Hemisphere functioning and motor imitation in autistic persons.
Previous research has found that a high proportion of autistic individuals exhibit an atypical pattern of hemispheric specialization suggestive of impaired left hemisphere functioning: namely, right hemisphere dominance for both verbal and visual-spatial processing. Studies of brain-damaged persons have suggested that the left hemisphere is specialized for the use of nonverbal gesture. Since a major characteristic of autism is an impairment in the use of gesture, it was predicted that autistic persons would also show atypical hemispheric specialization for motor imitation. To test this hypothesis, hemispheric activation was measured using EEG recordings of alpha rhythm in autistic and matched normal control subjects during four motor imitation tasks. Autistic subjects showed significantly greater right hemisphere activation during the imitation tasks, than normal subjects. This pattern was particularly evident in younger autistic subjects and during oral, rather than manual, imitation tasks.
Dawson, G; Warrenburg, S; Fuller, P
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