Restricted, repetitive, and stereotyped patterns of behavior comprise one of the core features used to diagnose autistic disorders. A wide variety of abnormal repetitive movements (dyskinesia, tics, stereotyped body and object movements) and abnormal repetitive behaviors (compulsions, rituals, insistence on sameness, restricted interests) occurs in persons with autism. Currently we know little about how these abnormal movements and behaviors are linked in the case of autism. Further, little is known about the pattern of repetitive behaviors that best discriminates autism from other developmental disorders. Preliminary findings suggest a distinction between """"""""lower-order"""""""" repetitive behaviors (e.g. stereotyped body and object movements) and """"""""higher-order"""""""" repetitive behaviors (e.g. rituals, sameness, restricted interests) in autism. The presence of a variety of simple repetitive behaviors that involve perseveration of motor actions suggests the involvement of motor control deficits. The presence of a variety of more complex repetitive behaviors that involve the rigid imposition of rules or the maintenance of a limited mental set suggests the involvement of specific deficits in cognitive flexibility. This model proposes that a combination of deficient motor control and cognitive flexibility processes occurs in autism that together constrains the ability to inhibit prepotent responding (stereotyped movements, compulsions), diminishes the ability to orient to novel events in the environment (insistence on sameness) and impairs the ability to generate flexible, adaptable patterns of behavior (rituals, restricted interests). To test the proposed model we will compare groups of children with autism (n = 90), children with nonspecific developmental disability (n = 60), and typically developing children (n = 90) on: (a) a standardized assessment (the Repetitive Behavior Scale) for identifying and measuring the variety of repetitive behaviors associated with autism (stereotypy, self-injury, compulsions, rituals/routines, sameness behavior, restricted interests); (b) a set of motor control tests (involuntary movement disorder exam, assessment of spontaneous eye blink rate, postural stability task), and (c) a set of cognitive flexibility tests (behavioral inhibition, set-shifting, novelty recognition memory, exploration task).

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
Research Project (R01)
Project #
Application #
Study Section
Biobehavioral and Behavioral Processes 3 (BBBP)
Program Officer
Wagner, Ann
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
NC State Department/Health & Human Services
United States
Zip Code
Shafer, Robin L; Newell, Karl M; Lewis, Mark H et al. (2017) A Cohesive Framework for Motor Stereotypy in Typical and Atypical Development: The Role of Sensorimotor Integration. Front Integr Neurosci 11:19
Mosner, Maya G; Kinard, Jessica L; McWeeny, Sean et al. (2017) Vicarious Effort-Based Decision-Making in Autism Spectrum Disorders. J Autism Dev Disord 47:2992-3006
Benning, Stephen D; Kovac, Megan; Campbell, Alana et al. (2016) Late Positive Potential ERP Responses to Social and Nonsocial Stimuli in Youth with Autism Spectrum Disorder. J Autism Dev Disord 46:3068-77
DiCriscio, Antoinette Sabatino; Miller, Stephanie J; Hanna, Eleanor K et al. (2016) Brief Report: Cognitive Control of Social and Nonsocial Visual Attention in Autism. J Autism Dev Disord 46:2797-805
Kovac, Megan; Mosner, Maya; Miller, Stephanie et al. (2016) Experience Sampling of Positive Affect in Adolescents with Autism: Feasibility and Preliminary Findings. Res Autism Spectr Disord 29-30:57-65
Watson, Karli K; Miller, Stephanie; Hannah, Eleanor et al. (2015) Increased reward value of non-social stimuli in children and adolescents with autism. Front Psychol 6:1026
Richey, J Anthony; Damiano, Cara R; Sabatino, Antoinette et al. (2015) Neural Mechanisms of Emotion Regulation in Autism Spectrum Disorder. J Autism Dev Disord 45:3409-23
Richey, John A; Rittenberg, Alison; Hughes, Lauren et al. (2014) Common and distinct neural features of social and non-social reward processing in autism and social anxiety disorder. Soc Cogn Affect Neurosci 9:367-77
Moy, Sheryl S; Riddick, Natallia V; Nikolova, Viktoriya D et al. (2014) Repetitive behavior profile and supersensitivity to amphetamine in the C58/J mouse model of autism. Behav Brain Res 259:200-14
Damiano, Cara R; Aloi, Joseph; Dunlap, Kaitlyn et al. (2014) Association between the oxytocin receptor (OXTR) gene and mesolimbic responses to rewards. Mol Autism 5:7

Showing the most recent 10 out of 38 publications