Interactive effect of visual and proprioceptive disturbance to the control of postural stability in individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD)

Emily In

Authors:  Emily In, Jiaqi Chen, Zhigang Li, Ph.D., Matthew W. Mosconi, Ph.D., Zheng Wang, Ph.D.

Faculty Mentor:  Zheng Wang

College:  College of Public Health and Health Professions


Sensorimotor impairments are common in autism spectrum disorder (ASD), although the extent to which sensory processing issues affect motor control and coordination in individuals with ASD is not well understood. The goal of this project is to enhance current knowledge about sensorimotor abnormalities in ASD by examining the effects of visual and proprioceptive information to postural stability in ASD. Twenty-five school-aged children with ASD and 11 matched healthy controls participated in tests of static stance on a force platform. During the assessment, a pair of lightweight tendon vibrators (TVs) was attached on participants’ Achilles tendon of the ankle joints. When turned on, both TVs vibrate at a high frequency of 80Hz to create a transient proprioceptive illusion of lengthened Achilles tendons of both legs. Participants completed the tests with and without the TVs (i.e., TVon vs. TVoff) and lights on and off (LTon vs. LToff). The results showed that, relative to controls, children with ASD were more affected by proprioceptive manipulations compared to visual manipulations, suggesting that patients utilize proprioceptive inputs more readily than visual inputs in static stance tasks.

Poster Pitch

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14 Responses
  1. Whitney S.

    Hi Emily, this is an incredibly interesting project! I think your approach to designing this study was quite innovative and allowed for a substantial amount of information to be gathered from each participant. Thank you for sharing your work, great job!

  2. Dear Emily,

    This is so interesting to me, and definitely important for the furthering of research regarding physical and visual sensory stimuli on people with ASD. I wonder what the results of this study would be with adults with ASD. Also, as to the specific effects the proprioceptive manipulations caused in children with ASD–was this a general negative reaction? Or was there any type of commonality in their responses?

    Thank You!

    1. Emily In

      Hi Hannah! Thank you for stopping by! For the children, generally, they observed more of a negative reaction to the proprioceptive disturbances compared to the visual disturbances. They also observed a more negative reaction compared to the controls, where we observed more dramatic increases in their postural sway (increased standard deviation of the center of pressure).

  3. Emily,
    This is such an interesting topic and presentation! You had such fascinating conclusions and I am so excited to see where this research goes in the future!

  4. Alexandra Chavez

    Hi Emily, this project was incredibly executed and fascinating! I can see this information being utilized to further knowledge about sensorimotor abilities of people with ASD and applied to therapies or education programs for them. Great job!

  5. Amber Angell

    Nicely done, Emily! What are your next steps that you would like to take from this work, whether they are related to the findings themselves or what you learned from conducting this type of research study?

    1. Emily In

      Hi Amber! I would like to test more subjects to see if the same effects still hold for the proprioceptive disturbances vs visual disturbances. I would also want to test older individuals to see if these effects would also apply as individuals postural control matures. Thank you for viewing my project!

  6. Danielle

    Hi Emily! This was a great poster and I’m glad I was able to learn from it. It’s a very interesting project and I look forward to seeing how you move forward with it in the future