Cortical and subcortical alterations associated with precision visuomotor behavior in individuals with autism spectrum disorder

Kathryn E. Unruh, Laura E. Martin, Grant Magnon, David E. Vaillancourt, John A. Sweeney, Matthew W. Mosconi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

1 Citation (Scopus)

Abstract

In addition to core deficits in social-communication abilities and repetitive behaviors and interests, many patients with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) experience developmental comorbidities, including sensorimotor issues. Sensorimotor issues are common in ASD and associated with more severe clinical symptoms. Importantly, sensorimotor behaviors are precisely quantifiable and highly translational, offering promising targets for neurophysiological studies of ASD. We used functional MRI to identify brain regions associated with sensorimotor behavior using a visually guided precision gripping task in individuals with ASD (n = 20) and age-, IQ-, and handedness-matched controls (n = 18). During visuomotor behavior, individuals with ASD showed greater force variability than controls. The blood oxygen level-dependent signal for multiple cortical and subcortical regions was associated with force variability, including motor and premotor cortex, posterior parietal cortex, extrastriate cortex, putamen, and cerebellum. Activation in the right premotor cortex scaled with sensorimotor variability in controls but not in ASD. Individuals with ASD showed greater activation than controls in left putamen and left cerebellar lobule VIIb, and activation in these regions was associated with more severe clinically rated symptoms of ASD. Together, these results suggest that greater sensorimotor variability in ASD is associated with altered cortical-striatal processes supporting action selection and cortical-cerebellar circuits involved in feedback-guided reactive adjustments of motor output. Our findings also indicate that atypical organization of visuomotor cortical circuits may result in heightened reliance on subcortical circuits typically dedicated to motor skill acquisition. Overall, these results provide new evidence that sensorimotor alterations in ASD involve aberrant cortical and subcortical organization that may contribute to key clinical issues in patients.NEW & NOTEWORTHY This is the first known study to examine functional brain activation during precision visuomotor behavior in autism spectrum disorder (ASD). We replicate previous findings of elevated force variability in ASD and find these deficits are associated with atypical function of ventral premotor cortex, putamen, and posterolateral cerebellum, indicating cortical-striatal processes supporting action selection and cortical-cerebellar circuits involved in feedback-guided reactive adjustments of motor output may be key targets for understanding the neurobiology of ASD.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1330-1341
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of neurophysiology
Volume122
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 1 2019
Externally publishedYes

Fingerprint

Motor Cortex
Putamen
Social Adjustment
Corpus Striatum
Autism Spectrum Disorder
Cerebellum
Parietal Lobe
Functional Laterality
Motor Skills
Neurobiology
Brain
Visual Cortex
Comorbidity
Communication
Magnetic Resonance Imaging
Oxygen

Keywords

  • autism spectrum disorder
  • cerebellum
  • precision grip
  • putamen
  • sensorimotor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Physiology

Cite this

Cortical and subcortical alterations associated with precision visuomotor behavior in individuals with autism spectrum disorder. / Unruh, Kathryn E.; Martin, Laura E.; Magnon, Grant; Vaillancourt, David E.; Sweeney, John A.; Mosconi, Matthew W.

In: Journal of neurophysiology, Vol. 122, No. 4, 01.10.2019, p. 1330-1341.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Unruh, Kathryn E. ; Martin, Laura E. ; Magnon, Grant ; Vaillancourt, David E. ; Sweeney, John A. ; Mosconi, Matthew W. / Cortical and subcortical alterations associated with precision visuomotor behavior in individuals with autism spectrum disorder. In: Journal of neurophysiology. 2019 ; Vol. 122, No. 4. pp. 1330-1341.
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