A systems level analysis of the mirror neuron hypothesis and imitation impairments in autism spectrum disorders

Academic Article


  • Although several studies suggest an imitation deficit as a key feature of autism, questions have been raised about the consistency of this finding and about the component skills involved in imitation. The primary aim of this review is to examine the uneven profile of imitation deficits found in autism in the context of the mirror neuron system (MNS) dysfunction hypothesis. We use the cortical underconnectivity framework (Just et al., 2004) to examine the coordination of brain areas that orchestrate the communication between the component skills underlying imitation. A comprehensive account of imitation deficit in autism should take into account the regions that are at the core of the MNS (e.g., IFG and IPL) and related regions that feed into the MNS (e.g., STS, Cerebellum) in their functioning and in their coordination. Our findings suggest that the MNS may be associated with mediating familiarity, attention, self-other matching, and social relevance, which may be vital in characterizing the imitation deficits in autism. Such an analysis may have greater clinical and therapeutic value. © 2010.
  • Authors

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Kana RK; Wadsworth HM; Travers BG
  • Start Page

  • 894
  • End Page

  • 902
  • Volume

  • 35
  • Issue

  • 3