Linguistic Perspective-Taking in Adults with High-Functioning Autism: Investigation of the Mirror Neuron System
Carnegie Mellon University
The mirror neuron system (MNS) is thought to be a part of the brain that is important for understanding the behaviors and intentions of others. Because autistic people generally have difficulties in understanding other people's intentions, it is hypothesized that the MNS may be dysfunctional in autism. To understand another person's intentions, we put ourselves in their shoes; this process is called perspective-taking. An example of perspective-taking is the use of personal pronouns, because pronouns such as ‘I' and ‘you' alternate to whom they refer according to the situation. Young children with autism have been found to have difficulty in using pronouns properly. The present study will examine the activity of the MNS in autistic adults while they are engaged in a perspective-taking task involving the use of pronouns. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), the MNS will be observed during this task to determine whether abnormal activation in the autistic brain is associated with difficulties in perspective-taking. Determining whether the mirror neuron system is involved in linguistic perspective-taking in autism may provide insight into the neurological basis of social deficits in autism.