Mirror Neurons in your Brain and Prick-eared Dog Breeds

June 15, 2009

Speaking of Dogs

Your mirror neuron system may possibly even jump species. Think about domestic dogs. Dogs are highly social, intelligent animals. We have been able to integrate these deadly carnivores into our homes because evolution has endowed them with instincts for fitting into a socially stratified yet cohesive and cooperative pack. Now, if you look at one of those prick-eared breeds such as the German shepherd, it is amazing how much emotional expressiveness there is in those fuzz-covered triangular ears. Whether they are erect, relaxed, swiveled forward, tilted out or pulled flat against the skull, they are eloquent advertisers of the dog’s mood and inclination. A dog’s ear posture combines with its other facial and body language—mouth smiling or snarling; eye brow nubs set to convey helplessness, confidence, or innocence; neck high or low; tail wagging, up, flat or between the haunches—to express an impressive range of moods. Even a floppy-eared beagle can tell you what it’s thinking! Remarkably, we are able to read this alien body language with ease. After all, we are primates; our ears are totally immobile and purely ornamental. But thanks to our mirror neurons and homuncular flexibility, we easily become “bilingual,” if you will, in canine body language.

Now that you’ve read the above, I’ll bet you’re dying to know what mirror neurons are, aren’t you?  What exactly does homuncular flexibilty have to do with your daily life? To learn the answers to those questions and learn a great deal more, you’ll simply have to buy Sandra Blakeslee & Matthew Blakeslee book, The Body Has a Mind of its Own: How body maps in your brain help you do (almost) everything better


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