Visuomotor integration and attention in Autism Spectrum Disorder

  • Miller, Haylie (PI)

Project Details


PROJECT SUMMARY The candidate, Dr. Haylie Miller, aims to develop a program of research on visuomotor integration in Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). She and her mentors (Drs. Nicoleta Bugnariu, Mary Hayhoe, and Matt Mosconi), have planned a series of training and research activities, including workshops, formal coursework, and consultation with experts in the fields of ASD, developmental neuroscience, motor control, and eye tracking. Dr. Bugnariu and Dr. Hayhoe are co-primary mentors: Dr. Bugnariu has expertise in motor control, developmental neuroscience, and functional movement in ASD; Dr. Hayhoe has expertise in visuomotor integration and eye movement in typical development, as well as a prolific record of publication and federal funding. Dr. Mosconi, a recognized expert in motor development in ASD, will serve as a secondary mentor. An advisory team will also support Dr. Miller's training: Drs. Garver and Dempsey have ample experience working with individuals across the widely variable symptom profile of the disorder. Dr. Rita Patterson is an expert in biomechanics and mathematical modeling of time series data; Dr. Linda Hynan is an expert in biostatistics. Dr. Miller will study visuomotor integration?the process of using visual information to plan, execute, and modify movements?in 45 children with ASD (ages 7-17) and 45 age-, gender- and IQ-matched typically- developing (TD) controls. Accurate visuomotor integration is critical for interacting with the environment. Despite prior studies of motion perception, it is still unclear whether individuals with ASD fail to appropriately interact with moving objects because they do not accurately: i) direct visual attention to objects; ii) assess the spatial position and motion of objects; iii) use visual information to plan a motor response; and/or iv) execute motor plans to achieve desired body movements. The proposed study will quantify differences between TD and ASD in the ability to perceive object motion, and execute/modify planned motor responses. To accomplish this aim, Dr. Miller will use a unique combination of mobile eye-tracking, motion capture, and virtual reality to assess response to visual motion. Variable speeds, distractor objects and complex background settings will be used in interactive virtual games to assess the role of attention in processing and reacting to motion. By studying visuomotor integration in the virtual environment, which more closely mirrors real-world cognitive and visual demands, Dr. Miller aims to understand the practical consequences of this deficit in ASD. Clinical symptoms (e.g., clumsiness) and functional impairments (e.g., driving, playing sports) in ASD likely stem from ineffective visuomotor integration. Particularly for adolescents, the transition to adulthood and independence is accompanied by a number of visuomotor challenges like driving, sports and physical fitness, and social interaction. Failure to master these skills can result in added burden on caregivers, sedentary lifestyle, and social isolation. Knowledge generated by the proposed project may aid in identifying targets for intervention to remediate these symptoms and restore functional ability in people with ASD.
Effective start/end date12/07/1730/06/21


  • National Institute of Mental Health: $188,447.00
  • National Institute of Mental Health: $188,447.00


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