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In Individuals With Autism, Mirror Neuron System Functions Normally - featured May 14, 2010

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[Source: Medical News Today] - A team of neuroscientists has found that the mirror neuron system, which is thought to play a central role in social communications, responds normally in individuals with autism. Their findings, reported in the journal Neuron, counter theories suggesting that a mirror system dysfunction causes the social difficulties exhibited by individuals with autism.

The mirror neuron system, the focal point of the Neuron study, is composed of two brain areas, which have a unique characteristic - they are active both when we execute movements (e.g. grasping a cup of coffee) and when we passively observe other people executing those same movements. It has been known for many years that these brain areas are important for proper motor control because trauma to these areas causes movement deficits. Yet it has only recently been discovered that these brain areas respond when passively observing others. It has been proposed that this activity represents a process of "movement simulation" that enables us to understand the meanings and the goals of movements we observe.

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Tags: News of the Week Autism Newsletter 14 May 2010