Neural Correlates of Visuomotor Learning in Autism

Elizabeth Sharer, Deana Crocetti, John Muschelli, Anita D. Barber, Mary Beth Nebel, Brian S. Caffo, Jim J. Pekar, Stewart H. Mostofsky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Motor impairments are prevalent in children with autism spectrum disorder. The Serial Reaction Time Task, a well-established visuomotor sequence learning probe, has produced inconsistent behavioral findings in individuals with autism. Moreover, it remains unclear how underlying neural processes for visuomotor learning in children with autism compare to processes for typically developing children. Neural activity differences were assessed using functional magnetic resonance imaging during a modified version of the Serial Reaction Time Task in children with and without autism. Though there was no group difference in visuomotor sequence learning, underlying patterns of neural activation significantly differed when comparing sequence (ie, learning) to random (ie, nonlearning) blocks. Children with autism demonstrated decreased activity in brain regions implicated in visuomotor sequence learning: superior temporal sulcus and posterior cingulate cortex. The findings implicate differences in brain mechanisms that support initial sequence learning in autism and can help explain behavioral observations of autism-associated impairments in skill development (motor, social, communicative) reliant on visuomotor integration.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1877-1886
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of child neurology
Volume30
Issue number14
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 1 2015

Keywords

  • autism
  • motor learning
  • procedural learning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Clinical Neurology

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