Experimental Brain Research

, Volume 192, Issue 3, pp 521–525 | Cite as

Planning actions in autism

  • Maddalena Fabbri-Destro
  • Luigi Cattaneo
  • Sonia Boria
  • Giacomo Rizzolatti
Research Article


It has been suggested that the deficit in understanding others’ intention in autism depends on a malfunctioning of the mirror system. This malfunction could be due either to a deficit of the basic mirror mechanism or to a disorganization of chained action organization on which the mirror understanding of others’ intention is based. Here we tested this last hypothesis investigating the kinematics of intentional actions. Children with autism and typically developing children (TD) were asked to execute two actions consisting each of three motor acts: the first was identical in both actions while the last varied for its difficulty. The result showed that, unlike in TD children, in children with autism the kinematics of the first motor act was not modulated by the task difficulty. This finding strongly supports the notion that children with autism have a deficit in chaining motor acts into a global action.


Autism Motor acts Action planning Mirror neuron system 



The research described here is outside the main interests of Giovanni Berlucchi. However, all the authors of the present study, and GR in particular, are pleased to dedicate it to him for how much he contributed to their intellectual and scientific formation. The study was supported by EU Contract 012738, Neurocom, by PRIN 2006 to GR, and by Fondazione Monte Parma (FMP). M.F-D. was supported by Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio di Ferrara. We thank C. Pieraccini, A. Monti, E. Santelli and F. Dalla Vecchia for their clinical contribution. We also thank L. Sparaci and R. Pitino for their help in some parts of the experiment.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Maddalena Fabbri-Destro
    • 1
    • 2
  • Luigi Cattaneo
    • 1
  • Sonia Boria
    • 1
  • Giacomo Rizzolatti
    • 1
  1. 1.Dipartimento di NeuroscienzeUniversità di ParmaParmaItaly
  2. 2.Dipartimento di Scienze Biomediche e Terapie AvanzateUniversità di FerraraFerraraItaly

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