Experiments in time
: exploring the components of motor timing behaviour in dyslexia

  • Emma Birkett

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This investigation aimed to pinpoint the elements of motor timing control that are responsible for the increased variability commonly found in children with developmental dyslexia on paced or unpaced motor timing tasks (Chapter 3). Such temporal processing abilities are thought to be important for developing the appropriate phonological representations required for the development of literacy skills. Similar temporal processing difficulties arise in other developmental disorders such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Motor timing behaviour in developmental populations was examined in the context of models of typical human timing behaviour, in particular the Wing-Kristofferson model, allowing estimation of the contribution of different timing control systems, namely timekeeper and implementation systems (Chapter 2 and Methods Chapters 4 and 5). Research examining timing in populations with dyslexia and ADHD has been inconsistent in the application of stimulus parameters and so the first investigation compared motor timing behaviour across different stimulus conditions (Chapter 6). The results question the suitability of visual timing tasks which produced greater performance variability than auditory or bimodal tasks. Following an examination of the validity of the Wing-Kristofferson model (Chapter 7) the model was applied to time series data from an auditory timing task completed by children with reading difficulties and matched control groups (Chapter 8). Expected group differences in timing performance were not found, however, associations between performance and measures of literacy and attention were present. Results also indicated that measures of attention and literacy dissociated in their relationships with components of timing, with literacy ability being correlated with timekeeper variance and attentional control with implementation variance. It is proposed that these timing deficits associated with reading difficulties are attributable to central timekeeping processes and so the contribution of error correction to timing performance was also investigated (Chapter 9). Children with lower scores on measures of literacy and attention were found to have a slower or failed correction response to phase errors in timing behaviour. Results from the series of studies suggest that the motor timing difficulty in poor reading children may stem from failures in the judgement of synchrony due to greater tolerance of uncertainty in the temporal processing system.
Date of Award4 Feb 2014
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorJoel Talcott (Supervisor)


  • Temporal Processing
  • Reading
  • ADHD
  • Error Correction
  • Motor Timing

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