Dr Peter Enticott reports on autism research

Researchers at MAPrc have begun a ground-breaking study into autism and the related condition known as Asperger's Syndrome, in a bid to understand why those with the disorders have trouble relating to other people.

The researchers are using new neuroscience technology to measure whether the brain cells that fire during social interaction are working properly. There are many families and individuals around Australia with a great deal riding on outcomes.

One of the main problems with social impairments in autism and Asperger's disorder is the ability to put themselves into other people's shoes and know what other people are thinking and feeling.

Researcher Peter Enticott suspects that may be because of underactivity in an area of the brain involving what's called mirror neurons - cells which fire when we do something, but also when we see someone do the same thing.

”So the idea here is that when we watch other people's behaviour, our own brain simulates that behaviour to give us a better first-hand understanding of that person's behaviour and perhaps the intentions behind that behaviour.

Some commonplace example of where we think mirror neurons are involved might be witnessing somebody else in pain and that sort of automatic recoil that we experience and say that we can feel their pain. Another example is something that's known as contagious yawning. So the fairly common observation that when somebody yawns, it causes another person to yawn also” states Dr Peter Enticott.

In a clinical trial funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council, researchers are using cutting edge technology known as transcranial magnetic stimulation, or TMS, to deliver brief magnetic pulses to the brain and measure mirror neuron activity.


For an update on the latest developments with this research please download the following PDF attachment:

MAPrc ASD Research Update July 2010.pdf344.44 KB

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