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Infants in Control: Prospective Motor Control and Executive Functions in Action Development
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Psychology. (Uppsala Child and Baby Lab)ORCID iD: 0000-0001-5497-4001
2016 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This thesis assesses the link between action and cognition early in development. Thus the notion of an embodied cognition is investigated by tying together two levels of action control in the context of reaching in infancy: prospective motor control and executive functions.

The ability to plan our actions is the inevitable foundation of reaching our goals. Thus actions can be stratified on different levels of control. There is the relatively low level of prospective motor control and the comparatively high level of cognitive control. Prospective motor control is concerned with goal-directed actions on the level of single movements and movement combinations of our body and ensures purposeful, coordinated movements, such as reaching for a cup of coffee. Cognitive control, in the context of this thesis more precisely referred to as executive functions, deals with goal-directed actions on the level of whole actions and action combinations and facilitates directedness towards mid- and long-term goals, such as finishing a doctoral thesis. Whereas prospective motor control and executive functions are well studied in adulthood, the early development of both is not sufficiently understood.

This thesis comprises three empirical motion-tracking studies that shed light on prospective motor control and executive functions in infancy. Study I investigated the prospective motor control of current actions by having 14-month-olds lift objects of varying weights. In doing so, multi-cue integration was addressed by comparing the use of visual and non-visual information to non-visual information only. Study II examined the prospective motor control of future actions in action sequences by investigating reach-to-place actions in 14-month-olds. Thus the extent to which Fitts’ law can explain movement duration in infancy was addressed. Study III lifted prospective motor control to a higher that is cognitive level, by investigating it relative to executive functions in 18-months-olds.

Main results were that 14-month-olds are able to prospectively control their manual actions based on object weight. In this action planning process, infants use different sources of information. Beyond this ability to prospectively control their current action, 14-month-olds also take future actions into account and plan their actions based on the difficulty of the subsequent action in action sequences. In 18-month-olds, prospective motor control in manual actions, such as reaching, is related to early executive functions, as demonstrated for behavioral prohibition and working memory. These findings are consistent with the idea that executive functions derive from prospective motor control. I suggest that executive functions could be grounded in the development of motor control. In other words, early executive functions should be seen as embodied. 

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis, 2016. , 103 p.
Series
Digital Comprehensive Summaries of Uppsala Dissertations from the Faculty of Social Sciences, ISSN 1652-9030 ; 127
Keyword [en]
infant development, action development, prospective motor control, executive functions, action planning, motor development, motion tracking, embodied cognition, developmental psychology
National Category
Social Sciences
Research subject
Psychology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-297642ISBN: 978-91-554-9618-0OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-297642DiVA: diva2:942682
Public defence
2016-09-16, Sydnez Alrutz (13:026), von Kraemers Allé 1A (Blåsenhus), Uppsala, 10:15 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2016-08-26 Created: 2016-06-26 Last updated: 2016-09-05
List of papers
1. Infants' prospective control during object manipulation in an uncertain environment
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Infants' prospective control during object manipulation in an uncertain environment
2015 (English)In: Experimental Brain Research, ISSN 0014-4819, E-ISSN 1432-1106, Vol. 233, no 8, 2383-2390 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

This study investigates how infants use visual and sensorimotor information to prospectively control their actions. We gave 14-month-olds two objects of different weight and observed how high they were lifted, using a Qualisys Motion Capture System. In one condition, the two objects were visually distinct (different color condition) in another they were visually identical (same color condition). Lifting amplitudes of the first movement unit were analyzed in order to assess prospective control. Results demonstrate that infants lifted a light object higher than a heavy object, especially when vision could be used to assess weight (different color condition). When being confronted with two visually identical objects of different weight (same color condition), infants showed a different lifting pattern than what could be observed in the different color condition, expressed by a significant interaction effect between object weight and color condition on lifting amplitude. These results indicate that (a) visual information about object weight can be used to prospectively control lifting actions and that (b) infants are able to prospectively control their lifting actions even without visual information about object weight. We argue that infants, in the absence of reliable visual information about object weight, heighten their dependence on non-visual information (tactile, sensorimotor memory) in order to estimate weight and pre-adjust their lifting actions in a prospective manner.

Keyword
Prospective control, Object manipulation, Sensorimotor, Action, Motor development, Motor control
National Category
Neurology Neurosciences
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-260605 (URN)10.1007/s00221-015-4308-7 (DOI)000358322500014 ()25963753 (PubMedID)
Funder
EU, FP7, Seventh Framework Programme, 289404
Note

Funding: ERC-StG CACTUS, 312292

Available from: 2015-08-24 Created: 2015-08-21 Last updated: 2016-09-05Bibliographically approved
2. Infants prospectively control reaching based on the difficulty of future actions: To what extent can infants' multiple step actions be explained by Fitts' law?
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Infants prospectively control reaching based on the difficulty of future actions: To what extent can infants' multiple step actions be explained by Fitts' law?
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(English)Article in journal (Refereed) Submitted
Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Janna Marleen Gottwald
Keyword
prospective motor control, action planning, action sequence, action development, movement unit, Fitts' law, infancy
National Category
Social Sciences
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-297638 (URN)
Available from: 2016-06-26 Created: 2016-06-26 Last updated: 2016-09-05
3. An embodied account of early executive functions development: Prospective motor control in infancy is related to prohibition and working memory
Open this publication in new window or tab >>An embodied account of early executive functions development: Prospective motor control in infancy is related to prohibition and working memory
Show others...
(English)Article in journal (Refereed) Submitted
National Category
Social Sciences
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-297641 (URN)
Available from: 2016-06-26 Created: 2016-06-26 Last updated: 2016-09-05

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