(1) Association Between Specific Motor Skills and Executive Functions from Infancy Through Kindergarten age
Annina Zysset (Children’s Hospital Zurich) and Claudia Roebers (Bern University) organised a symposium on the relation between motor skills and executive functions in infancy and early childhood. Michelle Maurer (Bern University), Derek Becker (Western Carolina University), and I contributed. My talk was entitled An Embodied Account of Executive Function Development in Infancy.
SYMPOSIUM ABSTRACT: There is accumulated evidence for an association between motor skills and executive functions (EFs). However, not much is known about the underlying mechanisms and nature of this association or change of the association across childhood lifespan. This symposium aims to extend the knowledge of cross-sectional and longitudinal association between different motor skills and EFs from early infancy through kindergarten age, using different approaches. Paper 1 will link prospective motor control and EFs in infancy. Results from 18-month-olds indicate that prospective motor control is correlated with simple inhibition and working memory, but not complex inhibition. These results will be discussed within an embodied-cognitive framework, together with ongoing longitudinal research. Paper 2 studies the cross-sectional and longitudinal association of fine motor skills, pure motor skills, motor inhibition and EFs in preschool children. Results show that – even when including environmental factors – fine motor skills are among the strongest predictors of EFs in 2-to-6-year-olds. Paper 3 assumes that the link between performance in motor and EFs tasks is driven by task novelty and complexity. The examination of motor control and EFs tasks in 5-to-6-year-olds seems to confirm this hypothesis, indicating that EFs are more required in high demand motor control tasks, and thus, explain the stronger correlations. Paper 4 investigates the cross lag effect of visuomotor skills and EFs between the Fall and Spring of prekindergarten, and Spring of prekindergarten to the Fall of kindergarten. Moreover, the paper will examine the interaction between visuomotor skills and EFs on growth in math.
(2) The growing body: a multisensory challenge
Dorothy Cowie (Durham University) organised a symposium on the development of body representation. Andrew Bremner (Birmingham University), Lucilla Cardinali (Fondazione Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia), Alessia Tonelli (Fondazione Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia), and I contributed. My talk was entitled This feels like my hand! The contributions of posture and size to embodiment across development.
SYMPOSIUM ABSTRACT: The growth of the physical body is almost synonymous with childhood development. The body changes in size and relative proportion, growing unevenly and over many years. Thus, the child is in a state of constant flux and uncertainty regarding the sole medium through which she interacts with both the physical and social world. We ask how the growing child understands her own body in this challenging context. Paper 1 introduces the idea that multisensory interactions facilitate body understanding even in early infancy, showing that visual-tactile correlations are expected and used in the first year of life. Paper 2 shows that in understanding her own body, the developing child not only uses multisensory information but also prior knowledge of body posture and size. Paper 3 reveals the significant distortions that are nevertheless present in the child’s perceived body size and judgements of her action capabilities. Papers 2 and 3 both suggest that multiple, compartmentalised body representations appear to exist in the developing brain. Paper 4 finally considers developing body representations in the different developmental context of blindness and low vision. It reveals the impact upon the multisensory understanding of the body; and shows that perception can be rehabilitated using a sound-based wearable device. We will schedule ample time for questions, and for an integrated discussion following the talks. In this way we aim to highlight state of the art in the field, and to generate new questions for research in, and beyond, this topic.