Brain activation associated with motor skill practice in children with developmental coordination disorder: an fMRI study
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Children with developmental coordination disorder (DCD) have difficulty in learning new motor skills. At present, it is not known whether these children employ a different set of brain regions than typically developing (TD) children during skilled motor practice. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging, we mapped brain activity associated with skilled motor practice of a trail-tracing task in 7 children with DCD and 7 age-matched controls (aged 8-12 years). We indexed change in motor performance as a reduction in tracing error from early practice to retention. Children with DCD showed less blood-oxygen-level-dependent signal as compared to TD children in a network of brain regions associated with skilled motor practice: bilateral inferior parietal lobules (Brodmann Area (BA) 40), right lingual gyrus (BA 18), right middle frontal gyrus (BA 9), left fusiform gyrus (BA 37), right cerebellar crus I, left cerebellar lobule VI, and left cerebellar lobule IX. While no statistically significant differences were detected, effect size testing revealed that children with DCD demonstrated poorer tracing accuracy than TD children at retention (d=0.48). Our results suggest that, compared to TD peers, children with DCD demonstrate under-activation in cerebellar-parietal and cerebellar-prefrontal networks and in brain regions associated with visual-spatial learning. These data suggest a neurobiological correlation with impaired learning of motor skills in children with DCD, which will need to be confirmed with a larger sample.