Journal Article

Motor learning in developmental coordination disorder : behavioral and neuroimaging study


Developmental coordination disorder (DCD) is characterized by motor learning deficits that are poorly understood within whole-body activities context. Here we present results of one of the largest nonrandomized interventional trials combining brain imaging and motion capture techniques to examine motor skill acquisition and its underpinning mechanisms in adolescents with and without DCD. A total of 86 adolescents with low fitness levels (including 48 with DCD) were trained on a novel stepping task for a duration of 7 weeks. Motor performance during the stepping task was assessed under single and dual-task conditions. Concurrent cortical activation in the prefrontal cortex (PFC) was measured using functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS). Additionally, structural and functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) was conducted during a similar stepping task at the beginning of the trial. The results indicate that adolescents with DCD performed similarly to their peers with lower levels of fitness in the novel stepping task and demonstrated the ability to learn and improve motor performance. Both groups showed significant improvements in both tasks and under single- and dual-task conditions at post-intervention and follow-up compared to baseline. While both groups initially made more errors in the Stroop task under dual-task conditions, at follow-up, a significant difference between single- and dual-task conditions was observed only in the DCD group. Notably, differences in prefrontal activation patterns between the groups emerged at different time points and task conditions. Adolescents with DCD exhibited distinct prefrontal activation responses during the learning and performance of a motor task, particularly when complexity was increased by concurrent cognitive tasks. Furthermore, a relationship was observed between MRI brain structure and function measures and initial performance in the novel stepping task. Overall, these findings suggest that strategies that address task and environmental complexities, while simultaneously enhancing brain activity through a range of tasks, offer opportunities to increase the participation of adolescents with low fitness in physical activity and sports.

Attached files


Al-Yahya, Emad
Esser, Patrick
Weedon, Benjamin D.
Joshi, Shawn
Liu Yan-Ci
Springett, Daniella
Salvan, Piergiorgio
Meany, Andy
Collett, Johnny
Inacio, Mario
Delextrat, Anne
Kemp, Steve
Ward, Tomas E.
Izadi, Hooshang
Johansen-Berg, Heidi
Ayaz, Hasan
Dawes, Helen

Oxford Brookes departments

Department of Sport, Health Sciences and Social Work
School of Engineering, Computing and Mathematics


Year of publication: 2023
Date of RADAR deposit: 2023-06-01

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

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