Specialization of the motor system in infancy: from broad tuning to selectively specialized purposeful actions

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Authors

Colleges, School and Institutes

External organisations

  • Goldsmiths, University of London
  • Psychology Department, Durham University, Durham, United Kingdom.
  • Centre for Brain and Cognitive Development, Department of Psychological Sciences, Birkbeck, University of London, UK.

Abstract

In executing purposeful actions, adults select sufficient and necessary limbs. But infants often move goal-irrelevant limbs, suggesting a developmental process of motor specialization. Two experiments with 9- and 12-month-olds revealed gradual decreases in extraneous movements in non-acting limbs during unimanual actions. In Experiment 1, 9-month-olds produced more extraneous movements in the non-acting hand/arm and feet/legs than 12-month-olds. In Experiment 2, analysis of the spatiotemporal dynamics of infants' movements revealed developmental declines in the spatiotemporal coupling of movements between acting and non-acting arms. We also showed that the degree of specialization in infants' unimanual actions is associated with individual differences in motor experience and visual attention, indicating the experience-dependent and broad functional nature of these developmental changes. Our study provides important new insights into motor development: as in cognitive domains, motor behaviours are initially broadly tuned to their goal, becoming progressively specialized during the first year of life.

Bibliographic note

D'Souza, H. , Cowie, D. , Karmiloff‐Smith, A. and Bremner, A. J. (2017), Specialization of the motor system in infancy: from broad tuning to selectively specialized purposeful actions. Dev Sci, 20: e12409. doi:10.1111/desc.12409 © 2016 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

Details

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere12409
JournalDevelopmental Science
Volume20
Issue number4
Early online date2 Jun 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2017

Keywords

  • Child Development/physiology, Extremities/physiology, Humans, Infant, Learning/physiology, Motor Activity/physiology, Movement/physiology, Psychomotor Performance