Jane E. Clark, Ph.D.

Professor

Motor Development

Current Funding:

Adaptive Sensorimotor Control in Children with DCD
Posture Development and Perception-Action Coupling
Perception-Action Coupling in Children with DCD

Adaptive Sensorimotor Control in Children with DCD

National Institutes for Health, National Institute for Child Health and Development (7/1/02-6/30/07). $1,517,504

Principal Investigator:
Jane E. Clark, University of Maryland-College Park, Kinesiology

Co-Investigators:
Jose Contreras-Vidal, University of Maryland- College Park, Kinesiology
John J. Jeka, University of Maryland-College Park, Kinesiology
Tim L. Kiemel, University of Maryland-College Park, Kinesiology
Jill Whitall, University of Maryland – Baltimore, Physical Therapy

Abstract

In elementary school, children with DCD are estimated to comprise up to 6% of the population (APA, 1994). These children are at risk for poor academic achievement, socio-emotional difficulties, and long-term health problems due to their lack of participation in physical activities. Previous work on children with DCD has focused primarily on perceptual deficits. This proposal examines the hypothesis that children with DCD have problems with the relationship between perception and action and more specifically with the ability to adapt this relationship to new environments and tasks (referred to as adaptive sensorimotor control). In this project we combine behavioral and computational approaches to investigate this relationship in 7-year-old children with and without DCD in stable and changing sensorimotor environments. Four experimental paradigms are used (a visuomotor drawing task, an auditory bilateral tapping task, and two postural tasks, one with a driving visual stimulus and another with a driving somatosensory stimulus). Thus we examine the children across multiple motor tasks (drawing, posture, tapping), varying modalities (visual, auditory, touch), and varying time-scales (real-time, short-term adaptation or learning and developmental-time). Such experimental variations are included to address the issue of heterogeneity in this population and more specifically the claim that there are subtypes of DCD that may be task and/or modality dependent for identification (Macnab et al., 2001). The specific aims of this proposal are: 1) To behaviorally and computationally characterize the sensorimotor relationships across four tasks in 7-year-old children with and without DCD. As children develop, the relationship between perception and action becomes stable and well tuned to the task demands. Do children with DCD have stable, well-tuned sensorimotor relationships? 2) To behaviorally and computationally investigate the learning of novel internal models under gradual and step-like changes in sensorimotor relationships across four tasks in 7-year-old children with and without DCD. Children with DCD may exhibit poor sensorimotor performance in a stable environment, but can they adapt to new environments? 3) To behaviorally and computationally investigate sensorimotor switching across four tasks in 7-year-old children with and without DCD. Adults demonstrate the ability to switch between sensorimotor maps. If children with DCD demonstrate broadly tuned sensorimotor maps, it is hypothesized that they are less committed to specific internal maps of the environment and thus will be unable to “switch” between mapping relationships. And 4) To behaviorally and computationally characterize the developmental changes in sensorimotor relationships and adaptations across four tasks in 7-year-old children with and without DCD after two years. To investigate whether poor adaptive sensorimotor control is mediated by time and experience, we reassess the children two years later. This information will lay the groundwork for future intervention studies as well as further investigation into the underlying mechanisms of this movement disorder.


Posture Development and Perception-Action Coupling

National Science Foundation Grant #9905315 (completed)

Principal Investigator:
Jane E. Clark, University of Maryland-College Park, Kinesiology

Co-Investigators:
John J. Jeka, University of Maryland-College Park, Kinesiology
Tim L. Kiemel, University of Maryland-College Park, Biology

Abstract: The overall goal of this research is to understand the relationship between perception and action in the development of infant postural control. Although the development of posture and locomotion has been well documented, only recently has an understanding of the processes that underlie these changes been sought. This project examines perception-action coupling as one of the processes that may contribute to the observed changes. The research is designed to examine the relationship between perception and posture in three ways. First, we propose to study infants' postural development longitudinally from the onset of sitting to three months after the onset of independent walking. Second, we focus on the role somatosensation plays in postural control. And third, we measure the coupling relationship between somatosensory input and the infant's postural responses. Infants will be tested sitting and standing in one of 3 conditions: touching a fixed bar with the hand, no touch (hands free), or touching a gently moving bar. Relationships between the excursions of the head, center of mass, and center of pressure as well as forces applied at the hand will be analyzed. Data are expected to provide critical information about the study of normal infant postural development as well as to lay a foundation for understanding those infants with abnormal or delayed postural development.
 

Perception-Action Coupling in Children with DCD

National Institutes for Health, National Institute for Child Health and Development
(completed)

Principal Investigator:
Jill Whitall, University of Maryland-Baltimore, Physical Therapy

Co-Investigators:
Jane E. Clark, University of Maryland-College Park, Kinesiology
Renee Wachtel, University of Maryland-Baltimore, Pediatrics
Susan McMenamin, University of Maryland-Baltimore, Pediatrics

Abstract: The long-term goal of this research is to understand the underlying mechanisms of Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD) in order to provide a scientific basis for the evaluation and intervention of children with this disorder. In elementary school, children with DCD are estimated to comprise up to 6% of the population (APA, 1994). These children are at risk for poor academic achievement, socio-emotional difficulties, and long-term health problems due to their lack of participation in physical activities. Previous work on children with DCD has focused primarily on perceptual deficits. This proposal examines the hypothesis that children with DCD have problems with the relationship between perception and action, i.e., the perception-action coupling. To test this hypothesis, 6-year-old children with DCD and a group of typically developing children who are age-, gender-, and race-matched perform three tasks representing different motor functions, fine motor coordination (finger tapping), gross motor coordination (clapping/marching), and balance (tandem standing) under varying task-relevant sensory stimuli. The specific aims are: [1.] To determine if children with DCD maintain stable performance across three motor functions when task-relevant sensory information is unavailable. [2.] To determine if children with DCD establish a stable coupling relationship between a task-relevant driving sensory signal and the motor response of three motoric functions. Taken together, these experiments will further our understanding of how sensory information is used and integrated in the production of a variety of movement tasks in children with and without DCD. This information will lay the groundwork for future intervention studies as well as further investigation into the underlying mechanisms of this movement disorder.