Marlene Behrmann doesn’t play it safe. In a quest for answers, the Carnegie Mellon University professor of psychology and her colleagues recently published a study that blew apart a long and widely-held theory regarding autism’s cause.
The controversial study involved the ‘mirror neuron system’ — a single neuron in this system responds both when an individual performs an action (e.g. picking up a raisin) and when the individual observes someone else performing the very same action. As autistic individuals have difficulty interpreting social cues, researchers had theorized that a malfunction of this mirror neuron system was a cause — or possibly even the cause — of the disorder.