Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Mirror Neuron Dance Party for Autism Spectrum Disorders

With your hosts, V.S. Ramachandran and and E.L. Seckel (2010) of VH1's The Surreal Life: Medical Hypotheses.
...We proposed and provided the first experimental evidence for a dysfunctional MNS [mirror neuron system] in ASD [autism spectrum disorders] (Altschuler et al., 1997). ... Nonetheless evidence at this point is “compelling but not conclusive”.

On the assumption that the MNS is not completely missing but “dormant”, could they be revived? We propose having the children look into a room with multiple mirrors at various angles to provide multiple allocentric views of themselves. Three neurotypical volunteers would stand inside the room and dance to a rhythm while the child dances in synchrony with them. This is different from conventional dance therapy in ASD in that our treatment specifically emphasizes synchronous dance movements mimicking others (as well as the simultaneous presence of multiple mirror refections) in order to optimally stimulate any residual MNS. Given the existence of tactile – sensory mirror neurons that fire when you merely watch someone else being touched, one could also deliver varying patterns of touch as the child watches. The use of multiple reflections makes it unavoidable that the child has to see itself [sic] stimulated. One may need to start with simple rhythms and progressively graduate to more complex ones incorporating more elaborate gestures. The subjects could be tested for lasting improvement in behavioral scores which might spill over into more useful domains such as social interactions.

MTV is planning to air its own version of this hot new treatment modality, Mirror Neuron Live.


Altschuler EL, Vankov A, Wang V, Ramachandran VS, Pineda JA. Person See, Person Do: human cortical electrophysiological correlates of monkey see monkey do cells. In: Poster session presented at the 27th annual meeting of the society for neuroscience. LA: New Orleans; 1997.

Ramachandran, V., & Seckel, E. (2010). Synchronized dance therapy to stimulate mirror neurons in autism Medical Hypotheses DOI: 10.1016/j.mehy.2010.10.047

VS Ramachandran's Modest Proposal: The neurons that shaped civilization.

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At November 23, 2010 2:35 AM, Blogger Andrew said...

As I recall, there isn't actually any direct evidence for the existence of a mirror neuron network system in humans yet, correct? None of the studies have actually been able to manage it.

One day these people will find out about all the good work being done on biological motion perception and realise that's how you explain action perception. Maybe...

At November 23, 2010 9:10 AM, Anonymous Benjamin said...


I'm sympathetic to mirror neuron ideas in speech perception, but even there people are racing past the evidence.

Extending mirror neuron hypotheses to ASD is way over-reaching, and if one publishes in Medical Hypotheses of all things, one shouldn't expect to be treated seriously.

At November 23, 2010 12:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dr. Ramachandran and a few colleagues have made careers out of an arcane EEG effect (mu rhythm suppression) that they have taken to index activity of the mirror neuron system. These ~10 Hz waves are measured above the motor cortex and are thought to be suppressed by motor activity (or mirror neuron activity). They also found a (weak) absence of the mu rhythm during observation ("mirroring") in autism. To regard mu suppression as "mirror neuron activity" is an outrageous stretch of the imagination. Moreover, I know of several failures to replicate the basic phenomenon of mu suppression, my own experiments included.

At November 23, 2010 7:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe after enough time in the mirror room they'll forget that they have a refrigerator mom.

At November 27, 2010 11:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I saw something recently, maybe a month or two ago, which had an interesting suggestion.

It said that by a certain age, or usually so, young children will -- like the rest of us -- yawn when someone else yawns.

However (they went on to say) autistic children do not. Even at older ages, when it would be thought that normal children would certainly have developed that trait.

It seems that yawning being 'catching' should fall within the realm of mirror neurons. Monkey see, monkey do, and irrepressibly so.

If A and B and C above are true, then are there mirror neurons and do they lack effect in autism?

If it is tru

At December 04, 2010 2:57 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Dr. Ramachandran and a few colleagues have made careers out of an arcane EEG effect "

Well, Dr. Ramachandran was already very famous before any of this... The guy is very charismatic, no doubt about it, a very good showman. Any US Uni would want to have him for PR and visibility purposes (same with Pinker, for example).


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