MRI scans may reveal links between cerebellum and dyspraxia

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A research team at The University of Nottingham is using MRI scanning to learn more about the role of the cerebellum in Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD) – the motor skills disorder also known as dyspraxia

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The Hand Lab team, led by Dr Nicholas Holmes, based in the School of Psychology is looking for volunteers aged between eight and ten to take part in the study. So far 60 children have undergone brain scans but the researchers need 30 more to participate in the study this summer.

 Dr Holmes said:

The tests can be done over two 90-minute sessions in the school holidays or evenings. The volunteers will also participate in a newly developed hand-eye coordination task to test reaction times and grasping techniques.

The Hand Lab team looks at how we perceive our hand’s location, size, and shape, how this affects our movement and thought, and what role the brain plays in these processes.

Containing half the brain’s neurons the cerebellum is known as the ‘little brain’. It receives sensory information and fine-tunes the body’s movements. The team hopes the MRI scans will provide enough information to help explore other questions about DCD as well as detect any underlying problems in the cerebellum that might be associated with the condition.

Dr Holmes said:

Because the cerebellum plays such a fundamental role in our ability to coordinate, we want to discover if there is any link between the cerebellum and DCD. The hope is that if we can pinpoint a problem we might be able to find ways of diagnosing and treating the condition.

DCD is a common, but difficult to diagnose disorder, affecting fine and gross motor coordination in children and adults. The research, funded by the Medical Research Council, needs the help of children who may be showing signs of dyspraxia or DCD as well as typically developing children.

DCD can result in low self-esteem among children. They struggle to perform as well as their peers in everyday activities such as sport, writing and drawing. It can affect their ability to learn and they may need extra help at school. It has been estimated that as many as one in every 20 children may be affected by the condition to some degree and it appears to be more common in boys than girls.

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