New Autism Research: Mirror Neuron System

Photo by: Flickr/NIOSH

Scientists previously believed that dysfunctions in certain areas of the brain could explain the social problems that autistic people experience.  The area of the brain in question is the mirror neuron system, and recently a group of scientists congregated and discovered that the mirror neuron system functions the same way for people with autism and those without.

The mirror neuron system consists of two parts of the brain.  It’s what people use to identify movements and respond to them accordinglyScientists used to propose that without this system intact, one’s ability to interact with the world socially could be thrown off.

The group of scientists hailed from varying backgrounds, such as The Weizmann Institute in Israel, Carnegie Mellon University, New York University, and the University of Pittsburgh.  They completed their research by conducting MRIs on people both with and without autism while they did simple activities like lifting a cup.  They found that the responses were strong in both groups of people.

The scientists wrote in their study:

“The fact that these movement-selective neural circuits respond normally in individuals with autism suggests that the functional integrity of their mirror system areas is intact.  These results argue against a mirror system dysfunction in autism.”

The only difference between the two groups was that the group with autism did not behave as uniformly during the tests; namely in their visual responses.  The group with autism was more prone to “noisy neural responses.”


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One Comment

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