Prenatal exposure to alcohol results in a range of neurobehavioral problems including deficits in intellectual functioning, language development, attention, learning, memory, and motor skills. With regard to motor skills, we have previously assessed balance, reaction time, anticipation time, and movement speed control in children with prenatal exposure to alcohol. Results of the movement speed control study are consistent with a theoretical model of impulse-timing. Accordingly, movement end point accuracy and variability is the product of preprogramming time and force at the central nervous system (CNS) level. The mechanisms regulating motor timing in children with prenatal alcohol exposure have been examined but no information exists concerning the regulation of force. Given the teratogenic effects of alcohol exposure on the CNS, it is reasonable to assume mechanisms of force production will be negatively impacted. Utilizing information processing theory to conceptually link multiple experiments, the purpose of the proposed research is to identify the mechanisms of dysfunctional force control in children with prenatal exposure to alcohol. One experiment will determine if grip force is excessive and delayed in the alcohol-exposed child, while a second experiment examines the ability to rapidly produce force to a predetermined level. Two more experiments examine variability of isometric (without movement) and isotonic (with movement) force production in the alcohol-exposed child under conditions of varying visual feedback. Additionally, existing structural neuroimaging data will be correlated with force outcome measures for all four experiments. The relevance of the proposed work is, 1) it will provide information about the mechanisms of force regulation in children with prenatal-exposure to alcohol;2) the information will serve as a reference source against which other force data sets can be compared;3) the information will help clinicians to design therapies that will improve the ability of alcohol-exposed individuals to successfully complete everyday tasks;4) the information will assist scientists and engineers in designing robots and other artificial devices used to assist movement;5) assessing the direct link between structural CNS damage and force production will also assist in the design of rehabilitation programs.
The results of the research program will assist therapists and clinicians in designing rehabilitation therapies designed to ameliorate motor force dysfunction in alcohol exposed children.
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