Autism affects 1 in 150 people in the world, in France 430 000 are diagnosed, 25% of them being children.
Open / close summary


“Pervasive developmental disorders” include diseases affecting emotional, cognitive, intellectual, sensory and social development, as well as language acquisition in child, the most known being autism. These disorders affect 6 to 7‰ people under 20.

The analysis of numerous studies conducted on these pathologies has highlighted various risk factors. These risk factors are the intake of drugs during pregnancy, factors inducing stress in mother and child, such as presentation of the child by seat at the time of birth or premature child birth.

This analysis does not clarify whether these risk factors are the cause of these disorders or if they merely play a secondary role in the development of these disorders in children with genetic vulnerability. However, it enables to guide research on the causes of autism.

Institut du Cerveau – ICM RESPONSES


Emotions, depression and social interaction : Nathalie George and Philippe Fossati’s team is interested in the mechanisms by which social processes activate and regulate the emotional brain. Accordingly, they are interested, among other things, in depression and autism.


Autism : what if imitation had a therapeutic effect ?

Being imitated improves autistic patients’ social behaviours via activation of strategic areas of the brain. This is what is suggested by a study conducted by Philippe Fossati, through functional magnetic resonance imaging. When patients with autism are imitated, researchers observe the activation of a brain area playing a central role in social behaviours and in the development of emotions, insula. In parallel, brain area activity, exaggeratedly working in these patients, decreases. By suggesting that imitating autistic patients has a therapeutic effect through modulation of specific brain areas, these results open new perspectives for the treatment of autism.