Department of Sport, Health Sciences and Social Work

Brain plasticity and motor skill competence development in young people with Development Coordination Disorder

  • Aims:

    1) Determine the temporal and topographic brain activation patterns of children with and without DCD whilst performing a novel skill;

    2) Measure the effect of training this novel skill on brain activation and motor skill performance;

    3) Determine skill acquisition in children with and without DCD alongside automaticity and executive control;

    4) Determine brain structural and functional correlates of motor performance at baseline and in response to the training programme.


    Using a controlled trial we will assess at baseline, 6 weeks (end intervention) and 12 weeks 60 Children, 30 with and 30 without DCD aged 14-16 years, identified and recruited through whole year group screening mainstream schools.

    We will assess: anthropometric measures, motor skill acquisition (primary outcome), brain structure and function using Near Infrared Spectroscopy, and MRI (fMRI) and markers of physical activity, fitness, health and well-being. Children will participate in a six week gym-based intervention three times a week for 60 minutes. Sessions will be delivered as personalised circuits and include moderate to vigorous physical activity embedded with motor skill training. During each session motor performance will be assessed (heart rate and temporal-spatial parameters). We will analyse motor performance and its neural correlates before and after training.

    Principal Investigators:  Dr Patrick Esser / Prof Helen Dawes

    Funders: Action Medical Research and Chartered Society of Physiotherapy Charitable Trust

    Collaborations:  Oxford Centre for Functional MRI of the Brain (FMRIB) and  Maynooth University (Ireland)