To explore the specificity of impaired praxis and postural knowledge to autism by examining three samples of children, including those with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and typically developing (TD) children.
Twenty-four children with ASD, 24 children with ADHD, and 24 TD children, ages 8–13, completed measures assessing basic motor control (the Physical and Neurological Exam for Subtle Signs; PANESS), praxis (performance of skilled gestures to command, with imitation, and tool use) and the ability to recognize correct hand postures necessary to perform these skilled gestures (the Postural Knowledge Test; PKT).
Children with ASD performed significantly worse than TD children on all three assessments. In contrast, children with ADHD performed significantly worse than TD controls on PANESS but not on the praxis examination or PKT. Furthermore, children with ASD performed significantly worse than children with ADHD on both the praxis examination and PKT, but not on the PANESS.
Whereas both children with ADHD and children with ASD show impairments in basic motor control, impairments in performance and recognition of skilled motor gestures, consistent with dyspraxia, appear to be specific to autism. The findings suggest that impaired formation of perceptual-motor action models necessary to development of skilled gestures and other goal directed behavior is specific to autism; whereas, impaired basic motor control may be a more generalized finding.
imitation; motor learning; procedural learning; premotor cortex; inferior parietal lobe
Children affected by Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder have diminished intra-hemispheric inhibition (Short Interval Cortical Inhibition) as measured by Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation. This study’s objective is to determine whether inter-hemispheric inhibition (Ipsilateral Silent Period Latency) correlates with clinical behavioral rating and motor control deficits of affected children. In 114 8–12 year old, right-handed children (age/sex-matched, 50 affected, 64 controls), we performed comprehensive assessments of behavior, motor skills and cognition. Using Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation, we reliably elicited Ipsilateral Silent Period in 54 children (23 affected) - all were on average older than those who had unobtainable measures. Mean Ipsilateral Silent Period latency was 5 milliseconds longer in the affected group (p=0.007). Longer latencies correlated with more severe behavioral symptom scores (r=0.38, p=0.007), particularly hyperactivity (r=0.39, p=0.006), as well as with worse motor ratings on the Physical and Neurological Examination for Soft Signs (r=0.27, p=0.05). Longer latency also correlated with Short Interval Cortical Inhibition (r=0.36, p=0.008). In conclusion, longer Ipsilateral Silent Period latencies suggest interhemispheric inhibitory signaling is slower in affected children. The deficit in this inhibitory measure may underlie developmental, behavioral and motor impairments in children with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder.
Inhibitory control commonly recruits a number of frontal regions: pre-supplementary motor area (pre-SMA), frontal eye fields (FEFs), and right-lateralized posterior inferior frontal gyrus (IFG), dorsal anterior insula (DAI), dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC), and inferior frontal junction (IFJ). These regions may directly implement inhibitory motor control or may be more generally involved in executive control functions. Two go/no-go tasks were used to distinguish regions specifically recruited for inhibition from those that additionally show increased activity with working memory demand. The pre-SMA and IFG were recruited for inhibition in both tasks and did not have greater activation for working memory demand on no-go trials, consistent with a role in inhibitory control. Activation in pre-SMA also responded to response selection demand and was increased with working memory on go trials specifically. The bilateral FEF and right DAI were commonly active for no-go trials. The FEF was also recruited to a greater degree with working memory demand on go trials and may bias top–down information when stimulus–response mappings change. The DAI, additionally responded to increased working memory demand on both go and no-go trials and may be involved in accessing sustained task information, alerting, or autonomic changes when cognitive demands increase. DLPFC activation was consistent with a role in working memory retrieval on both go and no-go trials. The inferior frontal junction, on the other hand, had greater activation with working memory specifically for no-go trials and may detect salient stimuli when the task requires frequent updating of working memory representations.
