Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Mirror Neurons and Autism Spectrum Disorders

Mirror neurons, structures in the brain that fire not just when performing an activity, but also when watching another perform that same activity, are being researched by neuroscientists around the world. What is of interest here regarding mirror neurons is the theory that differences in the mirror neuron system may account for some of the symptoms seen in Asperger’s and autism.

Many of my clients on the autism spectrum are very interested in learning about the technical and medical issues surrounding their diagnosis. I’m always excited when I find good, straightforward information on these topics. Rather than attempt to re-explain what the researchers already have explained in clear and understandable terms, I’m going to just direct interested readers to these links.

For a basic discussion of mirror neurons, go to TED, and listen to VS Ramachandran’s The neurons that shaped civilization.  Ramachandran doesn’t discuss autism in this brief talk, but his 2006 article in Scientific American, Broken Mirrors: a theory of autism with LM Oberman. discusses autism in depth. Finally, if you’re still looking for more, Nova has a presentation online about how mirror neurons work.