Mirror neurons autism (A full guide)

In this brief blog, we will be discussing mirror neurons, the theory behind mirror neurons, mirror neurons as causes of mental illnesses, and more information about mirror neurons.

What Are Mirror Neurons?

Mirror neurons are kinds of nerve cells that are stimulated when a person is going to engage imitation.

These kinds of cells are situated in the premotor cortex. 

Mirror neurons were first identified or determined in macaque monkeys in the early 1990s, these kinds of neurons which are also recognized as monkey-see, monkey-do cells fire both when a monkey performs an action itself and when it notices another living creature perform that similar action.

The study of these kinds of neurons is not directly studied through human behaviours but more on the use of brain-imaging devices such as the electroencephalogram (EEG).

Mirror neurons have been associated with empathy towards emotions and imitation that are missing in patients with autism.

Raphael Bernier at the University of Washington is discovering a potential association between a dysfunction in these kinds of neurons and autism which could help elucidate how this kind of disorder develops and might help a basis for early detection and treatment. 

Research has suggested that mirror neurons only stimulate to fire when an individual observes or imitates a behaviour with which he or she has the experience, leading Bernier to theorize that the impairment of these neurons in individuals with autism is caused by a lack of experience with social interaction.

But some studies have counterattacked with this hypothesis since not all affected people with this kind of disorder have no impairments in these kinds of neurons. 

The Theory Behind Mirror Neurons

Mirror neurons are the reasons why we tend to be able to follow other people’s behaviours without our conscious awareness.

These kinds of neurons have been found to be activated when we are supposed to imitate someone. 

These kinds of neurons are the causes of why you are able to do your household chores when you were just observing how your parents do these kinds of chores.

Mirror neurons have also helped us to be more compassionate about people due to our capability of empathy.

As mentioned before in the research, learning from imitation and empathy are not present in people with autism.

You could see the results of this research when you see people who have this kind of disorder who would rather do the same behaviours repeatedly and not being able to tell that the person they just pushed off was hurt by the action. 

The reason why people with autism are minimal in their learning abilities since they can’t imitate others which is part of the learning experience.

You can learn more about this kind of neurological disorder by buying this book on this website.

The Relationship Between Mirror Neurons And Autism

Mirror neurons and autism have a relationship with each other when you talk about the traits that are affected by this kind of biological dysfunction.

As mentioned before, studies have found that the dysfunction of these neurons causes someone to have this kind of psychological disorder.

These people with autism are missing in characteristics thanks to their mirror neuron dysfunction.

The following characteristics that are lost are:

  • Empathy
  • Learning
  • Imitation

The dysfunction or impairment of these mirror neurons permits those people with autism to not be able to interpret what others are doing which can make them act on their behaviours that only promote themselves without any awareness.

This is why these kinds of people find these social interactions unexpected and misunderstood.

Although it is still not direct that people with autism are actually having symptoms due to their mirror neuron dysfunction.

Most of these people lack the desire to form social relationships due to their lack of engagement in social interactions which can only strengthen their symptoms.

Symptoms Of Autism Due To Mirror Neuron Dysfunction

As mentioned before, there are autistic symptoms that are caused by mirror neuron dysfunction as found in studies.

This will make these kinds of people to have impairments in doing regular activities in life.

These people with autism are also not empathic towards how other people feel since they have mirror neuron dysfunction.

This is also why these kinds of people are prejudiced by the public due to misunderstanding.

The following are the characteristics that are affected by mirror neuron dysfunction creating autistic symptoms.

Other studies have found that there are other influences other than mirror neuron dysfunction that have created the onset of autistic symptoms.

For instance, the lack of maternal attention can trigger the onset of this neurological disorder since social relationships are first formed by the mother.

You can learn more about mirror neurons and their effects by buying this book on this website.

Mirror Neurons In Learning

Learning is the proactive gathering of new information and there is also the involvement of upgrading that information to fit new realities.

This trait can help us be aware of our surroundings which is vital for our survival.

Imitation is one of the things we need to do to engage in learning, especially when we were still very young when we needed role models in life.

For instance, we needed to follow instructions from authorities or we will be punished through lack of attention.

Imitation makes us use observation which can help us input information which is associated with learning.

In people with autism, learning is disabled which can affect how this person can adapt to life.

The disabled learning is also manifested in these kinds of individuals when they are not changing their behaviours to fit a new norm such as sitting like a princess than a frog in a washroom toilet.

This can make them seem to be deviant against standard social rules.

Mirror Neurons For Empathy

As mentioned before, we need our mirror neurons to feel empathy to understand and express emotions.

Some people would say that you can gain real friends thanks to having this trait.

Empathy helps us to feel sad when someone is sad which can make us feel obligated to empathize with that person and feel better when the person is better.

As mentioned before, people with autism don’t have this trait which makes them hurt others without an evil intention.

These people with autism believe in their own perspective in life making them inconsiderate of other people’s opinions.

For instance, these people might find themselves doing their routine activities such as opening the gate and they find that another person closes the gate for them which is what they don’t want which leads them to hurt the person. 

You can learn more about empathy by buying this book on this website.

Brains Of People With An Autism Spectrum Disorder

People with autism also have other impairments in the brain aside from mirror neuron dysfunction.

This is why they tend to exhibit symptoms that are associated with this disorder.

Studies have found that people with autism have reduced levels or sizes of amygdala matter.

This part of the brain allows us to interpret emotions and make emotional memories.

Without this part of the brain, we will become unaware of other people’s feelings and detached from our own feelings as well.

This is why people with autism may be considered as inconsiderate for their lack of understanding of human emotions.

The sad part of this is that these people with autism don’t have any ideas that their symptoms are hurting people since they are completely unaware of what is going on.

