Autism is a complex developmental spectrum disorder currently estimated to affect as many as 1 in 100 children, and is 4 times more prevalent in males than in females. It is defined by a constellation of behavioral symptoms that include limited social interactions and profound language disabilities. However, the underlying neural causes for these severe disabilities are only recently beginning to be understood. Due to both the high prevalence and the severity of the disorder, this gap between understanding neural mechanisms and treatment constitutes a critical unmet clinical need. In this talk I will address the question of why language and interpersonal interactions are so difficult for autistic individuals based on previous neuroimaging studies, and describe current and future research directions aimed at early diagnosis and therapeutic approaches.