Developmental Changes in Coordination of Infant Arm and Leg Movements and the Emergence of Function

in Journal of Motor Learning and Development
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  • 1 Harvard University and Boston Children’s Hospital
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We conducted a longitudinal kinematic study of spontaneous arm and leg motions in 4 supine infants at 3, 4½, and 6 months of age. The study addressed two questions: (a) whether there was a longitudinal change in the synchronization of joint rotations at the hips, knees, shoulders, and elbows, indicating that the arms and legs were moving more independently of each other; and (b) whether, during this period, the spatial location of the hands relative to the shoulders was different from that of the feet relative to the hips, indicating that the infants were beginning to use their upper limbs differently than their lower limbs. We found that, in general, the arms and legs were moving more independently of each other by 6 months of age. At the same time, the infants were more likely to hold their hands away from the body in preparation for making contact with an object in the midline, but they brought their feet close to the body to maximize propulsive kicks. Thus, a reorganization of the relative timing of joint rotations appears to be related to the emergence of different arm and leg functions.

All the authors are with Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering, Harvard Medical School, and the Department of Psychiatry at Boston Children’s Hospital, Boston, MA. Wen-Hao Hsu and Daniel Miranda are co-first authors on this manuscript. Address author correspondence to Daniel Miranda at