Dyspraxia is a form of neurodevelopmental disorder that affects up to ten per cent of the population and up to two per cent severely. Males are four times more likely to be affected than females and dyspraxia can also run in families.
Individuals with dyspraxia experience difficulty with movement coordination and organisation, possibly due to the immature development of neurones in the brain. Alongside these symptoms there also may be problems with language, perception and thought. Because of the very nature of the condition it was often known as Clumsy Child Syndrome.
The cause of dyspraxia is generally not known but is thought to be caused by the motor neurones within the brain not developing properly. The motor neurones are nerves cells that relay signals from the brain to the muscles, therefore controlling movement. If the neurones fail to form proper connections they will be less effective at transmitting electrical signals from the brain to the muscles, resulting in a delayed or clumsy-like response. If the electrical signal from the brain does not reach the muscles at all, this seems to result as a lack of response to a task. Dyspraxia is usually managed via behavioural approaches aimed at improving physical coordination, such as physiotherapy or occupational therapy, although nutritional intervention can improve symptoms.
The comorbidity between dyslexia and the group of neurodevelopmental disorders that include ADHD, dyspraxia and autism, indicates that there is a significant likelihood of problems in the metabolism of long-chain fatty acids in dyspraxia.
Children with neurodevelopmental disorders often have lower levels of long-chain fatty acids than other children, possibly because of an inability to convert what are known as short-chain essential fatty acids to long-chain fatty acids, which play a functional and structural role in the brain. Long-chain fatty acids such as EPA play a crucial role in learning, memory and behaviour – either through direct effects on brain processes, or due to indirect effects on the expression of genes in the brain. Direct suppplementation with EPA can result in improvements in overall health, cognition, motor function and social interactions.
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Richardson AJ. (2004) Clinical trials of fatty acid treatment in ADHD, dyslexia, dyspraxia and the autistic spectrum. Prostaglandins Leukotrienes and Essential Fatty Acids 70:383-90.
Richardson AJ, Ross MA. (2000) Fatty acid metabolism in neurodevelopmental disorder: a new perspective on associations between attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, dyslexia, dyspraxia and the autistic spectrum. Prostaglandins Leukotrienes and Essential Fatty Acids 63:1-9.