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Neuroscience. 2017 Feb 20;343:147-156. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2016.12.001. Epub 2016 Dec 10.

The Action Imitation network and motor imitation in children and adolescents with autism.

Author information

1
Department of Psychology, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, USA.
2
Department of Radiology, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, USA.
3
Department of Neurology, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, USA.
4
Department of Psychology, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, USA. Electronic address: rkana@uab.edu.

Abstract

While deficits in imitation had been reported in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), its exact nature remains unclear. A dysfunction in mirroring mechanisms (through action imitation) has been proposed by some studies to explain this, although some recent evidence points against this hypothesis. The current study used behavior and functional MRI to examine the integrated functioning of the regions that are considered part of the Action Imitation network (AIN) in children and adolescents with ASD during a motor imitation task. Fourteen ASD and 15 age-and-IQ-matched typically developing (TD) children were asked to imitate a series of hand gestures in the MRI scanner. Intact performance on imitation (accurate imitation of hand gestures outside the scanner) in both ASD and TD groups was accompanied by significantly lower activity in ASD participants, relative to TD, in right angular gyrus, precentral gyrus, and left middle cingulate. In addition, autism traits were found to be significantly correlated with activation in the right angular gyrus. Overall, the findings of this study support the role of AIN in imitation and a potential difference in the recruitment of this network in ASD children.

KEYWORDS:

AIN; MNS; action imitation; autism; fMRI; mirroring

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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