Multi-scale coordination of distinctive movement patterns during embodied interaction between adults with high-functioning autism and neurotypicals

Leonardo Zapata-Fonseca* (Corresponding Author), Dobromir G. Dotov, Ruben Y. M. Fossion, Tom Froese, Leonhard Schilbach, Kai Vogeley, Bert Timmermans* (Corresponding Author)

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)
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Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) can be understood as a social interaction disorder. This requires researchers to take a “second-person” stance and to use experimental setups based on bidirectional interactions. The present work offers a quantitative description of movement patterns exhibited during computer-mediated real-time sensorimotor interaction in 10 dyads of adult participants, each consisting of one control individual (CTRL) and one individual with high-functioning autism (HFA). We applied time-series analyses to their movements and found two main results. First, multi-scale coordination between participants was present. Second, despite this dyadic alignment and our previous finding that individuals with HFA can be equally sensitive to the other’s presence, individuals’ movements differed in style: in contrast to CTRLs, HFA participants appeared less inclined to sustain mutual interaction and instead explored the virtual environment more generally. This finding is consistent with social motivation deficit accounts of ASD, as well as with hypersensitivity-motivated avoidance of overstimulation. Our research demonstrates the utility of time series analyses for the second-person stance and complements previous work focused on non-dynamical and performance-based variables.
Original languageEnglish
Article number2760
Number of pages7
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Publication statusPublished - 11 Jan 2019

Bibliographical note

We acknowledge financial support from DGAPA-PAPIIT projects of the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México: IA105017 (RF and LZ-F) and IA104717 (TF), Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología (CONACyT) projects 167441 (RF and LZ-F), the scholarship 638215 to LZ-F granted by the CONACyT, the Newton Advanced Fellowship awarded to RF by the Academy of Medical Sciences, through the UK Government’s Newton, and the Marie Curie Intra-European Fellowship “SOCIAL BRAIN” awarded to BT.

We thank Charles Lenay and Dominique Aubert from the Université de Technologie de Compiègne for making the TACTOS hardware and software available to the University Hospital Cologne, and for providing technical support. LZ-F would like to specially thank Jesús Naveja and Lilia Fonseca for interesting discussions.

The Supplementary Material for this article can be found online at:


  • autism spectrum disorder
  • time-series analysis
  • social interaction
  • movement variability
  • human-computer interface
  • tactile interaction
  • social motor coordination
  • multi-scale analysis
  • Human-computer interface
  • Multi-scale analysis
  • Social motor coordination
  • Autism spectrum disorder
  • Tactile interaction
  • Movement variability
  • Social interaction
  • Time-series analysis


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