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    Evolutionary motor biases and cognition in children with and without autism

    Forrester, Gillian and Davis, Rachael and Malatesta, Gianluca and Todd, Brenda (2020) Evolutionary motor biases and cognition in children with and without autism. Scientific Reports 10 (17385), ISSN 2045-2322.

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    Evolution has endowed vertebrates with a divided brain that allows for processing of critical survival behaviours in parallel. Most humans possess a standard functional brain organisation for these ancient sensory-motor behaviours, favouring the right hemisphere for fight-or-flight processes and the left hemisphere for performing structured motor sequences. However, a significant minority of the population possess an organisational phenotype that represents crowding of function in one hemisphere, or a reversal of the standard functional organisation. Using behavioural biases as a proxy for brain organisation, results indicate that reversed brain organisation phenotype increases in populations with autism and is associated with weaker cognitive abilities. Moreover, this study revealed that left-handedness, alone, is not associated with decreased cognitive ability or autism. Rather, left-handedness acts as a marker for decreased cognitive performance when paired with the reversed brain phenotype. The results contribute to comparative research suggesting that modern human abilities are supported by evolutionarily old, lateralised sensory-motor processes. Systematic, longitudinal investigations, capturing genetic measures and brain correlates, are essential to reveal how cognition emerges from these foundational processes. Importantly, strength and direction of biases can act as early markers of brain organisation and cognitive development, leading to promising, novel practices for diagnoses and interventions.


    Item Type: Article
    School: Birkbeck Faculties and Schools > Faculty of Science > School of Psychological Sciences
    Depositing User: Gillian Forrester
    Date Deposited: 02 Nov 2020 10:14
    Last Modified: 02 Aug 2023 18:04


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