Ocular Motor Investigations

Ocular Motor Investigations of Autism and Asperger's Syndrome

Chief Investigators

Dr Nicole Rinehart
Dr Joanne Fielding
Prof Bruce Tonge
Emerit. Prof. John Bradshaw
Dr Owen White

Students

Chloe Stanley-Cary

The Study

Autism and Asperger's Syndrome are characterised by stereotypical and repetitive behaviours and impairments of social interaction and communication.  Abnormal movement is a feature of these disorders, but does not form part of the diagnostic criteria.  Parts of the brain traditionally thought to have a purely motor function are now understood to have widespread connections to brain areas that control emotional and cognitive functioning, and studies of motor behaviour are increasingly being used to understand these disorders.

Investigation of ocular-motor function (eye movements) is a useful way to examine the neural control of motor behaviour.  Ocular-motor tasks are easy to do, they provide very accurate measurements,  and the neural networks that control reflexive and voluntary eye-movements are well understood.  Previous research has uncovered abnormalities in eye movement control in people with autism, but this has not been investigated in Asperger's Syndrome. By exploring ocular-motor function, we hope to increase understanding of the neurobiology underpinning autism and Asperger Syndrome, and to better understand the similarities and differences between these two pervasive developmental disorders.

For more information please contact Dr Nicole Rinehart.