Fine motor and gross motor delays in autism:
Research on autism suggests that energy production is at the root of many symptoms including fine motor and gross motor delays. Mitochondria are the energy production factories inside all of our cells. Mitochondrial disorders lead to problems with energy production in every cell. Dysfunctional mitochondria function but do not create enough energy to adequately support development.
Motor delays in autism are certainly linked to the decreased energy produced by the mitochondria under conditions of oxidative stress (induced by chronic cell danger response and immunoexcitotoxicity). The intricacies of alterations in the brain, in the case of fine and gross motor skills may also help explain why some children have delayed gross and fine motor skills.
The role of brain pruning in fine motor and gross motor delays in autism:
People diagnosed with autism have impaired “pruning” of the brain. Imagine a beautiful vegetable garden (the neurons in the brain) that become overrun with weeds. As the number of weeds grow, the garden is less able to support the goal of producing vegetables. Likewise, altered brain function leads to impaired development. Impaired “pruning”, according to researcher Guomei Tang is due to brain immune cells (glia) being engorged with “damaged parts”.
Dr. Tang analyzed brain tissue of children and adults diagnosed with ASD and also discovered altered signalling. The signals required to cause programmed cell death is important to brain function. In autism, these regulatory messages are deficient. Under normal physiological conditions, a damaged or engorged immune cell can trigger “autophagy” which disconnects it from other cells. In autism, damaged cells continue to function but cause disruption in coordinating the brain’s many function.
This is akin to removing dead or dying plants in the garden to make room for other plants that are thriving. Mitochondria send out a signal to program cell death. Impaired mitochondrial impairs the brain’s ability to “clean up” and remove debris from damaged cells. Immune cells make up the majority of the brain. They migrate towards damage and attempt to “scavenge” damaged parts of cells to prevent disrupted connectivity. In autism, these immune cells do not function properly, decreasing the ability for the brain to process and integrate information and perform complicated motor planning (praxis).
Summary of fine motor and gross motor delays in autism:
In summary, fine motor and gross motor delays in autism relate to altered physiological function. Both mitochondrial dysfunction and altered brain pruning and signalling decrease brain function, thereby impairing motor skills.
Biomedical treatment helps to change lives by addressing these symptoms of autism.