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New study pinpoints difference in the way children with autism learn new behaviors
Date:7/6/2009

ve Neurology at the Kennedy Krieger Institute. "If done early enough, this could help to improve development of motor, social and communicative skills in children with autism. Further, it could also improve their ability to understand social cues because the brain systems critical to forming internal models of behavior that guide our actions are also critical to developing an understanding of the meaning of those actions."

The study findings also provide support for observations from previous studies suggesting that autism may be associated with abnormalities in the wiring of the brain; specifically, with overdevelopment of short range white matter connections between neighboring brain regions and underdevelopment of longer distance connections between distant brain regions. The findings from this study are consistent with this pattern of abnormal connectivity, as the brain regions involved in proprioception are closely linked to motor areas, while visual-motor processing depends on more distant connections.

"These findings not only demonstrate why children with autism have difficulty learning motor skills, but also provide real insight into why these children have difficulty learning to interact with the world around them," said Dr. Reza Shadmehr, senior study author and Professor of Biomedical Engineering and Neuroscience at the John Hopkins University School of Medicine. "If the way their brain is wired is not allowing them to rely as much as typically developing children on external visual cues to guide behavior, they may have difficulty learning how to interact with other people and interpret the nature of other people's actions."

Potential next steps include the use of neuroimaging to investigate whether or not proprioceptive versus visual feedback is actually associated with abnormal patterns of structural and functional connectivity in the brain of children with autism. Additionally, researchers may study if patterns of motor lear
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Contact: Megan Lustig
mlustig@spectrumscience.com
202-955-6222
Kennedy Krieger Institute
Source:Eurekalert

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