The Impact of Early Comprehensive Intervention on the Mirror Neuron System in Autism Spectrum Disorders
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The mirror neuron system (MNS) has attracted significant interest within the scientific and lay communities. The study of mirror neurons has a relatively short but rich history. The MNS has been implicated in a series of cognitive functions including action recognition, imitation, empathy, and language. The broken mirrors hypothesis was asserted in the context of a series of attempts to propose a singular theoretical cause for the ostensibly unrelated and distinct symptoms of ASD. The aim of this study was to examine neural functioning in light of early comprehensive intervention, using an established paradigm assessing EEG mu attenuation. Using a randomized design, children were assigned to either receive comprehensive intervention following the Early Start Denver Model (ESDM), or were encouraged to pursue resources in the community (COM) while receiving standardized assessment and monitoring. Two years after completing the intervention, EEG was collected during the execution and observation of simple grasping actions performed by familiar and unfamiliar agents. Spectral power in the mu range, a putative index of MNS functioning, was calculated. Mu attenuation during the observation of grasping actions did not differ between the ESDM and COM groups, as both groups displayed attenuation to the observation of motor actions. However, there was a significant interaction in how the two groups viewed familiar and unfamiliar individuals executing identical actions. While the COM group showed no significant difference between viewing familiar and unfamiliar individuals, the ESDM group showed significantly greater attenuation when viewing a parent or caregiver executing a grasping action, compared with the observation of an unfamiliar individual executing the same action. Our findings suggest that the ESDM may have a unique impact on the mirror neuron system in ASD.
- Education - Seattle