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UCLA imaging study of children with autism finds broken mirror neuron system

measures (the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule -- Generic, and the Autism Diagnostic Interview).

The study shows that unlike typically developing children, children with autism have virtually no activity in the pars opercularis of the inferior frontal gyrus, identified by previous research as a key part of the mirror neuron system. Importantly, the level of mirror neuron activity seen in children with autism was inversely related to symptom severity in the social domain.

Children with autism also showed reduced activity in the emotion centers of the brain, consistent with the hypothesis that this mirroring mechanism may play a crucial role for understanding how others feel and for empathizing with them.

All of the children rehearsed the tasks prior to the fMRI scans to assure researchers they could perform the tasks. Both groups performed equally well. Normal brain activity in areas of the brain involving sight and facial movements indicated that the children with autism remained on task during the fMRI scans.


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Source:University of California - Los Angeles


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