Children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) show deficits in development of motor skills, in addition to core deficits in social skill development. In a previous study (Haswell et al., 2009) we found that children with autism show a key difference in how they learn motor actions, with a bias for relying on joint position rather than visual feedback; further, this pattern of motor learning predicted impaired motor, imitation and social abilities. We were interested in finding out whether this altered motor learning pattern was specific to autism. To do so, we examined children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), who also show deficits in motor control. Children learned a novel movement and we measured rates of motor learning, generalization patterns of motor learning, and variability of motor speed during learning. We found children with ASD show a slower rate of learning and, consistent with previous findings, an altered pattern of generalization that was predictive of impaired motor, imitation, and social impairment. In contrast, children with ADHD showed a normal rate of learning and a normal pattern of generalization; instead, they (and they alone), showed excessive variability in movement speed. The findings suggest that there is a specific pattern of altered motor learning associated with autism.
The brain builds an association between action and sensory feedback to predict the sensory consequence of self-generated motor commands. This internal model of action is central to our ability to adapt movements, and may also play a role in our ability to learn from observing others. Recently we reported that the spatial generalization patterns that accompany adaptation of reaching movements were distinct in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) as compared to typically developing (TD) children. To test whether the generalization patterns are specific to ASD, here we compared the patterns of adaptation to those in children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Consistent with our previous observations, we found that in ASD the motor memory showed greater than normal generalization in proprioceptive coordinates compared with both TD children and children with ADHD; children with ASD also showed slower rates of adaptation compared with both control groups. Children with ADHD did not show this excessive generalization to the proprioceptive target, but did show excessive variability in the speed of movements with an increase in the exponential distribution of responses (τ) as compared with both TD children and children with ASD. The results suggest that slower rate of adaptation and anomalous bias towards proprioceptive feedback during motor learning is characteristic of autism; whereas increased variability in execution is characteristic of ADHD.
Motor deficits are commonly reported in autism, with one of the most consistent findings being impaired execution of skilled movements and gestures. Given the developmental nature of autism, it is possible that deficits in motor/procedural learning contribute to impaired acquisition of motor skills. Thus, careful examination of mechanisms underlying learning and memory may be critical to understanding the neural basis of autism. A previous study reported impaired motor learning in children with high-functioning autism (HFA); however, it is unclear whether the observed deficits in motor learning are due, in part, to impaired motor execution and whether these deficits are specific to autism. In order to examine these questions, 153 children (52 with HFA, 39 with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and 62 typically developing (TD) children) participated in two independent experiments using a Rotary Pursuit task, with change in performance across blocks as a measure of learning. For both tasks, children with HFA demonstrated significantly less change in performance than did TD children, even when differences in motor execution were minimized. Differences in learning were not seen between ADHD and TD groups on either experiment. Analyses of the pattern of findings revealed that compared with both ADHD and TD children, children with HFA showed a similar degree of improvement in performance; however, they showed significantly less decrement in performance when presented with an alternate (“interference”) pattern. The findings suggest that mechanisms underlying acquisition of novel movement patterns may differ in children with autism. These findings may help explain impaired skill development in children with autism and help to guide approaches for helping children learn novel motor, social and communicative skills.
procedural memory; declarative memory; cerebellum; visuomotor learning
The current study examined regional frontal lobe volumes based on functionally relevant subdivisions in contemporaneously recruited samples of boys and girls with and without attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Forty-four boys (21 ADHD, 23 control) and 42 girls (21 ADHD, 21 control), ages 8–13 years, participated. Sulcal–gyral landmarks were used to manually delimit functionally relevant regions within the frontal lobe: primary motor cortex, anterior cingulate, deep white matter, premotor regions [supplementary motor complex (SMC), frontal eye field, lateral premotor cortex (LPM)], and prefrontal cortex (PFC) regions [medial PFC, dorsolateral PFC (DLPFC), inferior PFC, lateral orbitofrontal cortex (OFC), and medial OFC]. Compared to sex-matched controls, boys and girls with ADHD showed reduced volumes (gray and white matter) in the left SMC. Conversely, girls (but not boys) with ADHD showed reduced gray matter volume in left LPM; while boys (but not girls) with ADHD showed reduced white matter volume in left medial PFC. Reduced left SMC gray matter volumes predicted increased go/no–go commission rate in children with ADHD. Reduced left LPM gray matter volumes predicted increased go/no–go variability, but only among girls with ADHD. Results highlight different patterns of anomalous frontal lobe development among boys and girls with ADHD beyond that detected by measuring whole lobar volumes.
