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Issue Date: July 2015
Published Online: July 01, 2015
Updated: April 30, 2020
Sensorimotor Integration in Typical Children and Those With Autism: Brain Structural and Functional Connectivity
Author Affiliations
  • University of Southern California, Los Angeles
Article Information
Autism/Autism Spectrum Disorder / Pediatric Evaluation and Intervention / Basic Research
Research Platform   |   July 01, 2015
Sensorimotor Integration in Typical Children and Those With Autism: Brain Structural and Functional Connectivity
American Journal of Occupational Therapy, July 2015, Vol. 69, 6911505014. https://doi.org/10.5014/ajot.2015.69S1-RP101D
American Journal of Occupational Therapy, July 2015, Vol. 69, 6911505014. https://doi.org/10.5014/ajot.2015.69S1-RP101D
Abstract

Date Presented 4/16/2015

To inform the refinement and development of occupational therapy interventions addressing sensory integration deficits, the researchers document brain connectivity between known sensory and motor neural structures within typically developing children and those with autism using advanced neuroimaging techniques.

SIGNIFICANCE: Research has well documented that 80% to 94% of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have some kind of sensory abnormality and/or suffer from motor delays, including postural instability and developmental dyspraxia. Although much of the research related to sensory and motor delays in children with ASD has been conducted in isolation, little is known about the link between the two or sensorimotor integration, which is defined as the ability to successfully transform sensory representations into a motor response. To inform the development and refinement of occupational therapy interventions, it is imperative that we understand the brain structure and functional connectivity of sensorimotor integration to determine the nature of the problem. Therefore, in this research study, we seek to document brain connectivity between known sensory and motor neural structures within typically developing children and those with ASD using advanced neuroimaging techniques.
INNOVATION: This is the one of the first research efforts to use neuroimaging techniques to investigate brain structural and functional connectivity differences of sensorimotor integration in children with ASD compared to typical children. The specific aims of this study are as follows: (1) to identify the structural neural mechanisms of sensorimotor integration in typically developing children aged 6 to 8 yr and those with ASD, and (2) to identify patterns of brain connectivity in sensorimotor integration in typically developing children aged 6 to 8 yr and those with ASD during an imitation task involving the transformation of sensory data into a motor response. The specific hypotheses of this study are as follows: (1) children with ASD, when compared with age- and sex-matched controls, will have insufficient neural connectivity within the known brain regions associated with sensorimotor integration, and (2) children with ASD, when compared with age- and sex-matched controls, will have less robust blood oxygenation level–dependent responses in the known brain regions associated with sensorimotor integration.
METHOD: In this research study, 10 children aged 6 to 8 yr with ASD and 10 typically developing age- and sex-matched controls received a battery of assessments that included advanced magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) techniques and behavioral assessments. MRI assessments included brain structural scans, resting state, diffusion tensor imaging, and functional MRI techniques completed while the child imitated a series of hand gestures. Across all brain analysis methods, mean score differences between the groups of brain volume, functional connectivity, and diffusion tensor imaging and along-tract statistics were evaluated with t tests and multiple linear regression methods.
RESULTS AND CONCLUSION: The results from these 20 children suggest that there are significant differences in the brain regions associated with sensorimotor integration between typically developing children aged 6 to 8 yr and those with ASD. In addition, there is promising evidence that functional connectivity across the regions associated with sensory and motor functions differs between the two groups. The results begin to provide insight into the structural and functional connectivity differences of sensorimotor integration between children with ASD and those who are typically developing.