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This paper examines the upper-limb movement kinematics of young children (3-7 years) with high-functioning autism using a point-to-point movement paradigm. Consistent with prior findings in older children, a difference in movement preparation was found in the autism group (n = 11) relative to typically developing children. In contrast to typically developing children, the presence of a visual distractor in the movement task did not appear to impact on early movement planning or execution in children with autism, suggesting that this group were not considering all available environmental cues to modulate movement.
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In the present work, we have undertaken a proof-of-concept study to determine whether a simple upper-limb movement could be useful to accurately classify low-functioning children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) aged 2-4. To answer this question, we developed a supervised machine-learning method to correctly discriminate 15 preschool children with ASD from 15 typically developing children by means of kinematic analysis of a simple reach-to-drop task. Our method reached a maximum classification accuracy of 96.

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The study was aimed at better clarifying whether action execution impairment in autism depends mainly on disruptions either in feedforward mechanisms or in feedback-based control processes supporting motor execution. To this purpose, we analyzed prehension movement kinematics in 4- and 5-year-old children with autism and in peers with typical development. Statistical analysis showed that the kinematics of the grasp component was spared in autism, whereas early kinematics of the reach component was atypical.

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Planning actions in autism.

Exp Brain Res 2009 Jan 7;192(3):521-5. Epub 2008 Oct 7.
Maddalena Fabbri-Destro, Luigi Cattaneo, Sonia Boria, Giacomo Rizzolatti
It has been suggested that the deficit in understanding others' intention in autism depends on a malfunctioning of the mirror system. This malfunction could be due either to a deficit of the basic mirror mechanism or to a disorganization of chained action organization on which the mirror understanding of others' intention is based. Here we tested this last hypothesis investigating the kinematics of intentional actions.

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We examined the planning and control of goal-directed aiming movements in young adults with autism. Participants performed rapid manual aiming movements to one of two targets. We manipulated the difficulty of the planning and control process by varying both target size and amplitude of the movements.

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