Segmentation; Premotor; Prefrontal; Supplementary Motor Complex (SMC); Pre-SMA; Gender; Sex; Childhood
Motor control relies on well-established motor circuits, which are critical for typical child development. Although many imaging studies have examined task activation during motor performance, none have examined the relationship between functional intrinsic connectivity and motor ability. The current study investigated the relationship between resting state functional connectivity within the motor network and motor performance assessment outside of the scanner in 40 typically developing right-handed children. Better motor performance correlated with greater left-lateralized (mean left hemisphere—mean right hemisphere) motor circuit connectivity. Speed, rhythmicity, and control of movements were associated with connectivity within different individual region pairs: faster speed was associated with more left-lateralized putamen–thalamus connectivity, less overflow with more left-lateralized supplementary motor–primary motor connectivity, and less dysrhythmia with more left-lateralized supplementary motor–anterior cerebellar connectivity. These findings suggest that for right-handed children, superior motor development depends on the establishment of left-hemisphere dominance in intrinsic motor network connectivity.
development; motor control; resting state network
One goal of computational anatomy (CA) is to develop tools to accurately segment brain structures in healthy and diseased subjects. In this paper, we examine the performance and complexity of such segmentation in the framework of the large deformation diffeomorphic metric mapping (LDDMM) registration method with reference to atlases and parameters. First we report the application of a multi-atlas segmentation approach to define basal ganglia structures in healthy and diseased kids' brains. The segmentation accuracy of the multi-atlas approach is compared with the single atlas LDDMM implementation and two state-of-the-art segmentation algorithms—Freesurfer and FSL—by computing the overlap errors between automatic and manual segmentations of the six basal ganglia nuclei in healthy subjects as well as subjects with diseases including ADHD and Autism. The high accuracy of multi-atlas segmentation is obtained at the cost of increasing the computational complexity because of the calculations necessary between the atlases and a subject. Second, we examine the effect of parameters on total LDDMM computation time and segmentation accuracy for basal ganglia structures. Single atlas LDDMM method is used to automatically segment the structures in a population of 16 subjects using different sets of parameters. The results show that a cascade approach and using fewer time steps can reduce computational complexity as much as five times while maintaining reliable segmentations.
subcortical segmentation; computational anatomy; brain mapping; LDDMM
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) often involves sensory and motor problems, yet the proprioceptive sense of limb position has not been directly assessed. We used three tasks to assess proprioception in adolescents with ASD who had motor and sensory perceptual abnormalities, and compared them to age- and IQ-matched controls. Results showed no group differences in proprioceptive accuracy or precision during active or passive tasks. Both groups showed (a) biases in elbow angle accuracy that varied with joint position, (b) improved elbow angle precision for active versus passive tasks, and (c) improved precision for a fingertip versus elbow angle estimation task. Thus, a primary proprioceptive deficit may not contribute to sensorimotor deficits in ASD. Abnormalities may arise at later sensory processing stages.
Proprioception; Motor control; Sensory processing
Error processing is reflected, behaviorally, by slower reaction times (RT) on trials immediately following an error (post-error). Children with Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) fail to show RT slowing and demonstrate increased intra-subject variability (ISV) on post-error trials. The neural correlates of these behavioral deficits remain unclear. The dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) and lateral prefrontal cortex (PFC) are key regions implicated in error processing and subsequent behavioral adjustment. We hypothesized that children with ADHD, compared to typically developing (TD) controls, would exhibit reduced PFC activation during post-error (versus post-correct inhibition) trials and reduced dACC activation during error (versus correct inhibition) trials.
