Investigating Motor Control Difficulties and Action-Related Self-Awareness in Autism Spectrum Disorder

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Autism Spectrum Disorder (hereafter ‘autism’) is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterised by social communication and interaction difficulties, and rigid and repetitive behaviours. In addition to these core symptoms of the disorder, many of those with autism also present with motor control difficulties. Motor control abilities play an important role in social perception and cognition as well as processing related to the self. For instance, the motor control theory of autism suggests that motor control difficulties in early life may impact later social interactions. This is supported by work showing that the degree of motor control deficits in children with autism are related to social difficulties in this cohort. In addition to social cognition, motor control deficits can also impact one’s ability to interpret one’s degree of agency over their actions and their consequences. As such, investigating motor control difficulties in this cohort, and the extent to which these difficulties impact social cognition, is an important research avenue. Current knowledge of motor control difficulties in autism is, however, confounded by variation in autism severity and age groups across studies. Given the widespread heterogeneity in this cohort, it is difficult to determine common motor control difficulties based on the current research evidence. Therefore, the aims of this thesis are threefold. First, to investigate motor control abilities across a range of motor control tasks in the same group of participants with and without autism. Second, to investigate whether individual differences in traits such as autistic traits predict the degree to which people feel control over their actions and their consequences (i.e. the sense of agency) and the extent to which they are motivated to act. Third, to provide a preliminary investigation of the extent to which non-invasive brain stimulation may be used as a potential tool to ameliorate motor control difficulties in participants with autism.
Date of Award1 Jul 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • King's College London
SupervisorGeoffrey Bird (Supervisor) & Caroline Catmur (Supervisor)

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