Thursday, April 30, 2009

Autism's Four C's: Cerebellum, Connectivity, Coordination, Communication

A neuroimaging study comparing High Functioning Autistic children and typically developing children has found that children with autism relied heavily on the supplementary motor area (SMA), a region of the brain important for conscious, effortful movement, while performing simple motor tasks like sequential finger tapping. Their typically developing peers in the study used the cerebellum, a region of the brain important for automating motor tasks, The study is published in the journal Brain April 23 and is the subject of a news release by the Kennedy Krieger Institute:

This suggests children with autism have to recruit and rely on more conscious, effortful motor planning because they are not able to rely on the cerebellum to automate tasks.

The significance of the current Kennedy Kreiger Institute study for understanding autism disorders and behaviors is explained by Dr. Stewart H. Mostofsky, senior study author and a pediatric neurologist in the Department of Developmental Cognitive Neurology at the Kennedy Krieger Institute:

“Tapping your fingers is a simple action, but it involves communication and coordination between several regions of the brain. These results suggest that in children with autism, fairly close regions of the brains involved in motor tasks have difficulty coordinating activity. If decreased connectivity is at the heart of autism, it makes sense social and communication skills are greatly impaired, as they involve even more complex coordination between more distant areas of the brain."

The study results also support previous studies which tie autism to structural and functional brain underconnectivity. See for example Functional and Anatomical Cortical Underconnectivity in Autism: Evidence from an fMRI Study of an Executive Function Task and Corpus Callosum Morphometry in Cerebral Cortex, June 13, 2006.

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bullet said...

"This suggests children with autism have to recruit and rely on more conscious, effortful motor planning because they are not able to rely on the cerebellum to automate tasks."

I wonder (if I've interpreted it correctly) if that explains why I frequently struggle to throw something, because my mind tells me to let go of the object, but my hnad doesn't do so, why I often won't look round at something someone has pointed out to me, even though I'm interested, because I although I think about doing it my body doesn't react as quickly and why I very frequently (as in every day, but not all day) find initiating talking or often even replying very difficult as the words are in my mind but they won't come out of my mouth.

navywifeandmom said...

Harold, I hope you do not mind; I did a small feature on my own blog about your blog and quoted a past post that you wrote earlier this month.

Thanks for all you do!

Roger Kulp said...

I've had serious problems with motor coordination,both fine and gross,my entire life.This doesn't surprise me in the least.

When I have brought this issue up to self-professed autistics,who advocate neurodiversity,they will always tell me,that,like developmental delay,or seizures,this is something that only a small subgroup of autistics has a problem with,they never do,and therefore it's irrelevant to the picture they want to present of what autism really is.

Makes you wonder if when all is finally known about what truly makes up autism,how many of these high functioning neurodiversity types will still be able to say they are autistic,and the fear of losing their diagnosis/identity is the real reason why they want to have a say in where research is or isn't done.