Using fMRI and a Go/No-Go task, we analyzed the neural correlates of error processing in 13 children with ADHD and 17 TD children.
Behaviorally, children with ADHD showed similar RT slowing but increased ISV compared to controls. The post-error contrast revealed a relative increase in BOLD signal in the middle/inferior temporal cortex (TempC), the ACC/supplementary motor area (SMA) and the somatosensory/auditory cortex (AudC) in children with ADHD compared to controls. Importantly, in the ADHD group, increased post-error temporal cortex activity was associated with lower ISV. During error (versus correct inhibition) trials, no between group differences were detected. However, in children with ADHD lower ISV was associated with decreased insula and increased precentral gyrus activity.
In children with ADHD, post-error neural activity suggests first, a shift of attention towards task-irrelevant stimuli (AudC) and second, a recruitment of compensatory regions that resolve stimulus conflict (TempC) and improve response selection/execution (ACC/SMA). ADHD children with higher temporal cortex activation showed lower ISV, suggesting that functional abnormalities in the compensatory temporal regions contribute to increased variability. Moreover, increased ISV may be related to an over-sensitivity to negative outcomes during error trials in ADHD (insula correlation).
error processing; variability; temporal cortex; medial frontal cortex; ADHD; children; fMRI
Processing speed deficits affect reading efficiency, even among individuals who recognize and decode words accurately. Children with ADHD who decode words accurately can still have inefficient reading fluency, leading to a bottleneck in other cognitive processes. This “slowing” in ADHD is associated with deficits in fundamental components of executive function underlying processing speed, including response selection. The purpose of the present study was to deconstruct processing speed in order to determine which components of executive control best explain the “processing” speed deficits related to reading fluency in ADHD. Participants (41 ADHD, 21 controls), ages 9-14, screened for language disorders, word reading deficits, and psychiatric disorders, were administered measures of copying speed, processing speed, reading fluency, working memory, reaction time, inhibition, and auditory attention span. Compared to controls, children with ADHD showed reduced oral and silent reading fluency, and reduced processing speed—driven primarily by deficits on WISC-IV Coding. In contrast, groups did not differ on copying speed. After controlling for copying speed, sex, severity of ADHD-related symptomatology, and GAI, slowed “processing” speed (i.e., Coding) was significantly associated with verbal span and measures of working memory, but not with measures of response control/inhibition, lexical retrieval speed, reaction time, or intra-subject variability. Further, “processing” speed (i.e., Coding, residualized for copying speed) and working memory were significant predictors of oral reading fluency. Abnormalities in working memory and response selection (which are frontally-mediated and enter into the output side of processing speed) may play an important role in deficits in reading fluency in ADHD, potentially more than posteriorally-mediated problems with orienting of attention or perceiving the stimulus.
Reading; Attention; Child; Dyslexia; Fluency; Working Memory; Executive Function
While studies among adults implicate the amygdala and interconnecting brain regions in encoding emotional stimuli, few studies have examined whether developmental changes occur within this emotional-memory network during adolescence. The present study examined whether adolescents and adults differentially engaged the amygdala and hippocampus during successful encoding of emotional pictures, with either positive or negative valence. Eighteen adults and twelve adolescents underwent event-related fMRI while encoding emotional pictures. Approximately 30 minutes later, outside the scanner, subjects were asked to recall the pictures seen during the scan. Age group differences in brain activity in the amygdala and hippocampus during encoding of the pictures that were later successfully and unsuccessfully recalled were separately compared for the positive and negative pictures. Adolescents, relative to adults, demonstrated enhanced activity in the right amygdala during encoding of positive pictures that were later recalled compared to not recalled. There were no age group differences in amygdala or hippocampal activity during successful encoding of negative pictures. The findings of preferential activity within the adolescent right amygdala during successful encoding of positive pictures may have implications for the increased reward and novelty seeking behavior, as well as elevated rates of psychopathology, observed during this distinct developmental period.
