northdenvernews.com
Research may suggest autism breakthrough
Autism is a mysterious developmental disease because it often leaves complex abilities intact while impairing seemingly elementary ones. For example, it is well documented that autistic children often have difficulty correctly using pronouns, sometimes referring to themselves as you instead of I. A new brain imaging study published in the journal Brain by scientists at Carnegie Mellon University provides an explanation as to why autistic individuals' use of the wrong pronoun is more than simply a word choice problem. Marcel Just, Akiki Mizuno and their collaborators at CMU's Center for Cognitive Brain Imaging (CCBI) found that errors in choosing a self-referring pronoun reflect a disordered neural representation of the self, a function processed by at least two brain areas — one frontal and one posterior. The psychology of self — the thought of one's own identity — is especially important in social interaction, a facet of behavior that is usually disrupted in autism, said Just, a leading cognitive neuroscientist and the D.O. Hebb Professor of Psychology at CMU who directs the CCBI. Most children don't need to receive any instruction in which pronoun to use. It just comes naturally, unless a child has autism.