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Psychol Sci. 2016 Dec;27(12):1600-1610. doi: 10.1177/0956797616667447. Epub 2016 Oct 8.

An Embodied Account of Early Executive-Function Development.

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Department of Psychology, Uppsala University.


The importance of executive functioning for later life outcomes, along with its potential to be positively affected by intervention programs, motivates the need to find early markers of executive functioning. In this study, 18-month-olds performed three executive-function tasks-involving simple inhibition, working memory, and more complex inhibition-and a motion-capture task assessing prospective motor control during reaching. We demonstrated that prospective motor control, as measured by the peak velocity of the first movement unit, is related to infants' performance on simple-inhibition and working memory tasks. The current study provides evidence that motor control and executive functioning are intertwined early in life, which suggests an embodied perspective on executive-functioning development. We argue that executive functions and prospective motor control develop from a common source and a single motive: to control action. This is the first demonstration that low-level movement planning is related to higher-order executive control early in life.


executive functions; infancy; motor development; prospective motor control; reaching

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