Thursday, November 02, 2006

Clinic Notes: Mirror Neurons and ABA

If I am shopping with my wife and I see her pick up a man's shirt and smile and look at me I not only observe her behavior I know her intentions. Furthermore, we could monitor my wife's brain activity and see which neurons were involved in her behavior. The interesting thing here is that if we also monitored my brain activity as I observed my wife's behavior the same neurons would be firing in my brain. These so-called mirror neurons in my brain are thought to be templates for specific behaviors. One hypothesis suggests that mirror neurons do not function in children with autism and cause social problems. If this is true then how might we use ABA to improve mirror neuron functioning in children with autism? I would suggest a first step would be to teach children with autism to model behavior in a normally developing peer. Once the child with autism is modeling the behavior we would then ask the child with autism questions about the peer's behavior and itentions. No doubt we would have to use verbal prompts to establish the correct intention to the modeled behavior. Hopefully, with repetition we could set up circuits of functioning mirror neurons in the child with autism. In my clinic I am exploring this and we will see what happens.

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