The mirror mechanism allows the direct translation of a perceived (seen, felt, heard) action into the same motor representation of its related goal. This mechanism allows a direct comprehension of others' goals and motor intentions, enabling an embodied link between individuals. Because the mirror mechanism is a functional expression of the motor system, these findings suggest the relevance of the motor system to social cognition. It has been hypothesized that the impaired understanding of others' intentions, sensations, and emotions reported in autism spectrum disorder (ASD) could be linked to an alteration of the mirror mechanism in all of these domains. In this review, we address the theoretical issues underlying the social impairments in ASD and discuss them in relation to the cognitive role of the mirror mechanism. © The Authors. Developmental Medicine & Child Neurology © 2012 Mac Keith Press.
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