Abnormalities in a specific type of brain cells called mirror neurons have been associated with autism.
The functioning of brain cells in autistic individuals has elicited considerable interest from researchers in recent years. Studies of macaque monkeys, led to the discovery of premotor and parietal cells known as mirror neurons, which are activated by two types of events: 1) when the animal performs a particular action and 2) when the animal observes that action being performed. This second function may underlie many aspects of social cognition, particularly imitation and empathy, which are key symptoms of autism. For this reason, the study of motor neurons is one the most promising areas of research related to the neurophysiology of the disorder.