As regular CFZ-watchers will know, for some time Corinna has been doing a column for Animals & Men and a regular segment on On The Track... particularly about out-of-place birds and rare vagrants. There seem to be more and more bird stories from all over the world hitting the news these days so, to make room for them all - and to give them all equal and worthy coverage - she has set up this new blog to cover all things feathery and Fortean.

Wednesday 9 October 2013

Attitude towards animals must change

Spindle neurons, also known as VENs, were first discovered in the 1990′s. Spindle neurons are long, large spindle-shaped brain cells that are responsible for humans being able to feel emotions and suffer emotionally. They are called the cells that make us human and make us superior to otheranimals. The cells occur in parts of the human brain responsible for social organisation, empathy, intuition about the feelings of others.

“Spindle cells are like the ‘express trains’ of the nervous system that bypass unnecessary connections, enabling rapid communication across the brain for us to instantly process and act on emotional cues- what is known as a gut reaction.” “Spindle neurons play an important role in many cognitive abilities and disabilities generally considered unique to humans, ranging from perceptiveness and perfect pitch to dyslexia and autism. They are found in the anterior cingulated cortex (ACC) and the fronto-insular cortex (FI) of human brains.”

During difficult tasks, or when experiencing intense love, anger, or lust, the activity of the ACC increases. In brain imaging studies, the ACC lights up, for instance, when mothers hear infants cry; the picture of a loved one; scenes of others suffering; feelings of personal embarrassment, or guilt, or self-consciousness.

The FI is closely connected to the insula, a region that is the size of a thumb in each hemisphere of the human brain. The insula and fronto-insular cortex are part of theorbitofrontal cortex, associated with spatial awareness and where self awareness and the complexities of emotion are generated. By combining efforts from different and specialized parts of the brain, spindle cells help us conceptualize, make decisions, learn, remember, and recognize the surrounding environment.

These are the unique abilities of humans.

Or are they?

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