Feedforward and feedback motor control abnormalities implicate cerebellar dysfunctions in autism spectrum disorder
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National Institute of Mental Health Grant 092696; National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Autism Center of Excellence Award HD055751; Autism Speaks, and National Institutes of Health Grant R01 NS058487.
Sensorimotor abnormalities arecommonin autism spectrum disorder (ASD) andamongthe earliest manifestations of the disorder. They have been studied far less than the social-communication and cognitive deficits that define ASD, but a mechanistic understanding of sensorimotor abnormalities in ASD may provide key insights into the neural underpinnings of the disorder. In this human study, we examined rapid, precision grip force contractions to determine whether feedforward mechanisms supporting initial motor output before sensory feedback can be processed are disrupted in ASD. Sustained force contractions also were examined to determine whether reactive adjustments to ongoing motor behavior based on visual feedback are altered. Sustained force was studied across multiple force levels and visual gains to assess motor and visuomotor mechanisms, respectively. Primary force contractions of individuals with ASD showed greater peak rate of force increases and large transient overshoots. Individuals withASDalso showed increased sustained force variability that scaled with force level and was more severe when visual gain was highly amplified or highly degraded. When sustaining a constant force level, their reactive adjustments were more periodic than controls, and they showed increased reliance on slower feedback mechanisms. Feedforward and feedback mechanism alterations each were associated with more severe social-communication impairments in ASD. These findings implicate anterior cerebellar circuits involved in feedforward motor control and posterior cerebellar circuits involved in transforming visual feedback into precise motor adjustments in ASD.
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