Autistic children insensitive to emotional expressions in others also show decreased activity in their brain's 'mirror neuron' system.
Systems of mirror neurons in our brains are active during our actions and feelings and also when we observe those actions or feelings in others (see the Feb. 9 posting in this blog). Dapretto et al. now show that mirror neuron system activity during observation of emotional expressions in typically developing children is much greater than in autistic children. This suggests that a dysfunctional mirror neuron system may underlie the social deficits observed in autism.
Legend: Mirror neuron system activity during observation of emotional expressions. The right pars opercularis showed significantly greater activity in typically developing children than in children with ASD (t > 1.83, P < 0.05, small volume corrected). Credit: Nature Neuroscience