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The research challenges conventional wisdom about key autism traits

The research challenges conventional wisdom about key autism traits

The latest research from the Bath and Exeter teams has focused on sensorimotor difficulties related to autism. Photo credit: Tom Arthur (Universities of Exeter & Bath)

A new study of the causes of sensorimotor impairment prevalent in autistic people could pave the way for better treatment and treatment in the future, psychologists say.

Publication of the results in the leading journal brainScientists at the Universities of Exeter and Bath are presenting new evidence that sensorimotor difficulties associated with autism are likely caused by a number of complex and precise neurobiological processes, including how autistic people perceive the world around them.

Common sensorimotor characteristics associated with autism include sensory overload and impaired hand-eye coordination, as well as general clumsiness. In addition to the well-documented challenges traditionally associated with autism ̵

1; particularly those related to social communication and interaction, and restricted and repetitive behavior – these impairments pose a major hurdle for individuals and will typically last a lifetime.

Nevertheless, surprisingly little is known about the origins or mechanisms of these behavioral traits and their specific effects on a person’s quality of life. For this study, the researchers used state-of-the-art mobile eye-tracking and motion-capture technology to learn more about the causes of these difficulties and how to better manage them.

Involving over 150 people with and without autism, they tested a number of processes and mechanisms associated with sensorimotor difficulties. Most importantly, they found that many of the processes that were previously believed to underpin these movement difficulties in autism actually appear to be unaffected. The research is part of a fellowship from the South West Doctoral Training Partnership in conjunction with the ESRC and was led by Tom Arthur – a Ph.D. Student at the Universities of Exeter and Bath.

He explains, “This study looked at how people control their hand-eye movements when picking up and lifting things. Anyone who lifted an empty suitcase that they thought was full of clothes will know we are usually do this very proactively.

“Our results showed that autistic people lift new objects just as proactively as non-autistic people. These results contradict many existing research theories and suggest that previous conclusions in this area may have been a little too broad or too simplistic, because many are important Daily life skills and behaviors depend on an individual’s ability to predict the world and respond to previous expectations. “

The co-author Dr. Gavin Buckingham of the Department of Sport and Health Sciences at the University of Exeter added, “It is becoming increasingly clear that sensory and movement-related difficulties are core features of autism that affect the lives of most people with autism. There is currently a lack of scientific understanding of these characteristics and a lack of evidence-based measures to deal with these difficulties of everyday life. “

Professor Mark Brosnan, Director of the Center for Applied Autism Research at the University of Bath, said: “As we improve our understanding of the challenges autistic people face in predicting an unpredictable world, this research will already have a major impact on practice The team examines the practical implications of this research in virtual reality environments. “

It is hoped that such work can form the basis for future teaching and coaching interventions aimed at combating autism-related sensorimotor difficulties.

Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder that is diagnosed in 1 to 2% of people, typically because of persistent difficulties in social communication and interaction and / or because of restricted and repetitive patterns of behavior, activity, or interests. In addition, sensorimotor impairments are considered to be the “main characteristics” of autism.

A simple test could improve public attitudes towards autism

More information:
Tom Arthur et al., Predictive Sensorimotor Control in Autism, brain (2020). DOI: 10.1093 / brain / awaa243

Journal information:

Provided by the University of Bath

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