Mirror neurons and Autism

It has been lately shown that mirror neurons deficiency is related to autism. This is an interesting development.

Mirror neurons are traditionally accepted as responsible for mirroring actions, i.e.: If you see a person eat with a spoon, you will immediately know how to eat with a spoon yourself (monkey see monkey do). It does make sense that there is also a relation to feeling mirroring, perhaps via the motor stream – see a sad face, make a sad face yourself, feel sad, understand that the other person is sad. At some point the action step can perhaps no longer be required – action perceiving and feeling can be wired with no need for actual action, recall Pavlov’s dog.

If an autistic person doesn’t automatically mirror actions, they won’t feel as well. This coincides well with autistic people usually avoiding complicated motor activities and generally behaving “weird” (recall “Rain Man”). But autistic people are not devoid of feeling, they just lack empathy.

A strengthening of this notion I actually find in a friend of mine. She is an eclectic dancer from a very young age, meaning she has highly developed mirror neurons (very good at understanding and copying movement). Interestingly enough, she has also claimed to be very empathic, even too much. She oftentimes feels exactly (to her opinion) what the person in front of her feels, sometimes it even causes her to work against her own interests, in order not to make others around her feel bad. At other times it helps her develop rapport and communicate with people in their own language.

I believe this connection should be studied, although I can’t really think of a good way to measure “empathicness”.

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2 comments so far

  1. Eric on

    I definitely think this research is helpful in undertanding how to re-integrat autistic children back into the world, using VB and ABA. However, I strongly believe that it is a symptom of autism brought on by toxic overload, and not the cause itself. Any autism treatment that looks at this as a means to help with recovery is a big plus point.
    Thanks for the article.

  2. Shavon Piearcy on

    New findings published in Pediatrics (Epub ahead of print) by the Kennedy Krieger Institute’s Center for Autism and Related Disorders reveal that 70 percent of children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) who have a history of severe language delay, achieved phrase or fluent speech by age eight. This suggests that more children presenting with ASD and severe language delay at age four can be expected to make notable language gains than was previously thought. Abnormalities in communication and language are a defining feature of ASD, yet prior research into the factors predicting the age and quality of speech attainment has been limited. ”

    Up to date content article on our personal online site
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