The Theory Of Mind For Autism

There are other theories aside from mirror neuron dysfunction that can explain the behaviours of autistic people.

The theory of mind explanation is more on the cognitive side of people with this neurological disorder. 

The theory of mind exclaims that people can interpret emotions, thoughts, and mental states of another person and knowing that they aren’t having similar mental states.

This cognition is lagging behind in people with autism.

This can be seen in their lack of a strong interpretation of other people’s feelings leading to impairments in social situations.

This can also lead them to not understand what other people are doing and know how to act responsively to their behaviours.

This can make people with autism have social interactions that are impaired and stressful.

You can learn more about the theory of mind and its effects on daily life by buying this book on this website.

Social Decision-Making In Autism Affected By Mirror Neurons

People with autism are characterized by a lack of social-emotional reciprocity or responsiveness, social communication, and social interactions with other people.

Decision-making is also lacking in these people which make them have a difficult time making decisions in the midst of social interactions.

Social decision-making is that trait that most people have to determine what works for others and yourself in a social situation.

In this case, empathy places a role in this trait since it concerns the other person and you are also concerned about yourself.

People with autism are more likely to choose social choices that only benefit themselves in the social situation.

This can make their adjustment to social circumstances implausible.

The worst-case scenario is that other peers would see them as selfish and would ignore them and not let them join in their play.

This is a disadvantage to people with autism since socialization is required to make them adapt to social situations better.

Myths About Mirror Neuron Dysfunction In Autism

A counter study found that people with autism are not the victims that are having mirror neuron dysfunction.

Marco Iacoboni is a neuroscientist at the University of California, Los Angeles is one of the first scientists to suggest and recommend that these kinds of neurons were dysfunctional in this kind of psychological disorder, says that 13 autistic and 10 normal subjects are too minimum to draw any general conclusion about brain differences between these kinds of groups. 

In this case, these kinds of studies are saying that mirror neuron dysfunction shouldn’t be the only cause of autism.

Some of these studies have even discovered that these kinds of people are not exhibiting mirror neuron dysfunction. 

Although these kinds of outcomes are not convincing psychologists that most people with autism have a hard time imitating other people’s behaviours and being able to empathize with others.

This was counteracted when some of these people have been found to be able to somewhat mirror other people or in most cases, landscapes such as those people with autism who are savants. 

As mentioned before, people with autism may not be socially inclined and this is not the cause of mirror neuron dysfunction but only the lack of motivation to engage with other people.

You can learn more about other causes of autism that have studied in psychological literature by buying this book here.

Clinical Implications On This Cause Of Autism

Ramachandran visualizes a time when the discovery or exploration of mirror neuron deficiency in a child could be applied or practised to earlier diagnosis of autism, especially in younger siblings.

Most cases of this neurological disorder is that it is determined when the child is at the age of 2 or 3. 

Younger siblings may be susceptible to autism which makes early intervention necessary to minimize the onset in the early childhood years.

One possible psychological intervention approach uses the mu rhythm in a biofeedback mechanism which is somewhat a form of meditation using the body. 

Humans can learn to elevate or minimize the force of the mu signal at will so that they can better imitate or copy others and control their own movements or behaviours.

As Ramachandran theorized that we might be able to bring the mu wave suppression back to the child, maybe by having affected children observe themselves in a mirror and see if they can use biofeedback to increase it. 

He even added that it was one psychological intervention that can be tested in the future.

Since this is not yet available, parents and carers will have to use conventional psychological interventions for children with autism and help them give them the best resources to see the benefits of early intervention.


In this brief blog, we will be discussing mirror neurons, the theory behind mirror neurons, mirror neurons as causes of mental illnesses, and more information about mirror neurons.

If you have any questions about mirror neurons, please let us know and the team will gladly answer your queries.

FAQs: mirror neurons

Do psychopaths have mirror neurons?

Yes, psychopaths have mirror neurons but they seem to have dysfunctions or impairments in their mirror neurons which make them unable to empathize with another person’s feelings.

This is what leads them to do antisocial behaviours that are threats to others’ lives and the whole society for that matter.

Do psychopaths get nervous?

No, psychopaths don’t get nervous even when threatened by authorities.

This was found in a study that most of these people would not crumble under pressure when being interrogated about a crime they have committed.

These kinds of people lack a feeling of anxiety and fear.

This may be the cause of some brain parts that may have gone awry or disorganized which causes this kind of behaviour.

Are sociopaths emotionless?

No, sociopaths are not exactly all emotionless.

These kinds of people tend to be someone who is close to you since they find knowing and recognizing their victims better will help to bring about their downfall.

These kinds of people tend to be manipulative and lack remorse when they are able to hurt you.

Do psychopaths have friends?

Yes, psychopaths have friends like normal people do. Research has found that these kinds of people tend to be friends with their exes.

This is because they feel some connection with these kinds of people they have separated with or they just want their new partner to be hurt just like what they did to their exes before.

Do psychopaths love their children?

Yes, psychopaths love their children who they’ve formed connections with in the early years of life.

These kinds of people tend to show this kind of love in a different way than most people do.

However, these kinds of people have a difficult time trusting the world and may even find the world threatening to their loved ones. 


BPS Research Digest. No, autistic people do not have a “broken” mirror neuron system – new evidence.

NCBI. Social decision making in autism: On the impact of mirror neurons, motor control, and imitative behaviors.

NewScientist. Mirror neurons seen behaving normally in autism.

Psychiatric Times. Autism: The Answer May Be Reflected in the Mirror Neuron.

Psychology Today. Autism and the Brain Part 2.

ScienceDaily. Autism Linked To Mirror Neuron Dysfunction.

SFARI. The mirror neuron system in children with autism.