarrassing on stage or makes a mistake during a presentation? Did you know that they are the reason why a baby cries when another baby in the room also cries? Have you ever wondered why we feel like giving someone a hug when they are having a tough day, and are distraught and dejected about something? The answer is, once again, Mirror Neurons! The point is that Mirror Neurons are extremely significant, when it comes to feeling empathy for other people, and stepping into other people’s shoes. They are the gateway that enables us to get out of our own world, and experience another person’s world in the way in which they see it!
However, as with everything, you can imagine that there are problems when this Mirror Neuron System does not work. There are a multitude of factors that can cause someone’s Mirror Neurons to be wired differently, such as genetics, culture, circumstances in the environment (i.e, the family or the school environment), etc. One of the most prominent examples of a change in the Mirror Neuron network has been in those with Autism spectrum disorder. For instance, those with Autism have defects in their network of Mirror Neurons that cause the neurons to work differently or transmit messages to each other, in a different way. The authors of this research study on Autism believe that this could be a possible reason, as to why people with Autism are not able to understand and connect with other people’s’ problems as well, and have as much emotional attachment.
From other studies and a bit of extrapolation, it has been speculated that this same change in the Mirror Neuron Network explains a majority of Americans lackadaisical attitude towards the Pandemic. The only difference is that the Neuron Networks do not differ due to genetic factors, but simply due to cultural and environmental factors. Scientists speculate that because many Americans live in a country, where there has not always been so much hardship, where there has been significant freedom, where getting clean food and water has not been a worry, where getting quality education has not been a worry, their Mirror Neurons are wired to fire in a specific way, or a specific sequence that is different from those who have had to live through many tough times, and have had to have the courage to deal with extremely tough times! Put another way, scientists think that because many Americans have not had to encounter as significant levels of hardship as other individuals living in other parts of the world, the neural pathways in their brain have been programmed in such a way that they never think about the situations and hardships that other people in society have. They compare it to muscle memory. For instance, when you type on a computer enough you learn to type certain words and sentences without even looking at the keyboard anymore. They believe that the same concept applies to the brain’s Mirror Neurons. When exposed to more challenges, the Mirror Neurons learn to deal with those challenges more effectively. On the other hand, when life is going mostly good and challenges are suddenly thrown, those Mirror Neurons have an extremely difficult time accustoming to that whole reality.
So don’t get me wrong, there still are likely many explanations for why America’s response to the Pandemic was significantly less of a success than other countries around the world. It could have been due to the example set by our government. It could have been due to America’s individualist vs collectivist culture. It could have been due to how polarized this country is. However, I hope you left this article with another perspective, and understood that their likely is a biological basis to it to. Many Americans living in these generations simply did not have to deal with significant challenge until now, and their brains just had a difficult time figuring out how to deal with it and cope with it!