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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Characterizing the neural correlates of children with developmental coordination disorder using diffusion tensor imaging Brown-Lum, Meisan


Developmental coordination disorder (DCD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder of unknown etiology characterized by poor motor coordination and difficulty learning motor skills. Recent research has shown brain differences in children with DCD compared to typically-developing children. Diffusion Tensor Imaging (DTI) is a neuroimaging technique used to identify diffusion properties of white matter of the brain. Only a handful of studies have started to elucidate the white matter pathways that are implicated in children with DCD. These studies used tractography to look at a priori white matter pathways. The objective of this thesis is to be the first to apply a DTI method called tract-based spatial statistics (TBSS), a user independent analysis of the whole brain white matter to investigate the neural correlates of children with and without DCD. We hypothesized that the white matter differences would be widespread and implicate white matter pathways such as the: corticospinal motor tract (CST); sensorimotor pathways of the posterior thalamic radiation (PTR); corpus callosum; and cerebellar pathways (CP). To achieve our research goals, DTI data were collected from 61 children between 8-12 years of age (31 DCD; 30 TD) who had an MRI scan at a mean age of 10.02 years. Voxel-wise statistical analysis of diffusion metrics such as fractional anisotropy (FA), mean diffusivity (MD), axial diffusivity (AD), and radial diffusivity (RD) was conducted using TBSS. A two-group comparison design matrix with age and attention as covariates was used. Data were corrected for multiple comparisons across space and statistical significance was set at p<0.05. Lastly, we investigated whether there was a relationship between the diffusion metrics and motor performance using Spearman’s correlation coefficient. Our findings suggest that children with DCD show altered, widespread diffusion parameters of white matter in pathways associated with the CST, PTR and CP. Of clinical significance, FA and AD positively correlated with motor performance. Findings from this study will contribute to the scarcity of existing data on characterizing neural correlates of DCD. This research will help elucidate the pathophysiology of DCD and, also, inform intervention studies to investigate motor learning that will, ultimately, help optimize motor functioning in children with DCD.

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