Two systems for action comprehension in autism: mirroring and mentalizing

Antonia Hamilton, Lauren E Marsh

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter in a book

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Abstract

Action comprehension depends on both mirror neuron systems and mentalising systems in the brain; current evidence suggests that only the latter are abnormal in autism. In this chapter, we first describe the functions and anatomy of mirror neuron systems and mentalising systems during action comprehension tasks. We then evaluate these systems in autism. Both behavioural and fMRI data point to abnormal mentalising in autism. In contrast, both behavioural and fMRI data suggest that the mirror neuron system is largely intact in autism, at least in tasks requiring basic goal comprehension. We highlight the study of comprehension of irrational and complex actions as an interesting area for future research that may help us understand the integration of these different brain systems.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationUnderstanding Other Minds
EditorsSimon Baron-Cohen, Helen Tager-Flusberg, Michael Lombardo
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages33
Edition3
ISBN (Print)9780199692972
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2013

Keywords

  • autism
  • social cognition
  • mirror neuron system
  • FMRI
  • theory of mind
  • rationality

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