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Title: Development of prospective control of reaching in infants
Author: Van der Meer, Audrey L. H.
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 1992
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The emergence of reaching and grasping behaviour in infants is an important occurrence in perceptuo-motor development. Traditionally, this behaviour has been described as a discrete achievement in development, emerging suddenly at about five months of age. This hypothesis was investigated in the first experiment of this thesis. It examined the role of spontaneous arm movements in young infants under six weeks of age for later reaching and grasping. Results showed that the infants moved the arm they were facing up and down in the same region despite added weights that pulled on the hand in the direction of the toes - but only if they could see the arm. The experiment suggests that when watching their arms moving young infants might be setting up a stable frame of reference for action. Until recently, reaching behaviour has mostly been used as an indicator behaviour for the infant's underlying perceptual abilities. As a result, the skill itself has not received the attention it deserves. The remaining three experiments of this thesis examined what information infants reaching for moving toys were using so as to catch successfully. Catching a moving toy requires the ability to predict a toy's future trajectory. In a cross-sectional experiment, reaching for a toy moving at different speeds was investigated in 11-month-old infants. The toy was occluded from view by a screen during the last part of its approach. The results showed that gaze arrived at the exit side of the screen and the hand started to move forward before the toy had disappeared behind the occluder, and that these actions were prospectively geared to certain times before the toy would reappear. In two longitudinal studies, the development of predictive reaching was investigated in healthy, full-term infants and in infants classified neurologically at risk of brain damage because of low birthweight and prematurity. At each infant's first reaching session, gaze anticipated the reappearance of the moving toy. However, onset of reaching, prospective control of gaze and hand, and timing strategy varied considerably in the premature group and an attempt was made to correlate a deficiency in the ability to extract predictive information for action with mild or moderate perceptuo-motor problems later on in life.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available