Advertisement

Experimental Brain Research

, Volume 236, Issue 8, pp 2321–2332 | Cite as

Neuromotor and cognitive responses of adults with autism spectrum disorder compared to neurotypical adults

  • Steven Morrison
  • Cortney N. Armitano
  • C. Teal Raffaele
  • Stephen I. Deutsch
  • Serina A. Neumann
  • Hope Caracci
  • Maria R. Urbano
Research Article

Abstract

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a common neurodevelopmental disorder, whose core symptom domains include impaired social communication and narrowed interests and/or repetitive behaviors; in addition, deficits of general cognition, neuromotor function, and movement ability can be observed. This study was designed to examine differences in neuromotor and cognitive functions for a group of young adults with ASD and age-matched controls. It was also of interest to assess whether changes in the intra-individual variability (IIV) of these selected neuromotor and cognitive tasks also occurred. Increased IIV in persons with ASD may reveal important organizational features of their neuromotor system that differ from neurotypical controls. Twenty neurotypical adult individuals (24.3 ± 2.8 years) and twenty adults with a clinician-assigned diagnosis of ASD (21.2 ± 4.4 years) participated in this study. Specific cognitive and motor assessments included Trails Making Tests A&B, Symbol Digit Modalities Test, Purdue Pegboard Test, simple reaction time, finger tapping, hand grip strength, balance, and gait. Results revealed that the ASD adults exhibited decreased upper limb strength and slower responses for finger tapping, hand dexterity, reaction times, and gait compared to the non-ASD controls. The general slowing of motor responses for the persons with ASD was also associated with increased within-subject variability during the reaction time, finger tapping, hand grip, and gait assessments compared to neurotypical adults, illustrating that IIV measures may be a useful marker of widespread neuromotor dysfunction for adults with ASD. Overall, these findings are consistent with clinical observations that abnormalities of movement performance and cognitive performance are an associated feature of ASD in young adults.

