Motor Skills and Early Developing Brain Structures in Autistic Individuals

Motor differences are commonly reported in autistic individuals and may be one of the earliest signs of autism in the first year of life. However, the daily-life impact and neurobiological basis of motor differences are not clear. This talk with distinguished speaker Dr. Brittany Travers will discuss motor differences commonly reported in autistic individuals, links to the early-developing brainstem, and links to daily living skills. We will also discuss the behavioral and structural imaging outcomes of a randomized controlled trial testing a biofeedback-based balance intervention in autistic youth.


Dr. Brittany Travers is an Associate Professor in the Occupational Therapy Program in the Department of Kinesiology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her work is inherently interdisciplinary. She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology and Spanish from Creighton University. She earned her MA and PhD in Cognitive Psychology from the University of Alabama. Dr. Travers completed a postdoctoral fellowship in Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Research at University of Wisconsin–Madison.


Her overarching program of research, housed at the UW-Madison Waisman Center, focuses on the intersection between sensorimotor skills and neurobiology in autistic and non-autistic individuals. Specifically, she focuses on how motor development may serve as a window into neuroanatomy, core symptomatology, and skill development. This line of inquiry has led to a strong interest in the brainstem. She also examines how motor challenges impact the daily lives and occupations of autistic and non-autistic individuals, and whether novel interventions targeting motor skills can enhance quality of life. As such, her research combines brain imaging (Magnetic Resonance Imaging [MRI]; Diffusion Weighted Imaging [DWI]) with quantitative measures of sensorimotor function, cognition, and daily living skills in autistic and non-autistic youth.