Journal Article

Motor learning and transfer between real and virtual environments in young people with autism spectrum disorder: a prospective randomized cross over controlled trial


Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is associated with persistent deficits in social communication and social interaction, including impaired multisensory integration which might negatively impact cognitive and motor skill performance, and hence negatively affect learning of tasks. Considering that tasks in virtual environment may provide an engaging tool as adjuncts to conventional therapies, we set out to compare motor performance between young people with ASD and a typically developing (TD) control group that underwent coincident timing tasks based on Kinect (no physical contact) and on Keyboard (with physical contact) environments. Using a randomized repeated cross-over controlled trial design, fifty young people with ASD and fifty with TD, matched by age and sex were divided into subgroups of 25 people that performed the two first phases of the study (acquisition and retention) on the same device – real or virtual – and then switched to the other device to repeat acquisition and retention phases and finally switched on to a touch screen (transfer phase). Results showed that practice in the virtual task was more difficult (producing more errors), but led to a better performance in the subsequent practice in the real task, with more pronounced improvement in the ASD as compared to the TD group. It can be concluded that the ASD group managed to transfer the practice from a virtual to a real environment, indicating that virtual methods may enhance learning of motor and cognitive skills. A need for further exploration of its effect across a number of tasks and activities is warranted. 

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Peña de Moraes, Íbis Ariana
Bandeira de Mello Monteiro, Carlos
Dias da Silva, Talita
Massetti, Thais
Brusque Crocetta, Tânia
Del Ciello de Menezes, Lilian
Pena de Rezende Andrade, Gilda
Hervaldo Nicolai Ré, Alessandro
Dawes, Helen
Coe, Shelly
Henrique Magalhães, Fernando

Oxford Brookes departments

Department of Sport, Health Sciences and Social Work


Year of publication: 2019
Date of RADAR deposit: 2019-10-02

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

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