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Title: The neural basis of mentalizing deficits experienced by adults with autism spectrum disorder
Author: Cole, Eleanor
ISNI:       0000 0004 6500 5005
Awarding Body: University of York
Current Institution: University of York
Date of Award: 2017
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Adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are widely regarded to exhibit difficulties inferring the internal states of others; known as ‘mentalizing’. However, the existing literature is inconsistent regarding the nature of the mentalizing difficulties experienced by adults with ASD. Two neural systems; the mirror neuron system (MNS) and the mentalizing system, are both thought to play important roles in inferring others’ internal states from their actions but the precise roles of these systems and the nature of the interaction between them are unknown. The aim of this thesis was to explore the nature of mentalizing deficits associated with ASD, delineate between existing models of MNS involvement in mentalizing and identify the neural basis of mentalizing difficulties associated with ASD. The first empirical chapter presents two behavioural experiments which found adults with ASD were impaired at explicitly inferring the intentions of others from their actions. The second empirical chapter presents a transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) experiment which identified mentalizing-induced modulation of MNS activity, at the end of observed actions, in typically developing participants. The third empirical chapter presents an experiment which used TMS and electroencephalography (EEG) to measure MNS activation in adults with ASD when mentalizing and found higher levels of autistic traits predicted lower right-lateralised MNS activity. The final empirical chapter presents a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) experiment which identified higher levels of autistic traits predicted reduced functional connectivity between the MNS and the mentalizing system. Collectively, these data suggest that connectivity between the MNS and the mentalizing system is higher when inferring intentions of others from their actions, the interaction between the two systems may be best conceptualised within a predictive coding framework and reduced connectivity between these systems may underlie the mentalizing difficulties adults with ASD experience.
Supervisor: Barraclough, Nick ; Andrews, Timothy Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available