Motor learning in individuals with autism spectrum disorder: Activation in superior parietal lobule related to learning and repetitive behaviors

Academic Article


  • Motor-linked implicit learning is the learning of a sequence of movements without conscious awareness. Although motor symptoms are frequently reported in individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), recent behavioral studies have suggested that motor-linked implicit learning may be intact in ASD. The serial reaction time (SRT) task is one of the most common measures of motor-linked implicit learning. The present study used a 3T functional magnetic resonance imaging scanner to examine the behavioral and neural correlates of real-time motor sequence learning in adolescents and adults with ASD (n=15) compared with age- and intelligence quotient-matched individuals with typical development (n=15) during an SRT task. Behavioral results suggested less robust motor sequence learning in individuals with ASD. Group differences in brain activation suggested that individuals with ASD, relative to individuals with typical development, showed decreased activation in the right superior parietal lobule (SPL) and right precuneus (Brodmann areas 5 and 7, and extending into the intraparietal sulcus) during learning. Activation in these areas (and in areas such as the right putamen and right supramarginal gyrus) was found to be significantly related to behavioral learning in this task. Additionally, individuals with ASD who had more severe repetitive behavior/restricted interest symptoms demonstrated greater decreased activation in these regions during motor learning. In conjunction, these results suggest that the SPL may play an important role in motor learning and repetitive behavior in individuals with ASD.
  • Authors

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Travers BG; Kana RK; Klinger LG; Klein CL; Klinger MR
  • Start Page

  • 38
  • End Page

  • 51
  • Volume

  • 8
  • Issue

  • 1