The self in autism: An emerging view from neuroimaging self in autism

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79 Scopus citations


One of the defining characteristics of individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is difficulty with social interaction and communication with others, or interpersonal interaction. Accordingly, the majority of research efforts to date have focused on understanding the brain mechanisms underlying the deficits in social cognition and language associated with ASD. However, recent empirical and theoretical work has begun to reveal increasing evidence for altered self-representation, or intrapersonal cognition in ASD. Here we review recent studies of the self in ASD, focusing on paradigms examining 'physical' aspects of the self, including self-recognition, agency and perspective taking, and 'psychological' aspects of the self, including self-knowledge and autobiographical memory. A review of the existing literature suggests that psychological, but not physical, aspects of self-representation are altered in ASD. One key brain region that has emerged as a potential locus of self-related deficits in ASD is the medial prefrontal cortex, part of a larger 'default mode network'. Collectively, the findings from these studies provide a more comprehensive framework for understanding the complex social, cognitive, and affective symptomatology of ASD.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)201-208
Number of pages8
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Agency
  • Autism spectrum disorders
  • Autobiographical memory
  • Brain development
  • Default mode network
  • Personality traits
  • Perspective taking
  • Self-knowledge
  • Self-recognition
  • Social cognition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Clinical Neurology


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