adolescents; adults; encoding; positive stimuli; amygdala; hippocampus
Evidence exists for deficits in error monitoring in autism. These deficits may be particularly important because they may contribute to excessive perseveration and repetitive behavior in autism. We examined the neural correlates of error monitoring using fMRI in 8–12-year-old children with high-functioning autism (HFA, n=11) and typically developing children (TD, n=15) during performance of a Go/No-Go task by comparing the neural correlates of commission errors versus correct response inhibition trials. Compared to TD children, children with HFA showed increased BOLD fMRI signal in the anterior medial prefrontal cortex (amPFC) and the left superior temporal gyrus (STempG) during commission error (versus correct inhibition) trials. A follow-up region-of-interest analysis also showed increased BOLD signal in the right insula in HFA compared to TD controls. Our findings of increased amPFC and STempG activity in HFA, together with the increased activity in the insula, suggest a greater attention towards the internally-driven emotional state associated with making an error in children with HFA. Since error monitoring occurs across different cognitive tasks throughout daily life, an increased emotional reaction to errors may have important consequences for early learning processes.
error; response monitoring; autism; children; fmri
Successful automated diagnoses of attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD) using imaging and functional biomarkers would have fundamental consequences on the public health impact of the disease. In this work, we show results on the predictability of ADHD using imaging biomarkers and discuss the scientific and diagnostic impacts of the research. We created a prediction model using the landmark ADHD 200 data set focusing on resting state functional connectivity (rs-fc) and structural brain imaging. We predicted ADHD status and subtype, obtained by behavioral examination, using imaging data, intelligence quotients and other covariates. The novel contributions of this manuscript include a thorough exploration of prediction and image feature extraction methodology on this form of data, including the use of singular value decompositions (SVDs), CUR decompositions, random forest, gradient boosting, bagging, voxel-based morphometry, and support vector machines as well as important insights into the value, and potentially lack thereof, of imaging biomarkers of disease. The key results include the CUR-based decomposition of the rs-fc-fMRI along with gradient boosting and the prediction algorithm based on a motor network parcellation and random forest algorithm. We conjecture that the CUR decomposition is largely diagnosing common population directions of head motion. Of note, a byproduct of this research is a potential automated method for detecting subtle in-scanner motion. The final prediction algorithm, a weighted combination of several algorithms, had an external test set specificity of 94% with sensitivity of 21%. The most promising imaging biomarker was a correlation graph from a motor network parcellation. In summary, we have undertaken a large-scale statistical exploratory prediction exercise on the unique ADHD 200 data set. The exercise produced several potential leads for future scientific exploration of the neurological basis of ADHD.
singular value decomposition; random forest; gradient boosting; voxel-based morphometry
We have previously shown that children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have specific handwriting deficits consisting of poor form, and that these deficits are predicted by their motor abilities. It is not known whether the same handwriting impairments persist into adolescence and whether they remain linked to motor deficits.
A case-control study of handwriting samples from adolescents with and without ASD was performed using the Minnesota Handwriting Assessment. Samples were scored on an individual letter basis in 5 categories: legibility, form, alignment, size, and spacing. Subjects were also administered an intelligence test and the Physical and Neurological Examination for Subtle (Motor) Signs (PANESS).
We found that adolescents with ASD, like children, show overall worse performance on a handwriting task than do age- and intelligence-matched controls. Also comparable to children, adolescents with ASD showed motor impairments relative to controls. However, adolescents with ASD differ from children in that Perceptual Reasoning Indices were significantly predictive of handwriting performance whereas measures of motor skills were not.
Like children with ASD, adolescents with ASD have poor handwriting quality relative to controls. Despite still demonstrating motor impairments, in adolescents perceptual reasoning is the main predictor of handwriting performance, perhaps reflecting subjects' varied abilities to learn strategies to compensate for their motor impairments.
