He says: “They are empathy neurons that allow us to feel other people’s feelings and bodily sensations … This is the basis of much Eastern philosophy.”
We are, he says, only separated by skin; there is no independent self, aloof from others; rather we are all connected — not just by Facebook or the internet — but literally by neuron chains talking to each other, a shared consciousness. “This is not mumbo jumbo philosophy, it’s basic neuroscience,” he says.
Ramachandran is author of The Tell-Tale Brain and a distinguished professor of neuroscience at the University of California. One of the early researchers into mirror neurons, he has called them “the basis of civilisation” in a TED talk and believes that the virtual reality mirror neurons — which comprise between 10 and 20 per cent of the neurons we use for real activity — are the cornerstone of human empathy, language and love.