Mirror synaesthesia: a woman laughs to tears when someone tickles
In the journal Neurocase published an article, the authors of which described a rare case of mirror synesthesia. This condition occurs in about 1.6% of the planet’s inhabitants. People with mirror synesthesia, watching the physical and emotional reactions of others, are able to feel the same.
A young woman turned to the doctors from the University of California (University of California), who laughed if someone was tickling before her eyes. She behaved as if someone was tickling not someone but herself. To keep laughing at the TS (the publication mentioned only her initials) did not work, she reacted to someone else’s tickle more than funny videos or anecdotes.
Doctors conducted a series of experiments to find out whether other stimuli can provoke a mirror synaesthesia. It turned out that the girl reacted only to tickling, and the observation of volunteers who touched different surfaces or touched cold water caused a different reaction. So, she felt a touch of bristles, silky fabric or velvet, and watching how someone drank ice water gave her a sensation of water in her mouth, but not cooling.
The mechanism of the appearance of mirror synesthesia or, as it is also called, the synesthesia of a mirror touch, is associated with the work of mirror neurons in the brain. They are activated during the performance of an action or when monitoring the implementation of this action by others. In people with mirror synesthesia, a mechanism that allows one to separate the reaction from the reaction to the observation of its performance by others, works weaker than most of us. That is why the mirror neurons are more excited in them than in the others, and they feel the sensations of others as their own.
It is assumed that mirror neurons are involved in the formation of empathy – now these neurons are actively studied by neurobiologists.