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Researchers use MR imaging to better understand dyspraxia

por Lauren Dubinsky, Senior Reporter | June 22, 2016
Alzheimers/Neurology European News MRI Pediatrics
Courtesy: University of Nottingham
There are dozens of studies published on attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and dyslexia, but a similar disorder called developmental coordination disorder (DCD) or dyspraxia has been largely ignored until now.

A research team at The University of Nottingham in England is using MR to learn more about the disorder, which makes certain physical activities challenging and is estimated to affect as many as one in 20 children.

“The main theory that we’re trying to test is that the cerebellum is involved in hand-eye coordination,” Dr. Nicholas Holmes of the school of psychology at the university, said in a video. “Children who are less good at hand-eye coordination would have a smaller cerebellum and one that is less well connected to the rest of the brain.”
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Holmes and his team are recruiting children between the ages of eight and ten years for the study. So far, 60 children have undergone MR brain scans, but 30 more children are needed in order to complete the study.

The scans are performed in two 90-minute sessions during school holidays or evenings. The children will also participate in a hand-eye coordination task to test their reaction times and grasping technique.

The cerebellum, which contains half the neurons in the brain, receives sensory information and fine-tunes the body’s movements. Since it plays such a major role in coordination, the researchers want to find out if there is any connection between the cerebellum and DCD.

Their hope is to detect underlying problems in the cerebellum that contribute to the disorder and to find ways of diagnosing and treating it. Furthermore, Holmes wants therapies to be designed based on the region of the cerebellum that’s affected.

DCD is not a very well-known disorder, unlike ADHD. Over the past two years, HCB News has reported on four studies that investigated ADHD including one that used resting-state functional MR imaging to evaluate children and adolescents with the disorder, and another that used functional MR to reveal that adolescents may not outgrow ADHD in adulthood.

Since it’s not as widely recognized as ADHD, children with DCD are frequently misunderstood. Teachers and adults who don’t know the children don’t understand why they aren’t behaving properly, Johanna Ware, parent of a child with DCD and member of DCD Dyspraxia Support Nottingham said in a video.

Children with DCD often have low self-esteem because it’s difficult for them to perform as well as their peers in activities such as sports, writing and drawing.

The researchers are working with local parent support groups for DCD in Nottingham to recruit more participants for the study.

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