Supported by NIH NS048527 (Mostofsky)

Movement is essential for most human behaviors, ranging from basic mobility (e.g., walking) to gestures that convey needs, ideas, and emotions. The ability to interpret and generate subtle movement cues is of great importance for human communication. For example, simple changes in an individual’s posture or hand motions can convey meaning well beyond the spoken word. These cues alone can easily tell us that the person is nervous, confident, depressed, or happy.

People with autism have difficulty interpreting subtle movement cues, though there is no clear understanding of the genesis of this problem. We propose that deficits both in perceiving and producing movement could be a fundamental basis of social communication impairments. The general purpose of this work is to more clearly delineate where the breakdown lies in the coupling of visual perception to motor action. Understanding this process will provide a more rational basis for development of therapies in visual and motor domains.