Brief Report: Postural Reactivity to Fast Visual Motion Differentiates Autistic from Children with Asperger Syndrome
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The aim of the present study was to search for a sensorimotor marker (i.e., visuopostural tuning) that could be correlated with the severity of motor impairments in children with autistic spectrum disorders. Given that autistic children were previously reported to be posturally hypo-reactive to visually perceived environmental motion in comparison with normal control children (Gepner et al., 1995), we sought to determine whether children with Asperger syndrome (AS) would share the same postural hyporeactivity to visual motion. Three autistic children with mild to severe motor impairments, three AS children with soft motor signs, and nine normal control children were tested for overall postural instability and postural reactivity to environmental motion. Results indicate, first, that overall postural instability is significantly reduced in autistic children compared with both AS and normal children. Second, although postural oscillations in the fore-aft axis become more attuned to the oscillation frequency of an immersive dynamic visual display as visual speed is increased, in both control and AS subjects, this is not the case in autistic children. Despite the small number of subjects tested in this study, our data confirm the existence of a visuopostural detuning in autistic children. Third, they argue for a correlation between visuopostural tuning and severity of motor signs in children with autistic spectrum disorders. Finally, they suggest a differentiation between children with autism and children with AS with regard to postural reactivity to fast visual motion. Neurophysiological implications of these results are discussed. In particular, a visuocerebellar pathway deficit hypothesis in autism is proposed.
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