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 autistic 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 in Nature Neuroscience researchers from the University of Ottawa’s Faculty of Medicine have closed in on the neurological underpinnings of the motor learning delay. Dr. Simon Chen’s lab in the Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine 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.
Dr. Chen’s lab identified the problem originating some distance away in an area of the hindbrain called the locus coeruleus, which is known as a center of motivation, alertness, and attention.
Read the rest of the press release on the University of Ottawa website:
Original research article:
Yin, X., Jones, N., Yang, J. et al. Delayed motor learning in a 16p11.2 deletion mouse model of autism is rescued by locus coeruleus activation. Nat Neurosci (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41593-021-00815-7