, Volume 4, Issue 4, pp 279-289

Behavioural aspects of cerebellar function in adults with Asperger syndrome

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Abstract

Aside from social deficits, Asperger and autistic individuals also exhibit motor control abnormalities such as impaired gait, balance, manual dexterity and grip. One brain area that has consistently been reported on autopsy and imaging studies to be abnormal in such individuals is the cerebellum. As the cerebellum controls sensorimotor coordination and lesions here typically cause hypotonia, dysmetria and dyscoordination, we performed a series of quantitative tests aimed at investigating cerebellar function in Asperger individuals. Tests examining visually guided movement (rapid pointing), speeded complex movement (finger tapping, rapid hand turning), muscle tone (catching dropped weight), prediction, coordination and timing (balance, grip force and interval timing) were conducted on 12 Asperger subjects and 12 age and IQ matched controls. In comparison to control subjects, Asperger subject’s demonstrated: (i) decreased pointing accuracy and rate, (ii) increased postural instability, and (iii) decreased timing accuracy. IQ was found to co-vary with some parameters of each of these tasks and no further impairments were found on the remaining tests. We suggest that these specific deficits reflect impairment in the ability to integrate sensory input with appropriate motor commands and are consistent with cerebellar dysfunction in Asperger syndrome.