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Neuroscience. 2012 Sep 27;221:56-68. Epub 2012 Jul 4.

Development of action representation during adolescence as assessed from anticipatory control in a bimanual load-lifting task.

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Laboratory of Cognitive Neuroscience (LNC - UMR 7291) - Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Centre Saint-Charles, Pole 3C, Case C, 3 Place Victor Hugo, 13331 Marseille Cedex 3, France.


The aim of this study was to explore, during adolescence, alterations in the use of a sensori-motor representation as unveiled by the measurement of anticipatory postural control in a bimanual load-lifting task. We hypothesised that adolescence constitutes a period of refinement of anticipatory postural control due to on-going updates of the body schema and sensori-motor representations. The anticipatory postural control was assessed using a bimanual load-lifting paradigm in which subjects stabilise their left postural forearm, which is supporting an object, while they use their right hand to lift up the object. Kinematics and electromyographic data were recorded in two groups of adolescents (11-13 and 14-16 years of age) and a group of adults. Age and gender effects were tested. During voluntary unloading, the postural forearm stabilisation in adolescents was still different from the adult one, suggesting that further improvement of the postural forearm stabilisation must take place after the age of 16. No differences occur in the two adolescent groups. Moreover, girls presented a better stabilisation of the postural forearm than boys, indicating an earlier refinement of anticipatory postural control. The decrease of activity over postural flexors, which ensure postural stabilisation, appeared later in adolescents with respect to adults. Delayed timing adjustments and increased variability could reflect intense developmental processes underlain by an intense period of CNS maturation during adolescence. We discuss the role of brain maturation in the refinement of sensori-motor representations and the update of body schema.

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