The Simulating Social Mind: The Role of the Mirror Neuron System and Simulation in the Social and Communicative Deficits of Autism Spectrum Disorders

Abstract
The mechanism by which humans perceive others differs greatly from how humans perceive inanimate objects. Unlike inanimate objects, humans have the distinct property of being “like me” in the eyes of the observer. This allows us to use the same systems that process knowledge about self-performed actions, self-conceived thoughts, and self-experienced emotions to understand actions, thoughts, and emotions in others. The authors propose that internal simulation mechanisms, such as the mirror neuron system, are necessary for normal development of recognition, imitation, theory of mind, empathy, and language. Additionally, the authors suggest that dysfunctional simulation mechanisms may underlie the social and communicative deficits seen in individuals with autism spectrum disorders.
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