The relationship between lateralized motor impairment and verbal/visuospatial deficits in children with suspected brain dysfunction

Date

2018-07-19

Authors

Bailey, Mark Arnott William

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Abstract

In children with confirmed brain damage, neuropsychological research has established that evidence of lateralized (right or left hand) impairment on fine motor tests can be used to help infer dysfunction of the contralateral (opposite) cerebral hemisphere and its associated cognitive skills (e.g., verbal and visuospatial skills). In neuropsychological assessments of children with subjected brain dysfunction (such as learning disabilities and/or attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder), fine motor tests are often used for much the same purpose. This constitutes an example of what is referred to in neuropsychology as the "Comparison of the Left and Right Sides of the Body" inferential method. However, its use for children with suspected brain dysfunction is not supported by the existing research literature. Furthermore, a recent series of studies on children with left hand motor impairment ("extreme right-handers") and no confirmed brain damage has produced results which are inconsistent with those that would be predicted based on traditional neuropsychological theory. It appears possible that previous studies found little relationship between lateralized motor impairment and distinctive cognitive deficits in children with suspected brain dysfunction largely due to the specific motor tests that they used (i.e., ones that rely more heavily on visuospatial/right hemisphere skills than verbal/left hemisphere skills). The Name Printing Test (Joschko & Bailey, 1996) was proposed to be a motor test that involves the skills of both cerebral hemispheres. It was therefore hypothesized to account for a significant amount of unique variance in performance on measures of both verbal and visuospatial cognitive skill, above and beyond that accounted for by the Grooved Pegboard and Finger Tapping Tests, in a sample of 77 right-handed children with suspected brain dysfunction. Left hand motor test scores were hypothesized to account for the greatest amount of variance in visuospatial cognitive skill, while right hand scores were hypothesized to account for the greatest amount of variance in verbal cognitive skill. The WlSC-III Verbal Comprehension and Perceptual Organization 6ctor scores were used as the measures of verbal and visuospatial cognitive skill, respectively. Hierarchical multiple regression was the primary method of analysis used to test the research hypotheses. The results provided little support for these hypotheses. Specifically, right and left hand motor test scores were found to be about equal in predicting verbal and visuospatial cognitive skills. Furthermore, only Grooved Pegboard scores accounted for a significant amount of unique variance in visuospatial cognitive skill, while no motor test score was a significant predictor of verbal cognitive ability. Little support was found for the use of the "Comparison of the Left and Right Sides of the Body" inferential method in this clinical group, and it was suggested that such methods of inference require more extensive validation. The Name Printing Test and Grooved Pegboard were found to be sensitive indicators of psychomotor impairment in children with suspected brain dysfunction, while the Finger Tapping Test was not.

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Keywords

Minimal brain dysfunction in children, Neuropsychology

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