Mirror neurons

The mirror neuron system and the consequences of its dysfunction doi:10.1038/nrn2024

Marco Iacoboni1 and Mirella Dapretto1

The discovery of premotor and parietal cells known as mirror neurons in the macaque brain that fire not only when the animal is in action, but also when it observes others carrying out the same actions provides a plausible neurophysiological mechanism for a variety of important social behaviours, from imitation to empathy. Recent data also show that dysfunction of the mirror neuron system in humans might be a core deficit in autism, a socially isolating condition. Here, we review the neurophysiology of the mirror neuron system and its role in social cognition and discuss the clinical implications of mirror neuron dysfunction.

Austism and TV?

Cornell University researchers are reporting what appears to be a statistically significant relationship between autism rates and television watching by children under the age of 3. The researchers studied autism incidence in California, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Washington state. They found that as cable television became common in California and Pennsylvania beginning around 1980, childhood autism rose more in the counties that had cable than in the counties that did not. They further found that in all the Western states, the more time toddlers spent in front of the television, the more likely they were to exhibit symptoms of autism disorders. The Cornell study represents a potential bombshell in the autism debate

Autism risk linked to older fathers

2006.9 CHICAGO (Reuters) - Children fathered by men at age 40 and older have a higher risk of developing autism, possibly because of mutations or other genetic changes. (Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, and the Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London.)

The findings were based on a look at thousands of children born in Israel during the 1980s. All males and three-fourths of the females born in the time period involved were checked by Israeli draft officials at age 17 and any psychiatric disorders were recorded. "Offspring of men 40 years or older were 5.75 times more likely to have (autism disorders) compared with offspring of men younger than 30 years," said the study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry.

"Advancing maternal age showed no association," it added.