The role of mirroring and mentalizing networks in mediating action intentions in autism

Academic Article


  • Background: The ability to interpret agents' intent from their actions is a vital skill in successful social interaction However, individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) have been found to have difficulty in attributin intentions to others. The present study investigated the neural mechanisms of inferring intentions from actions i individuals with ASD Methods: Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) data were acquired from 21 high-functioning youn adults with ASD and 22 typically developing (TD) control participants, while making judgments about the mean (how an action is performed) and intention (why an action is performed) of a model's actions Results: Across both groups of participants, the middle and superior temporal cortex, extending to temporoparieta junction, and posterior cingulate cortex, responded significantly to inferring the intent of an action, while inferio parietal lobule and occipital cortices were active for judgments about the means of an action. Participants with AS had significantly reduced activation in calcarine sulcus and significantly increased activation in left inferior fronta gyrus, compared to TD peers, while attending to the intentions of actions. Also, ASD participants had weake functional connectivity between frontal and posterior temporal regions while processing intentions Conclusions: These results suggest that processing actions and intentions may not be mutually exclusive, wit reliance on mirroring and mentalizing mechanisms mediating action understanding. Overall, inferring informatio about others' actions involves activation of the mirror neuron system and theory-of-mind regions, and this activatio (and the synchrony between activated brain regions) appears altered in young adults with ASD.
  • Volume

  • 5