Toward a motor signature in autism: Studies from human-machine interaction

J. Xavier, H. Guedjou, S. M. Anzalone, S. Boucenna, E. Guigon, M. Chetouani, D. Cohen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Background: Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a heterogeneous group of neurodevelopmental disorders which core symptoms are impairments in socio-communication and repetitive symptoms and stereotypies. Although not cardinal symptoms per se, motor impairments are fundamental aspects of ASD. These impairments are associated with postural and motor control disabilities that we investigated using computational modeling and developmental robotics through human-machine interaction paradigms. Method: First, in a set of studies involving a human–robot posture imitation, we explored the impact of 3 different groups of partners (including a group of children with ASD) on robot learning by imitation. Second, using an ecological task, i.e. a real-time motor imitation with a tightrope walker (TW) avatar, we investigated interpersonal synchronization, motor coordination and motor control during the task in children with ASD (n = 29), TD children (n = 39) and children with developmental coordination disorder (n = 17, DCD). Results: From the human–robot experiments, we evidenced that motor signature at both groups’ and individuals’ levels had a key influence on imitation learning, posture recognition and identity recognition. From the more dynamic motor imitation paradigm with a TW avatar, we found that interpersonal synchronization, motor coordination and motor control were more impaired in children with ASD compared to both TD children and children with DCD. Taken together these results confirm the motor peculiarities of children with ASD despite imitation tasks were adequately performed. Discussion: Studies from human-machine interaction support the idea of a behavioral signature in children with ASD. However, several issues need to be addressed. Is this behavioral signature motoric in essence? Is it possible to ascertain that these peculiarities occur during all motor tasks (e.g. posture, voluntary movement)? Could this motor signature be considered as specific to autism, notably in comparison to DCD that also display poor motor coordination skills? We suggest that more work comparing the two conditions should be implemented, including analysis of kinematics and movement smoothness with sufficient measurement quality to allow spectral analysis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)182-187
Number of pages6
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Autism spectrum disorder
  • Motor control
  • Motor dimension
  • Movement smoothness
  • Postural and motor variability
  • Postural control


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