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Tuesday 21 Nov 2017

New Study Related to Pronoun Reversal Common in Autism

Most of you involved in the lives of individuals with autism may have noticed or heard of a common language problem: pronoun reversals. This phenomenon commonly presents itself in very early language development and in individuals with autism. The cause of this problem, however, is not clearly understood. Researchers at Carnegie Mellon, Duquesne and University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine recently published a study which shed some light on this problem.

When presented with two-sided pictures and asked the questions “What do I see?” and “What do you see?” they found that adults with autism could accurately answer these questions but they took longer to come up with an answer to these questions than controls without autism. Additionally, with the use of functional MRI, they were able to see that that connections between the two areas of the brain involved in this type of processing (called deictic shifting) were less developed than controls. They concluded that this difference in individuals with autism impacts their understanding of “self” and “other”.

This study is really interesting because it lends some scientific credence to the “theory of mind” deficit theory of autism which posits that individuals with autism have deficits in the ability to attribute mental states (i.e. beliefs, intents, desires, pretending, knowledge, etc.) to themselves and others and to understand that others have beliefs, desires and intentions that are different from their own. While this study does not identify what may be causing this difference, it was a great application of the fMRI technology to lead to further understanding of what is happening inside the brains of individuals with autism.

Read the full article here.

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