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Dev Cogn Neurosci. 2013 Jan;3:91-105. doi: 10.1016/j.dcn.2012.09.008. Epub 2012 Oct 13.

Reflecting on the mirror neuron system in autism: a systematic review of current theories.

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1
School of Psychology, University of Nottingham, United Kingdom. antonia.hamilton@nottingham.ac.uk

Abstract

There is much interest in the claim that dysfunction of the mirror neuron system in individuals with autism spectrum condition causes difficulties in social interaction and communication. This paper systematically reviews all published studies using neuroscience methods (EEG/MEG/TMS/eyetracking/EMG/fMRI) to examine the integrity of the mirror system in autism. 25 suitable papers are reviewed. The review shows that current data are very mixed and that studies using weakly localised measures of the integrity of the mirror system are hard to interpret. The only well localised measure of mirror system function is fMRI. In fMRI studies, those using emotional stimuli have reported group differences, but studies using non-emotional hand action stimuli do not. Overall, there is little evidence for a global dysfunction of the mirror system in autism. Current data can be better understood under an alternative model in which social top-down response modulation is abnormal in autism. The implications of this model and future research directions are discussed.

PMID:
23245224
DOI:
10.1016/j.dcn.2012.09.008
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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