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Brain Res. 2010 Jun 25;1342:104-10. doi: 10.1016/j.brainres.2010.04.060. Epub 2010 May 18.

EEG activation differences in the pre-motor cortex and supplementary motor area between normal individuals with high and low traits of autism.

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Department of Psychology, University of Essex, Wivenhoe Park, Colchester CO4 3SQ, UK.


The human mirror neuron system (hMNS) is believed to provide a basic mechanism for social cognition. Event-related desynchronization (ERD) in alpha (8-12Hz) and low beta band (12-20Hz) over sensori-motor cortex has been suggested to index mirror neurons' activity. We tested whether autistic traits revealed by high and low scores on the Autistic Quotient (AQ) in the normal population are linked to variations in the electroencephalogram (EEG) over motor, pre-motor cortex and supplementary motor area (SMA) during action observation. Results revealed that in the low AQ group, the pre-motor cortex and SMA were more active during hand action than static hand observation whereas in the high AQ group the same areas were active both during static and hand action observation. In fact participants with high traits of autism showed greater low beta ERD while observing the static hand than those with low traits and this low beta ERD was not significantly different when they watched hand actions. Over primary motor cortex, the classical alpha and low beta ERD during hand actions relative to static hand observation was found across all participants. These findings suggest that the observation-execution matching system works differently according to the degree of autism traits in the normal population and that this is differentiated in terms of the EEG according to scalp site and bandwidth.

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