Keywords

ASD Neuromotor Reaction time Strength Gait Variability 

References

  1. Adamo N, Huo L, Adelsberg S, Petkova E, Castellanos FX, Di Martino A (2014) Response time intra-subject variability: commonalities between children with autism spectrum disorders and children with ADHD. Eur Child Adolesc Psychiatry 23:69–79CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. Alaniz ML, Galit E, Necesito CI, Rosario ER (2015) Hand strength, handwriting, and functional skills in children with autism. Am J Occup Ther 69:1–9CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Baio J (2012) Prevalence of autism spectrum disorders—autism and developmental disabilities monitoring network, 14 sites, United States, 2008. Morb Mortal Wkly Rep (MMWR) 61:1–19Google Scholar
  4. Barbeau EB, Meilleur A-AS, Zeffiro TA, Mottron L (2015) Comparing motor skills in autism spectrum individuals with and without speech delay. Autism Res 8:682–693CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  5. Batterham PJ, Bunce D, Mackinnon AJ, Christensen H (2014) Intra-individual reaction time variability and all-cause mortality over 17 years: a community-based cohort study. Age Ageing 43:84–90CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. Bauermeister S, Sutton G, Mon-Williams M et al (2017) Intraindividual variability and falls in older adults. Neuropsychology 31:20–27CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. Bhat AN, Landa RJ, Galloway JC (2011) Current perspectives on motor functioning in infants, children, and adults with autism spectrum disorders. Phys Ther 91:1116–1129CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. Bielak AA, Cherbuin N, Bunce D, Anstey KJ (2014) Intraindividual variability is a fundamental phenomenon of aging: evidence from an 8-year longitudinal study across young, middle, and older adulthood. Dev Psychol 50:143–151CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. Bunce D, Haynes BI, Lord SR, Gschwind YJ, Kochan NA, Reppermund S, Brodaty H, Sachdev PS, Delbaere K (2017) Intraindividual stepping reaction time variability predicts falls in older adults with mild cognitive impairment. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci 72:832–837Google Scholar
  10. Calhoun M, Longworth M, Chester VL (2011) Gait patterns in children with autism. Clin Biomech (Bristol Avon) 26:200–206CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Constantino JN, Davis SA, Todd RD et al (2003) Validation of a brief quantitative measure of autistic traits: comparison of the social responsiveness scale with the autism diagnostic interview-revised. J Autism Dev Disord 33:427–433CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. D’Mello AM, Stoodley CJ (2015) Cerebro-cerebellar circuits in autism spectrum disorder. Front Neurosci 9:408PubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  13. David FJ, Baranek GT, Giuliani CA, Mercer VS, Poe MD, Thorpe DE (2009) A pilot study: coordination of precision grip in children and adolescents with high functioning autism. Pediatr Phys Ther 21:205–211CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  14. Dykiert D, Der G, Starr JM, Deary IJ (2012a) Age differences in intra-individual variability in simple and choice reaction time: systematic review and meta-analysis. PLoS One 7:e45759CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  15. Dykiert D, Der G, Starr JM, Deary IJ (2012b) Sex differences in reaction time mean and intraindividual variability across the life span. Dev Psychol 48:1262–1276CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  16. Ferraro FR (2016) No evidence of reaction time slowing in autism spectrum disorder. Autism 20:116–122CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  17. Fournier KA, Hass CJ, Naik SK, Lodha N, Cauraugh JH (2010a) Motor coordination in autism spectrum disorders: a synthesis and meta-analysis. J Autism Dev Disord 40:1227–1240CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. Fournier KA, Kimberg CI, Radonovich KJ et al (2010b) Decreased static and dynamic postural control in children with autism spectrum disorders. Gait Posture 32:6–9CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  19. Fournier KA, Amano S, Radonovich KJ, Bleser TM, Hass CJ (2014) Decreased dynamical complexity during quiet stance in children with autism spectrum disorders. Gait Posture 39:420–423CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  20. Geurts HM, Grasman RP, Verte S, Oosterlaan J, Roeyers H, van Kammen SM, Sergeant JA (2008) Intra-individual variability in ADHD, autism spectrum disorders and Tourette’s syndrome. Neuropsychologia 46:3030–3041CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  21. Graham SA, Abbott AE, Nair A, Lincoln AJ, Muller RA, Goble DJ (2015) The influence of task difficulty and participant age on balance control in ASD. J Autism Dev Disord 45:1419–1427CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  22. Hallett M, Lebiedowska MK, Thomas SL, Stanhope SJ, Denckla MB, Rumsey J (1993) Locomotion of autistic adults. Arch Neurol 50:1304–1308CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  23. Hasan CZ, Jailani R, Md Tahir N, Ilias S (2017) The analysis of three-dimensional ground reaction forces during gait in children with autism spectrum disorders. Res Dev Disabil 66:55–63Google Scholar
