Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

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

06.12.2005


Findings pinpoint mechanism behind social deficits



New imaging research at UCLA detailed Dec. 4 as an advance online publication of the journal Nature Neuroscience shows children with autism have virtually no activity in a key part of the brain’s mirror neuron system while imitating and observing emotions.
Mirror neurons fire when a person performs a goal-directed action and while he or she observes the same action performed by others. Neuroscientists believe this observation-execution matching system provides a neural mechanism by which others’ actions, intentions and emotions can be understood automatically.

Symptoms of autism include difficulties with social interaction -- including verbal and nonverbal communication -- imitation and empathy. The new findings dramatically bolster a growing body of evidence pointing to a breakdown of the brain’s mirror neuron system as the mechanism behind these autism symptoms.



"Our findings suggest that a dysfunctional mirror neuron system may underlie the social deficits observed in autism," said Mirella Dapretto, lead author and assistant professor in residence of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA and the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. "Together with other recent data, our results provide strong support for a mirror neuron theory of autism. This is exciting because we finally have an account that can explain all core symptoms of this disorder."

Conducted at the Semel Institute’s Ahmanson-Lovelace Brain Mapping Center, the research used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to measure brain activity in 10 high-functioning children with autism while they imitated and observed 80 photos depicting different emotions such as anger, fear, happiness or sadness. In addition, the brain activity of 10 typically developing children was studied while performing the same tasks.

Separately, symptom severity of each child with autism was tested using two independent 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.

Dan Page | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.mednet.ucla.edu

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht World first: Massive thrombosis removed during early pregnancy
20.07.2017 | Universitätsspital Bern

nachricht Therapy of preterm birth in sight?
19.07.2017 | Universitätsspital Bern

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Manipulating Electron Spins Without Loss of Information

Physicists have developed a new technique that uses electrical voltages to control the electron spin on a chip. The newly-developed method provides protection from spin decay, meaning that the contained information can be maintained and transmitted over comparatively large distances, as has been demonstrated by a team from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute. The results have been published in Physical Review X.

For several years, researchers have been trying to use the spin of an electron to store and transmit information. The spin of each electron is always coupled...

Im Focus: The proton precisely weighted

What is the mass of a proton? Scientists from Germany and Japan successfully did an important step towards the most exact knowledge of this fundamental constant. By means of precision measurements on a single proton, they could improve the precision by a factor of three and also correct the existing value.

To determine the mass of a single proton still more accurate – a group of physicists led by Klaus Blaum and Sven Sturm of the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear...

Im Focus: On the way to a biological alternative

A bacterial enzyme enables reactions that open up alternatives to key industrial chemical processes

The research team of Prof. Dr. Oliver Einsle at the University of Freiburg's Institute of Biochemistry has long been exploring the functioning of nitrogenase....

Im Focus: The 1 trillion tonne iceberg

Larsen C Ice Shelf rift finally breaks through

A one trillion tonne iceberg - one of the biggest ever recorded -- has calved away from the Larsen C Ice Shelf in Antarctica, after a rift in the ice,...

Im Focus: Laser-cooled ions contribute to better understanding of friction

Physics supports biology: Researchers from PTB have developed a model system to investigate friction phenomena with atomic precision

Friction: what you want from car brakes, otherwise rather a nuisance. In any case, it is useful to know as precisely as possible how friction phenomena arise –...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Closing the Sustainability Circle: Protection of Food with Biobased Materials

21.07.2017 | Event News

»We are bringing Additive Manufacturing to SMEs«

19.07.2017 | Event News

The technology with a feel for feelings

12.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

NASA looks to solar eclipse to help understand Earth's energy system

21.07.2017 | Earth Sciences

Stanford researchers develop a new type of soft, growing robot

21.07.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Vortex photons from electrons in circular motion

21.07.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>