The brain stem of a person with autism is shorter
than a normal brain stem
the structures at the junction of the pons and the
medulla are closer to the structures of the lower
It is as though a band of tissue were missing.
The brain stem of a person with autism also did
not have the superior olive.
the facial nucleus is smaller than normal.
WITH AUTISM OFTEN HAVE TROUBLE
Communication and Socialization
Empathy(Understanding and being aware of
the feelings of others.)
They may learn clever ways to compensate
Some people with autism are exceptionally
good at drawing or maths or music …
Many are good at seeing things in detail
THE MIRROR SYSTEM IN AUTISM
Mirror neurons are cells that fire during both
the doing and watching of a specific action.
They have been linked to many behaviors
and abilities, from empathy to learning by
imitation, as well as implicated in conditions
such as autism.
A DYSFUNCTIONAL MIRROR
NEURON SYSTEM RESPONSIBLE FOR
IS THE BROKEN MIRROR?
The mirror system might be abnormal in autism
children with autism
don’t imitate people
some of the functions
of the mirror system
overlap with the
difficulties seen in
language can develop
slowly in children with
there is very little good evidence to support
broken mirror hypothesis
1.GOAL DIRECTED IMITATION
3-6 year olds imitate goals
Revealed by hand errors on
Good imitation on all other
Do children with ASD show
the same pattern of errors?
Test 26 children with ASD
and 25 typical children
Bekkering, et al, 2000
Gattis et al, 2002
• Both groups replicate Bekkering et al
• No problems with goals in children with ASD
Children with autism can imitate goals when
explicitly asked to do so
This suggests they do NOT have a broken mirror
This means that children with autism can learn
through imitation, but we need to explicitly ask
them to imitate us
they used electroencephalography (EEG) to test
children’s brainwaves while doing and watch
For most children, the same brainwaves were
detected whether they were doing or watch a
specific action. However, for children with ASD,
brainwaves were only detected when they were
doing an action and not detected when they were
watching someone else do the same action, or
even when they were imitating another’s action
This finding supports the "broken mirror
hypothesis" and clearly depicts the relationship
between mirror neurons and the poor social skills
observed in children with ASD (Ramachandran &
Since mirror neurons systems are responsible for
humans’ ability to understand and mimic other
peoples’ behavior, the lack of this skill within
persons with ASD can be refer to an impaired
mirror neuron system.
2. The "Broken Mirror Hypothesis" claims that
persons with ASD have impairments to their
mirror neuron system (Press, Richardson &
3. The dysfunction of the mirror neuron
system is a main cause of the poor social
skills in persons with Autism (Marsh &
4.some studies actually show that some
individuals with ASD have functioning mirror
neurons systems (Fan Decety, Yang, Liu, &
Yawei, 2010) and believe that there is still
much to learn about the "broken mirror
MIRROR NEURON SYSTEM IN AUTISM:
BROKEN OR JUST SLOWLY DEVELOPING?
a new study published inBiological
Psychiatry reports that the mirror system in
individuals with autism is not actually broken, but
Dr. Christian Keysers, lead author on the project,
detailed their findings, "While most of us have
their strongest mirror activity while they are
young, autistic individuals seem to have a weak
mirror system in their youth, but their mirror
activity increases with age, is normal by about age
30 and unusually high thereafter."
GRAPH SHOWS THE RELATIONSHIP
BETWEEN AGE AND MIRROR ACTIVITY FOR A
NORMAL BRAIN AND ONE WITH AUTISM.
(CREDIT: IMAGE COURTESY OF ELSEVIER)
Ramachandran, V.S., & Oberman, L., M. (2006).
Broken mirrors: A theory of Autism. Scientific
American, 17, 20-29.
Press, C., Richardson, D., & Bird, G. (2010).
Intact imitation of emotional facial actions in
autism spectrum conditions. Neuropsychologia,
48, 3291–3297. doi:10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.
Marsh, L.E., & Hamilton, C. (2011). Dissociation
of mirroring and mentalising systems in autism.
Neuroimage, 56, 1511-1519.
Fan, Y.T., Decety, J., Yang, C.Y., Liu, J.L., & Yawei,
C. (2010). Unbroken mirror neurons in autism
spectrum disorders. Journal of Child Psychology
and Psychiatry. 51(9), 981-988.
Dr. Christian Keysers .May 5, 2011 . Biological