Online motor control in children with developmental coordination disorder: chronometric analysis of double-step reaching performance.Child Care Health Dev. 2011 Jan; 37(1):111-22.CC
Although there are a number of plausible accounts to explain movement clumsiness in children [or developmental coordination disorder (DCD)], the cause(s) of the disorder remain(s) an issue of debate. One aspect of motor control that is particularly important to the fluid expression of skill is rapid online control (ROC). Data on DCD have been conflicting. While some recent work using double-step reaching suggests no difficulty in online control, others suggest deficits (e.g. based on sequential pointing). To help resolve this debate, we suggest two things: use of recent neuro-computational models as a framework for investigating motor control in DCD, and more rigorous investigation of double-step reaching. Our working assumption here is that ROC is only viable through the seamless integration of predictive (or forward) models of movement and feedback-based mechanisms.
The aim of this chronometric study was to explore ROC in children with DCD using a double-step reaching paradigm. We predicted slower online adjustments in DCD based on the argument that these children manifest a core difficulty in predictive control.
Participants were a group of 17 children with DCD and 27 typically developing children aged between 7 and 12 years. Visual targets were presented on a 17-inch LCD touch screen, inclined to an angle of 15° from horizontal. The children were instructed to press each target as it appeared as quickly and accurately as possible. For 80% of the trials, the central target location remained unchanged for the duration of the movement (non-jump trials), while for the remaining 20% of trials, the target jumped at movement onset to one of the two peripheral locations (jump trials). Reaction time (RT), movement time (MT) and reaching errors were recorded.
For both groups, RT did not vary according to trial condition, while children with DCD were slower to initiate movement. Further, the MT of children with DCD was prolonged to a far greater extent on jump trials relative to controls, with a large effect size. As well, children with DCD committed significantly more errors, notably a reduced ability to inhibit central responses on jump trials.
Our findings help reconcile some disparate findings in the literature using similar tasks. The pattern of performance in children with DCD suggests impairment in the ability to make rapid online adjustments that are based on a predictive (or internal) model of the action. These results pave the way for future kinematic investigation.