  24. Hocking DR, Menant JC, Kirk HE, Lord S, Porter MA (2014) Gait profiles as indicators of domain-specific impairments in executive control across neurodevelopmental disorders. Res Dev Disabil 35:203–214CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  25. Hultsch DF, MacDonald SW, Dixon RA (2002) Variability in reaction time performance of younger and older adults. J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci 57:101–115CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Inui N, Suzuki K (1998) Practice and serial reaction time of adolescents with autism. Percept Mot Skills 86:403–410CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  27. Karalunas SL, Geurts HM, Konrad K, Bender S, Nigg JT (2014) Annual research review: reaction time variability in ADHD and autism spectrum disorders: measurement and mechanisms of a proposed trans-diagnostic phenotype. J Child Psychol Psychiatry 55:685–710CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  28. Kern JK, Geier DA, Adams JB, Troutman MR, Davis GA, King PG, Geier MR (2013) handgrip strength in autism spectrum disorder compared with controls. J Strength Cond Res 27:2277–2281CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  29. Kindregan D, Gallagher L, Gormley J (2015) Gait deviations in children with autism spectrum disorders: a review. Autism Res Treat 2015:741480Google Scholar
  30. Klein C, Wendling K, Huettner P, Ruder H, Peper M (2006) Intra-subject variability in attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. Biol Psychiatry 60:1088–1097CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  31. Kofler MJ, Rapport MD, Sarver DE, Raiker JS, Orban SA, Friedman LM, Kolomeyer EG (2013) Reaction time variability in ADHD: a meta-analytic review of 319 studies. Clin Psychol Rev 33:795–811CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  32. Koziol LF, Budding D, Andreasen N et al (2014) Consensus paper: the cerebellum’s role in movement and cognition. Cerebellum 13:151–177CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  33. MacDonald SW, Hultsch DF, Dixon RA (2003) Performance variability is related to change in cognition: evidence from the Victoria Longitudinal Study. Psychol Aging 18:510–523CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  34. Middleton FA, Strick PL (2000) Basal ganglia and cerebellar loops: motor and cognitive circuits. Brain Res Rev 31:236–250CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  35. Minshew NJ, Sung K, Jones BL, Furman JM (2004) Underdevelopment of the postural control system in autism. Neurology 63:2056–2061CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  36. Morrison S, Newell KM (2017) Aging and slowing of the neuromotor system. In: Pachana NA (ed) Encyclopedia of geropsychology. Springer, Singapore, pp 215–226CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Mosconi MW, Mohanty S, Greene RK, Cook EH, Vaillancourt DE, Sweeney JA (2015a) Feedforward and feedback motor control abnormalities implicate cerebellar dysfunctions in autism spectrum disorder. J Neurosci 35:2015–2025CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  38. Mosconi MW, Wang Z, Schmitt LM, Tsai P, Sweeney JA (2015b) The role of cerebellar circuitry alterations in the pathophysiology of autism spectrum disorders. Front Neurosci 9:296CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  39. Mottron L, Belleville S, Rouleau GA, Collignon O (2014) Linking neocortical, cognitive, and genetic variability in autism with alterations of brain plasticity: the trigger-threshold-target model. Neurosci Biobehav Rev 47:735–752CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  40. Nayate A, Bradshaw JL, Rinehart NJ (2005) Autism and Asperger’s disorder: are they movement disorders involving the cerebellum and/or basal ganglia? Brain Res Bull 67:327–334CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  41. Rinehart NJ, Tonge BJ, Bradshaw JL, Iansek R, Enticott PG, McGinley J (2006) Gait function in high-functioning autism and Asperger’s disorder: evidence for basal-ganglia and cerebellar involvement? Eur Child Adolesc Psychiatry 15:256–264CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  42. Salthouse TA (2011) What cognitive abilities are involved in trail-making performance? Intelligence 39:222–232CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  43. Schmahmann JD, Sherman JC (1998) The cerebellar cognitive affective syndrome. Brain 121(Pt 4):561–579CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  44. Sheridan LK, Fitzgerald HE, Adams KM et al (2006) Normative symbol digit modalities test performance in a community-based sample. Arch Clin Neuropsychol 21:23–28CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  45. Travers BG, Powell PS, Klinger LG, Klinger MR (2013) Motor difficulties in autism spectrum disorder: linking symptom severity and postural stability. J Autism Dev Disord 43:1568–1583CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  46. Travers BG, Bigler ED, Tromp do PM et al (2014) Longitudinal processing speed impairments in males with autism and the effects of white matter microstructure. Neuropsychologia 53:137–145CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  47. Vilensky JA, Damasio AR, Maurer RG (1981) Gait disturbances in patients with autistic behavior: a preliminary study. Arch Neurol 38:646–649CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  48. Wang Z, Magnon GC, White SP, Greene RK, Vaillancourt DE, Mosconi MW (2015) Individuals with autism spectrum disorder show abnormalities during initial and subsequent phases of precision gripping. J Neurophysiol 113:1989–2001CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  49. Weiss MJ, Moran MF, Parker ME, Foley JT (2013) Gait analysis of teenagers and young adults diagnosed with autism and severe verbal communication disorders. Front Integr Neurosci 7:33CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Physical Therapy and Athletic TrainingOld Dominion UniversityNorfolkUSA
  2. 2.Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral SciencesEastern Virginia Medical SchoolNorfolkUSA
  3. 3.Children’s Hospital of The King’s DaughtersNorfolkUSA

Personalised recommendations