Motor Skills Modulate the Link Between Social Skills in Autism Spectrum Disorder

The relationship between social skills and motion perception can be predicted with intact motor skills.

The relationship between social skills and motion perception among children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) may possibly be altered by intact motor skills, according to study findings published in Brain and Development.

Researchers conducted a pilot study that included 12 children with ASD (2 girls; 11 years±7 months; range, 5 years 6 months-16 years 9 months), and 5 children with typical development (TD) (3 girls; 10 years±5 months; range, 7 years 9 months-12 years 2 months). A diagnosis of pervasive development disorder was given by an experienced pediatric neurologist. The 2 groups were not age-matched, though the researchers did not observe a statistical difference between them.

Four of the children with TD were right-handed, 1 was left-handed, and all 12 with ASD were right-handed. None of the participants had neurophysiological or neuropsychiatric diseases nor received any medications. Normal eyesight was observed in all participants. Intellectual capacity was evaluated with Raven colored progressive matrices for the children with TD and with the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children Fourth for the children with ASD. All participants in both groups were determined to have sufficient intellectual capacity to perform in the study.

Participants watched a random dot kinematograph to induce the N200 component (ie, brain activity indicating motion perception) in the mid-temporal brain area. Activity was recorded using a scalp electroencephalogram. The children with ASD also participated in the movement assessment battery for children second edition (MABC-2) and indicated motor skills, the developmental coordination disorder questionnaire (DCDQ) estimated the developmental coordination disorder (DCD), and the social responsiveness scale (SRS) indicated the social skill deficit.

With high motor skills, when the social skills were worse, the N200 latency was probably shortened.

Hierarchical multiple regression analysis was used to evaluate the modulation effects of motor skills on the relationship between social skills and motion perception. Independent variables included the SRS, the MABC-2, and the combined MABC-2 and SRS. The N200 latency was the dependent variable.

According to the SRS, 6 children had severe risk for ASD, 3 had moderate risk, 2 had mild risk, and the risk level for 1 was not reported. According to the MABC-2, 6 children with ASD showed probable risk or severity at aiming and catching, and 3 children showed probable risk or severity of manual dexterity. All children with ASD were reported to have good balance.

No differences were observed between children with ASD and TD in reaction time and accuracy of the random dot kinematogram task.

In children with ASD, the N200 latency was more delayed than in the children with TD. It was noted that in the children with ASD, the relationship between social skills and N200 latency was altered by intact balance ability. The N200 latency was shortened when social skills worsened within the high balance ability.

Study authors concluded, “[I]ntact motor skills might modulate the relationship between social skills and the N200 latency in children with ASD. With high motor skills, when the social skills were worse, the N200 latency was probably shortened.”

This article originally appeared on Psychiatry Advisor

References:

Sakihara K, Kita Y, Suzuki K, Inagaki M. Modulation effects of the intact motor skills on the relationship between social skills and motion perceptions in children with autism spectrum disorder: a pilot study. Brain Dev. Published online September 29, 2022. doi:10.1016/j.braindev.2022.09.001