Asperger syndrome appears to result from developmental factors that affect many or all functional brain systems, as opposed to localized effects. Although the specific underpinnings of AS or factors that distinguish it from other ASDs are unknown, and no clear pathology common to individuals with AS has emerged, Neuroanatomical studies and the associations with teratogens strongly suggest that the mechanism includes alteration of brain development soon after conception. Several theories of mechanism are available; none is likely to provide a complete explanation.
provides some evidence for both underconnectivity and mirror neuron theories. It maps well to general-processing theories such as weak central coherence theory, which hypothesizes that a limited ability to see the big picture underlies the central disturbance in ASD. A related theory—enhanced perceptual functioning—focuses more on the superiority of locally oriented and perceptual operations in autistic individuals.
The mirror neuron system (MNS) theory hypothesizes that alterations to the development of the MNS interfere with imitation and lead to Asperger's core feature of social impairment. For example, one study found that activation is delayed in the core circuit for imitation in individuals with AS. This theory maps well to social cognition theories like the theory of mind, which hypothesizes that autistic behavior arises from impairments in ascribing mental states to oneself and others, or hyper-systemizing, which hypothesizes that autistic individuals can systematize internal operation to handle internal events but are less effective at empathizing by handling events generated by other agents.
Other possible mechanisms include serotonin dysfunction and cerebellar dysfunction.
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