Until recently, neural assessments of gross motor coordination could not reliably handle active tasks, particularly in realistic environments, and offered a narrow understanding of motor-cognition. By applying a comprehensive neuroergonomic approach using optical mobile neuroimaging, we probed the neural correlates of motor functioning in young people with Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD), a motor-learning deficit affecting 5–6% of children with lifelong complications. Neural recordings using fNIRS were collected during active ambulatory behavioral task execution from 37 Typically Developed and 48 DCD Children who performed cognitive and physical tasks in both single and dual conditions. This is the first of its kind study targeting regions of prefrontal cortical dysfunction for identification of neuropathophysiology for DCD during realistic motor tasks and is one of the largest neuroimaging study (across all modalities) involving DCD. We demonstrated that DCD is a motor-cognitive disability, as gross motor /complex tasks revealed neuro-hemodynamic deficits and dysfunction within the right middle and superior frontal gyri of the prefrontal cortex through functional near infrared spectroscopy. Furthermore, by incorporating behavioral performance, decreased neural efficiency in these regions were revealed in children with DCD, specifically during motor tasks. Lastly, we provide a framework, evaluating disorder impact in ecologically valid contexts to identify when and for whom interventional approaches are most needed and open the door for precision therapies.
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