The Action Observation System when Observing Hand Actions in Autism and Typical Development

Jennifer J. Pokorny, Naomi V. Hatt, Costanza Colombi, Giacomo Vivanti, Sally J Rogers, Susan M. Rivera

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

20 Scopus citations

Abstract

Social impairments in individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) may be in part due to difficulty perceiving and recognizing the actions of others. Evidence from imitation studies, which involves both observation and execution of an action, suggests differences, in individuals with ASD, between the ability to imitate goal-directed actions involving objects (transitive actions) and the ability to imitate actions that do not involve objects (intransitive actions). In the present study, we examined whether there were differences in how ASD adolescents encoded transitive and intransitive actions compared to typically developing (TD) adolescents, by having participants view videos of a hand reaching across a screen toward an object or to where an object would be while functional magnetic resonance images were collected. Analyses focused on areas within the action observation network (AON), which is activated during the observation of actions performed by others. We hypothesized that the AON would differentiate transitive from intransitive actions only in the ASD group. However, results revealed that object presence modulated activity in the right inferior frontal gyrus and supramarginal gyrus of the TD group, a differentiation that was not seen in the ASD group. Furthermore, there were no significant group differences between the TD and ASD groups in any of the conditions. This suggests that there is not a global deficit of the AON in individuals with ASD while observing transitive and intransitive actions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)284-296
Number of pages13
JournalAutism Research
Volume8
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 1 2015

Keywords

  • Action understanding
  • Autism
  • FMRI
  • Imitation
  • Mirror neurons

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Genetics(clinical)

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