The Heterogeneity and Wide Range of Autism Spectrum Disorders
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is one of the most prevalent childhood neurological disorders in the US (Pinel et a1.,2011). Individuals with this disorder experience a varying degree of lower capacity for social interaction and communication. There are two important characteristics of ASD, its heterogeneity and its range of disorders on a wide spectrum, which must be kept in mind as research is performed on this topic. This complexity of ASD and its large amount of individual variation, based on the intensity, behaviors, and types of disorders a person has, makes it difficult to uncover the pathophysiology of these neurological disorders. In an effort to gain more knowledge about ASD, scientists are studying the behaviors and also the brain activity of individuals with ASD and are comparing this activity with those of neurotypical development. One area of interesting research for ASD has focused on mirror neurons. These neurons are thought to help individuals with social interaction by interpreting things like the facial expressions of others. Interestingly, a number of scientists have found that they function differently, and often improperly, in individuals with autism. The purpose of this paper is to provide a selected review of research on mirror neurons and their possible influence on ASD symptoms as well as to offer a guide for future direction to prospective research on mirror neurons and autism.