= autism spectrum disorder;
= Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th edition;
= Physical and Neurological Examination for Subtle (Motor) Signs;
= Perceptual Reasoning Index;
= Wechsler Abbreviated Scale of Intelligence;
= Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children IV.
The majority of research on neurobehavioral functioning among children with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is based on samples comprised primarily (or exclusively) of boys. Although functional impairment is well established, available research has yet to specify a neuropsychological profile distinct to girls with ADHD. The purpose of this study was to examine performance within four components of executive function (EF) in contemporaneously recruited samples of girls and boys with ADHD. Fifty-six children with ADHD (26 girls) and 90 controls (42 girls), ages 8–13, were administered neuropsychological tests emphasizing response inhibition, response preparation, working memory, and planning/shifting. There were no significant differences in age or SES between boys or girls with ADHD or their sex-matched controls; ADHD subtype distribution did not differ by sex. Compared with controls, children with ADHD showed significant deficits on all four EF components. Girls and boys with ADHD showed similar patterns of deficit on tasks involving response preparation and working memory; however, they manifested different patterns of executive dysfunction on tasks related to response inhibition and planning. Girls with ADHD showed elevated motor overflow, while boys with ADHD showed greater impairment during conscious, effortful response inhibition. Girls, but not boys with ADHD, showed impairment in planning. There were no differences between ADHD subtypes on any EF component. These findings highlight the importance of studying boys and girls separately (as well as together) when considering manifestations of executive dysfunction in ADHD.
Attention; Response control; Working memory; Inhibition; Planning; Childhood; Development
Functional connectivity is the study of correlations in measured neurophysiological signals. Altered functional connectivity has been shown to be associated with a variety of cognitive and memory impairments and dysfunction, including Alzheimer’s disease. In this manuscript we use a two-stage application of the singular value decomposition to obtain data driven population-level measures of functional connectivity in functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). The method is computationally simple and amenable to high dimensional fMRI data with large numbers of subjects. Simulation studies suggest the ability of the decomposition methods to recover population brain networks and their associated loadings. We further demonstrate the utility of these decompositions in a functional logistic regression model. The method is applied to a novel fMRI study of Alzheimer’s disease risk under a verbal paired associates task. We found a indication of alternative connectivity in clinically asymptomatic at-risk subjects when compared to controls, that was not significant in the light of multiple comparisons adjustment. The relevant brain network loads primarily on the temporal lobe and overlaps significantly with the olfactory areas and temporal poles.
To examine patterns of executive and oculomotor control in a group of both boys and girls with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Cross-sectional study of 120 children aged 8 to 12 years, including 60 with ADHD (24 girls) and 60 typically developing controls (29 girls). Oculomotor paradigms included visually guided saccades (VGS), antisaccades, memory-guided saccades, and a go/no-go test, with variables of interest emphasizing response preparation, response inhibition, and working memory.
As a group, children with ADHD demonstrated significant deficits in oculomotor response preparation (VGS latency and variability) and response inhibition but not working memory. Girls, but not boys with ADHD, had significantly longer VGS latencies, even after controlling for differences in ADHD symptom severity. The ADHD subtypes did not differ on response preparation or inhibition measures; however, children with the Inattentive subtype were less accurate on the working memory task than those with the Combined subtype.
Sex differences in children with ADHD extend beyond symptom presentation to the development of oculomotor control. Saccade latency may represent a specific deficit among girls with ADHD.
eye movement; inhibitory control; executive function; visual attention; frontal
Apraxia traditionally refers to impaired ability to carry out skilled movements in the absence of fundamental sensorimotor, language, or general cognitive impairment sufficient to preclude them. The child neurology literature includes a much broader and varied usage of the term developmental dyspraxia. It has been used to describe a wide range of motor symptoms, including clumsiness and general coordination difficulties, in various developmental disorders (including autistic spectrum disorders, developmental language disorders, and perinatal stroke). We argue for the need to restrict use of the term developmental dyspraxia to describe impaired performance of skilled gestures, recognizing that, unlike acquired adult-onset apraxia, coexisting sensory and motor problems may also be present.
dyspraxia; ideomotor apraxia; limb-kinetic apraxia; motor skills; developmental coordination disorder; autistic disorder; developmental language disorders
Handwriting skills, which are crucial for success in school, communication, and building children’s self-esteem, have been observed to be poor in individuals with autism. Little information exists on the handwriting of children with autism, without delineation of specific features that can contribute to impairments. As a result, the specific aspects of handwriting in which individuals with autism demonstrate difficulty remain unknown.
