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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Neural and behavioural correlates of motor performance in children with developmental coordination disorder Zwicker, Jill Glennis


Introduction: With a prevalence of 5-6%, developmental coordination disorder (DCD) is one of the most common disorders of childhood. Children with DCD struggle to learn new motor skills, but the neurological mechanisms underlying the disorder are essentially unknown. Purpose: The purpose of this thesis was three-fold: (1) to present a synopsis of current literature examining the potential neural correlates of DCD; (2) to determine if patterns of brain activity differed between children with and without DCD while performing a fine-motor task; and (3) to investigate whether children with DCD are able to demonstrate improved motor learning as evidenced by increased accuracy on a fine-motor task and/or shifts in patterns of brain activation. Methods: A comprehensive literature review of possible neural correlates of DCD was conducted, which provided the background for the two studies included in this thesis. Both of these studies employed a block design and used functional magnetic resonance imaging to map patterns of brain activation associated with motor performance (Chapter 3) and motor learning (Chapter 4) of a fine-motor task. Seven children who met the diagnostic criteria for DCD (ages 8-12 years) and seven typically-developing (TD), closely age-matched children participated in the studies. Results: The literature review implicated the cerebellum as a likely source of dysfunction associated with DCD. Chapter 3 showed that, despite similar levels of behavioural motor performance, substantial differences in patterns of brain activity were noted between children with DCD and TD children. Differences in motor behaviour emerged in Chapter 4, with the DCD group showing little change in tracing accuracy compared to the improvements noted in the TD group. Neuroimaging results from Chapter 4 suggest that children with DCD may have a deficit in updating internal models of movement through under-activation of the cerebellum and/or the cerebello-thalamo-cortical pathway. Conclusion: Findings from this thesis have made several important and novel contributions to our understanding of children with DCD. This work has suggested support for several hypotheses related to the mechanisms underlying DCD and provided some of the first neuroimaging evidence to suggest possible explanations for findings of previous research in children with DCD.

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