A Multimodal Approach to Understanding Motor Impairment in Developmental Coordination Disorder

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AbstractThe ability to learn, execute and adapt motor skills is fundamental to childhood development and promotes independence in daily living. Yet children with developmental coordination disorder (DCD), demonstrate difficulties acquiring and executing motor skills. DCD is a motor disorder that occurs in 5-6% of school-aged children. Motor impairment manifests as clumsy, slow and inaccurate motor performance adversely affecting the physical, academic and social outcomes of affected children. The pervasive negative impact of motor impairment on daily life in children with DCD, highlights the importance of early diagnosis and intervention. However, the motor deficits common among children with DCD remain unclear, making both screening and intervention difficult. There is a need for research with a priority focus on characterizing the motor deficits present in children with DCD. Evidence is growing, which suggests that poor motor performance in DCD is associated with motor control and motor learning deficits, however, findings are inconsistent across published studies. The current thesis used a three-pronged approach to investigate motor control and motor learning in children with diagnosed DCD, between the ages of 8 to 12 years: (1) two robotic behavioral tasks were employed to objectively quantify motor control abilities, (2) motor learning over five consecutive days of skill training and the potential of non-invasive brain stimulation to modulate rates of motor learning were explored, and (3) neuroimaging was used to investigate brain morphology of regions pertinent to motor control and motor learning. Spatial-temporal differences in reaching performance were observed in children with DCD, supporting the presence of motor control deficits. Preserved motor learning was also seen in the same sample of children. Non-invasive brain stimulation was unsuccessful in modulating the rate of motor learning. Finally, limited brain structural differences were observed in our DCD group compared to healthy controls. However, preliminary findings of reduced subcortical thalamic and pallidal volumes in our DCD group warrants further study, particularly given that these brain structures play critical roles in motor control and motor learning. Taken together, these findings suggest that the motor difficulties observed in children with DCD may be associated with compromised motor control systems.
Neurodevelopment, Developmental Coordination Disorder, Motor Control, Motor Learning, Robotics, Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation, Neuroimaging
Grohs, M. N. (2020). A Multimodal Approach to Understanding Motor Impairment in Developmental Coordination Disorder (Doctoral thesis, University of Calgary, Calgary, Canada). Retrieved from https://prism.ucalgary.ca.