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Motor imagery vs. object-based visual imagery in adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorder

36.4017, Sunday, 17-May, 2:45 pm - 6:45 pm, Pavilion
Session: Development: Disorders

Ya-Ting Chen1, Hao-Ling Chen1, Kuo-Su Tsou2, Ching-Ching Wong2, Yang-Tan Fang1, Chien-Te Wu1; 1School of Occupational Therapy, National Taiwan University, Taipei, Taiwan, 2Child Developmental Assessment & Intervention, Center Department of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, Taipei City Hospital, Taipei, Taiwan

Mental representation of actions is one of the essential components for social interaction and communication, and quite a few studies propose that social cognition deficits observed in ASD can be attributed to their aberrant action representation. Nevertheless, the hypothesis remains inconclusive primarily because most previous studies address this issue either through motor imitation that is contaminated by the requirement of overt motor replication, or through passive action observation that lacks active manipulation of action representation. In the current study, we aimed to investigate the characteristics of action representation in adolescents with ASD through motor imagery (MI) that requires both active manipulation and embodiments of action representation. We recruited 22 participants with ASD and 22 typically developing controls (TDC) to perform a hand-rotation and an object-rotation task. In the hand-rotation task (involves kinesthetic MI), participants were required to judge the laterality of a 3-D model image of a bare-hand (the transitive condition) or a hand-with-spoon (the intransitive condition) that rotates with different angles. In the object rotation task (involves object-based visual imagery), they were required to judge whether the drawer is on the right or on the left side of a desk that also rotates with different angles. Our results reveal that the two groups performed both tasks with compatible accuracy, but ASD is significantly slower than TDC only in the hand rotation task. Furthermore, both groups showed significant biomechanical constraint effects, indicating the usage of kinesthetic MI during the hand rotation task. Our findings suggest inefficient but not dysfunctional kinesthetic MI in individuals with ASD, an implication of preserved action representation. Unlike several previous findings in which ASD tends to use visual-spatial strategy to solve mental rotations of body parts, our data show that they can still spontaneously use kinesthetic MI when necessary.

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