Autism, Science

Mirror Neuron System and Autism

A new study in Current Biology has shown more evidence that certain aspects of autism are related to a deficit in the Mirror Neuron System. These cells in the frontal lobes are activate when we see someone perform an action and are thought to be an important part of how we learn by imitating others. They are also linked to empathy, e.g. feeling sad when we see someone else crying. A weakness in this neural system is consistent with the problems seen in many people with autistic spectrum disorders.
In the new study autistic and non-autistic children had their brain activity monitored whilst they watched some moving their fingers. The brain activity in the mirror system was noticeably lower in the autistic children that those without the problem.
An introduction to the Mirror Neural System and a round of current papers relating to them can be found here. This article in the new Scientist magazine gives more information.