Brief Communication abstract


Nature Neuroscience 9, 28 - 30 (2005)
Published online: 4 December 2005 | doi:10.1038/nn1611

Understanding emotions in others: mirror neuron dysfunction in children with autism spectrum disorders

Mirella Dapretto1,2, Mari S Davies3, Jennifer H Pfeifer3, Ashley A Scott1, Marian Sigman2,3, Susan Y Bookheimer1,2 & Marco Iacoboni1,2

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To examine mirror neuron abnormalities in autism, high-functioning children with autism and matched controls underwent fMRI while imitating and observing emotional expressions. Although both groups performed the tasks equally well, children with autism showed no mirror neuron activity in the inferior frontal gyrus (pars opercularis). Notably, activity in this area was inversely related to symptom severity in the social domain, suggesting that a dysfunctional 'mirror neuron system' may underlie the social deficits observed in autism.

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  1. Ahmanson-Lovelace Brain Mapping Center, Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior, University of California Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California 90095, USA.
  2. Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, David Geffen School of Medicine, University of California Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California 90095, USA.
  3. Department of Psychology, University of California Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California 90095, USA.

Correspondence to: Mirella Dapretto1,2 e-mail: mirella@loni.ucla.edu



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