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Our goal for this paper is to address changes in motor patterns that occur early in life. To do this, we begin by sharing first a brief set of exemplar patterns of movement that emerge prenatally and during the first year postnatally. We couch these descriptions in the hypotheses proposed to explain what has been observed, and emphasize, as well, the context in which they appear. We follow with some experimental studies developmental scientists have used to test these explanations. Subsequently, we address the brain-behavior collaboration that unfolds and supports skill acquisition across early development. We provide data to show that recent advances in brain-imaging technology enable researchers to monitor cortical activity as infants explore and learn functional skills in real time and over developmental time. This opens a new frontier to the scientific study of the early development of neuromotor control and can enhance both our basic science knowledge and our efforts to optimize positive clinical outcomes.
Nishiyori is with the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center, Bethesda, MD. Ulrich is with the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI.