Researchers close in on the root of slow motor learning in autism

Posted on Monday, March 22, 2021

Social deficits attract so much attention in the study of autism spectrum disorder, it’s easy to forget there are motor learning deficits during early childhood as well. For kids hoping to throw a ball around the schoolyard and connect with classmates, these physical skill differences can isolate a child further.

In a new study published today in Nature Neuroscience, researchers have closed in on the neurological underpinnings of the motor delay. Dr. Simon Chen’s lab used a mouse model of autism to demonstrate a shortage in the amount of the neurotransmitter noradrenaline being released into the brain’s primary motor cortex. The problem seems to originate some distance away in an area of the hindbrain called the locus coeruleus, which is known as a centre of motivation, alertness and attention.

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