In today’s Academic Minute, Dr. Priscila Caçola of the University of Texas at Arlington explains a condition that causes balance and motor skill impairments in many children.
Priscila Caçola is an assistant professor of kinesiology and Director of the Developmental Motor Cognition Lab at the University of Texas at Arlington. Her research agenda focuses on issues involving motor development across the lifespan, with specific attention to the development of action representation and motor planning in children and adolescents. She is also involved in the testing of diagnostic tools and rehabilitation paradigms related to motor coordination disorders in children. She holds a Ph.D. from Texas A&M University.
Dr. Priscila Caçola – Developmental Coordination Disorder
At least 6 percent of the American school-age population - some three million children - suffers from a condition called Developmental Coordination Disorder, or DCD. This disorder is characterized by marked impairments in balance, fine motor and visuomotor skills. Motor difficulties have been associated with poor mental health, emotional, and behavioral issues. I am very interested in why this lack of motor coordination occurs.
The difficulties appear to be caused by impairments in the fronto-parietal system, or the frontal and middle part of the brain. This results in poor integration between planning, executing, and using feedback during motor actions. Brain messages are not accurately transmitted to the body and vice-versa.
In my lab, we have been exploring how children with DCD estimate and visualize actions when they are using an implement to achieve a goal, such as a using a pencil to write. We found that children with DCD seem to be less accurate than typically developing children when estimating their reach ability using an implement and the length of that implement is also important. For example, typically developing children are just as good when estimating their reach whether they are using a hand, a 20 or a 40 cm stick. But, children with DCD were less accurate at estimating reach using the 20 cm stick than with just their hands and even less accurate when they used the 40 cm stick.
This ongoing investigation has already given us an exciting window into how children with DCD process information. Knowing the conditions under which movement planning is impaired can help us develop effective intervention strategies.