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Exp Brain Res. 2012 Jul;220(2):109-19. doi: 10.1007/s00221-012-3121-9. Epub 2012 May 24.

Development of postural adjustments during reaching in typically developing infants from 4 to 18 months.

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Department of Paediatrics, Developmental Neurology, University Medical Center Groningen, University of Groningen, Hanzeplein 1, 9713 GZ, Groningen, The Netherlands.


Knowledge on the development of postural adjustments during infancy, in particular on the development of postural muscle coordination, is limited. This study aimed at the evaluation of the development of postural control during reaching in a supported sitting condition. Eleven typically developing infants participated in the study and were assessed at the ages of 4, 6, 10 and 18 months. We elicited reaching movements by presenting small toys at an arm's length distance, whilst activity of multiple arm, neck and trunk muscles was recorded using surface EMG. A model-based computer algorithm was used to detect the onset of phasic muscle activity. The results indicated that postural muscle activity during reaching whilst sitting supported is highly variable. Direction-specific postural activity was inconsistently present from early age onwards and increased between 10 and 18 months without reaching a 100 % consistency. The dominant pattern of activation at all ages was the 'complete pattern', in which all direction-specific muscles were recruited. At 4 months, a slight preference for top-down recruitment existed, which was gradually replaced by a preference for bottom-up recruitment. We conclude that postural control during the ecological task of reaching during supported sitting between 4 and 18 months of age is primarily characterized by variation. Already from 4 months onwards, infants are-within the variation-sometimes able to select muscle recruitment strategies that are optimal to the task at hand.

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