A case-control study of handwriting samples from children with and without autism spectrum disorders (ASD) was performed using the Minnesota Handwriting Assessment. Samples were scored on an individual letter basis in 5 categories: legibility, form, alignment, size, and spacing. Subjects were also tested on the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children–IV and the Physical and Neurological Examination for Subtle (Motor) Signs.
We found that children with ASD do indeed show overall worse performance on a handwriting task than do age- and intelligence-matched controls. More specifically, children with ASD show worse quality of forming letters but do not show differences in their ability to correctly size, align, and space their letters. Within the ASD group, motor skills were significantly predictive of handwriting performance, whereas age, gender, IQ, and visuospatial abilities were not.
We addressed how different elements of handwriting contribute to impairments observed in children with autism. Our results suggest that training targeting letter formation, in combination with general training of fine motor control, may be the best direction for improving handwriting performance in children with autism.
= Autism Diagnostic Interview–Revised;
= Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule–Generic;
= autism spectrum disorders;
= Diagnostic Interview for Children and Adolescents, 4th edition;
= Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th edition;
= full-scale IQ;
= Physical and Neurological Examination for Subtle (Motor) Signs;
= Perceptual Reasoning Indices;
= Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children–IV.
Children with autism often have difficulty performing skilled movements. Praxis performance requires basic motor skill, knowledge of representations of the movement (mediated by parietal regions), and transcoding of these representations into movement plans (mediated by premotor circuits). The goals of this study were: (a) to determine whether dyspraxia in autism is associated with impaired representational (“postural”) knowledge, and (b) to examine the contributions of postural knowledge and basic motor skill to dyspraxia in autism. Thirty-seven children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and 50 typically developing (TD) children, ages 8–13, completed: (a) an examination of basic motor skills, (b) a postural knowledge test assessing praxis discrimination, and (c) a praxis examination. Children with ASD showed worse basic motor skill and postural knowledge than controls. The ASD group continued to show significantly poorer praxis than controls after accounting for age, IQ, basic motor skill, and postural knowledge. Dyspraxia in autism appears to be associated with impaired formation of spatial representations, as well as transcoding and execution. Distributed abnormality across parietal, premotor, and motor circuitry, as well as anomalous connectivity may be implicated.
developmental dyspraxia; premotor cortex; autism spectrum disorder; movement representation; motor learning
Although motor deficits are common in autism, the neural correlates underlying the disruption of even basic motor execution are unknown. Motor deficits may be some of the earliest identifiable signs of abnormal development and increased understanding of their neural underpinnings may provide insight into autism-associated differences in parallel systems critical for control of more complex behaviour necessary for social and communicative development. Functional magnetic resonance imaging was used to examine neural activation and connectivity during sequential, appositional finger tapping in 13 children, ages 8–12 years, with high-functioning autism (HFA) and 13 typically developing (TD), age- and sex-matched peers. Both groups showed expected primary activations in cortical and subcortical regions associated with motor execution [contralateral primary sensorimotor cortex, contralateral thalamus, ipsilateral cerebellum, supplementary motor area (SMA)]; however, the TD group showed greater activation in the ipsilateral anterior cerebellum, while the HFA group showed greater activation in the SMA. Although activation differences were limited to a subset of regions, children with HFA demonstrated diffusely decreased connectivity across the motor execution network relative to control children. The between-group dissociation of cerebral and cerebellar motor activation represents the first neuroimaging data of motor dysfunction in children with autism, providing insight into potentially abnormal circuits impacting development. Decreased cerebellar activation in the HFA group may reflect difficulty shifting motor execution from cortical regions associated with effortful control to regions associated with habitual execution. Additionally, diffusely decreased connectivity may reflect poor coordination within the circuit necessary for automating patterned motor behaviour. The findings might explain impairments in motor development in autism, as well as abnormal and delayed acquisition of gestures important for socialization and communication.
