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Title: The role of familiarity and similarity in action understanding and imitation : investigating mirror neurons in Saudi children with ASD
Author: Alismail, Eiman
ISNI:       0000 0004 5354 5864
Awarding Body: University of Kent
Current Institution: University of Kent
Date of Award: 2015
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Mirror Neuron Theory’ is a brain process model which is based on a direct-matching model, that encodes the motor features, mental states, and the goal of observed actions onto the observer’s own motor system. MNs abnormalities and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) have been empirically associated as they are alleged to represent the neural basis of deficits in social competence and imitative learning in ASD. Neurophysiological evidences nonetheless appear to validate the enhanced activity of MNs when utilizing a familiar agent (person) with ASD. Similar evidence suggests influence of the individual’s own culture, compared to others, on modulating the mirror neuron; however, this hypothesis has never been tested on an ASD group. Other behavioural data show that the use of typically developing peers as models in a social intervention setting with ASD was advocated for its significant outcomes, but the impact of age similarity on modulating MNs in ASD children was not directly investigated. In these four EEG experiments, we investigate the effect of observing a familiar person, a person from a similar age group and someone from a similar ethnic group, performing actions, on the capacity of understanding and imitation of others’ actions. Additionally, we consider if observing a prime, familiar person, similar ethnic-person, or similarly-aged person would facilitate action understanding and imitation if this action were then seen performed later by an unfamiliar person, dissimilar-ethnic person, or dissimilarly-aged person, in young children with ASD, compared to a control group. Participants watched people performing gestures, crossing familiarity of the person (parent/stranger), similarity of the person’s age (child/adult), or of the person’s ethnicity (Saudi/European), with familiarity of the action (meaningful/meaningless). MNs activity was indexed by alpha (8-12 Hz), low beta (13-20 Hz), and theta (5.5-7.5Hz) desynchronization over the sensorimotor cortex. Behavioural performance was recorded through the imitation stage.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: BF Psychology ; RC0321 Neuroscience. Biological psychiatry. Neuropsychiatry