Centre for Cognitive Neuroscience and Cognitive Systems

CCNCS Seminar Details

Functional MRI in Neuropsychiatric Research: A Study Exploring Social Perception in Asperger's Syndrome.

Speaker: Dr Emma Lawrence
Date/Time: Wednesday 19 November 2008, 4.15pm


In this talk, I will first review some of the principles of fMRI to include experimental design and data analysis. Next I will present data from an fMRI paradigm which measures social perception using dynamic stimuli (Lawrence, Shaw et al. 2006) in adults diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome (AS). Deficits in cognitive empathy or 'theory of mind' have long been documented in AS. However, recent accounts of empathy focus on motor theories whereby self and other action representations are 'shared' (Decety and Sommerville 2003). This theory has been bolstered by the discovery of mirror neurones in primates. The current study explores the ability of adults with a diagnosis of AS, in contrast to controls, to utilise 'shared representations' during a social perception task. I will conclude that despite the common assumption of a blanket empathy deficit in AS, some aspects may be intact. This may be especially so when paradigms with explicit instructions are used, as opposed to tasks requiring 'spontaneous' social perception.

Decety, J. and J. Sommerville (2003). "Shared representations between self and other: a social cognitive neuroscience view." Trends in Cognitive Sciences 7(12): 527-533.

Lawrence, E. J., P. Shaw, et al. (2006). "The role of 'shared representations' in social perception and empathy: an fMRI study." Neuroimage 29(4): 1173-84.

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Centre for Cognitive Science and Cognitive Systems, School of Psychology, University of Kent, Canterbury, Kent CT2 7NP

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