Untrivial Pursuit: Measuring Motor Procedures Learning in Children with Autism

Laura Sparaci, Domenico Formica, Francesca Romana Lasorsa, Luigi Mazzone, Giovanni Valeri, Stefano Vicari

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Numerous studies have underscored prevalence of motor impairments in children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD), but only few of them have analyzed motor strategies exploited by ASD children when learning a new motor procedure. To evaluate motor procedure learning and performance strategies in both ASD and typically developing (TD) children, we built a virtual pursuit rotor (VPR) task, requiring tracking a moving target on a computer screen using a digitalized pen and tablet. Procedural learning was measured as increased time on target (TT) across blocks of trials on the same day and consolidation was assessed after a 24-hour rest. The program and the experimental setting (evaluated in a first experiment considering two groups of TD children) allowed also measures of continuous time on target (CTT), distance from target (DT) and distance from path (DP), as well as 2D reconstructions of children's trajectories. Results showed that the VPR was harder for children with ASD than for TD controls matched for chronological age and intelligence quotient, but both groups displayed comparable motor procedure learning (i.e., similarly incremented their TT). However, closer analysis of CTT, DT, and DP as well as 2D trajectories, showed different motor performance strategies in ASD, highlighting difficulties in overall actions planning. Data underscore the need for deeper investigations of motor strategies exploited by children with ASD when learning a new motor procedure.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)398-411
Number of pages14
JournalAutism Research
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Aug 1 2015


  • Autism
  • Handwriting
  • Motor skills
  • Procedural learning
  • Pursuit rotor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Genetics(clinical)


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