Neuroimaging of Motor Stereotypies in Children with Autism

Principal Investigator: Mark Mahone

Complex motor stereotypies (i.e., apparently purposeless, rhythmical, repetitive movements) represent one of the core criteria—together with restricted interests, preoccupations, and rigidity—for diagnosis of an autism spectrum disorder in DSM-IV-TR (American Psychiatric Association, 2000; Goldman et al., 2009). The underlying pathophysiologic mechanism for motor stereotypies in children with autism is not fully understood—with hypotheses ranging from psychological to physiological (Grabiel et al., 2000; Cunningham & Schreibman, 2008). There have been no studies using advanced neuroimaging techniques to characterize anomalous development in children with motor stereotypies. Our proposed study will be the first extensive investigation using advanced neuroimaging techniques to characterize the neurobiology of motor stereotypies in children with autism. Specifically, we will use anatomic MRI (aMRI) and neuropsychological assessment to characterize development (brain, cognition, and behavior) of motor stereotypies in children with autism, contrasting findings in these children with those of a carefully characterized sample of age-, sex-, and IQ-matched children with motor stereotypies without autism.