pediatric; movement; neuroimaging; motor learning; development; connections
Impaired response inhibition is thought to be a core deficit in attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Prior imaging studies investigating response inhibition in children with ADHD have used tasks involving different cognitive resources, thereby complicating the interpretation of their findings. In this study, a classical go/no-go task with a well-ingrained stimulus–response association (green = go; red = no-go) was used in order to minimize extraneous cognitive demands. Twenty-five children with ADHD and 25 typically developing (TD) children between the ages of 8 and 13 years and group-matched for IQ and performance on the go/no-go task were studied using event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Analyses were used to examine differences in activation between the ADHD and TD groups for “go” (habitual motor response) and “no-go” (requiring inhibition of the motor response) events. Region-of-interest analyses revealed no between-group difference in activation in association with “go” events. For “no-go” events, the children with ADHD demonstrated significantly less activation than did TD controls within a network important for inhibiting a motor response to a visual stimulus, with frontal differences localized to the pre-supplementary motor area. Although blood oxygenation level-dependent fMRI data show no differences between children with ADHD and TD children in association with a habituated motor “go” response, during “no-go” events, which require selecting not to respond, children with ADHD show diminished recruitment of networks important for response inhibition. The findings suggest that abnormalities in circuits important for motor response selection contribute to deficits in response inhibition in children with ADHD and lend support to the growing awareness of ADHD-associated anomalies in medial frontal regions important for the control of voluntary actions.
To examine the impact of interstimulus “jitter” (i.e., randomization of the interval between successive stimulus events) on response control during continuous task performance, 41 healthy adults completed four go/no-go tasks that were identical except for interstimulus interval (ISI) jitter: a 0% jitter task with a fixed (1,000-ms) ISI, a 10% jitter task with an ISI range of 900–1,100 ms, a 30% jitter task with an ISI range of 700–1,300 ms, and a 50% jitter task with an ISI range of 500–1,500 ms. Repeated measures analysis of variance (ANOVA) revealed a quadratic effect of jitter on commissions across the group and on intrasubject reaction time variability in men; in both cases, performance was best for the 10% jitter condition. A linear effect of jitter was observed for reaction time (RT) with high levels of jitter (50%) resulting in longer RT. Findings suggest that response selection, including inhibition, is optimized by moderate increases in ISI jitter. More deliberate and controlled responding observed with increasing jitter may have important treatment implications for disorders (e.g., attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, ADHD), associated with impaired response control.
Inhibitory control; Response preparation; Intrasubject variability; Supplementary motor area; Go/no-go; Attention
Response control is impaired in attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Given the corpus callosum's role in response control, we compared callosal morphology in 64 children with ADHD and 64 typically developing children, aged 7 to 13 years, and investigated the relationships between callosal morphology and response control. Area and circumference of 5 callosal segments (genu, rostral body, midbody, isthmus, and splenium) were normalized for cerebral volume and examined for correlation with mean reaction time, intrasubject variability, and/or commission error rate from a go/no-go task. There were no between-group differences in segment areas or circumferences. Reaction time correlated with midbody circumference for boys with ADHD and isthmus circumference for girls with ADHD. For the entire cohort, rostral body circumference correlated with intra-subject variability. Impaired response control in ADHD is associated with anomalies in frontal interhemispheric connections. Future studies examining callosal shape will illuminate the anatomic basis of correlations between callosal segment circumference and response control.
ADHD; corpus callosum; white matter; circumference; reaction time; response control