The Swedish online magazine Special Nest interviewed me about my study published in Psychological Science (2016), where my colleagues and I demonstrated an association between prospective motor control and executive functions in 18-month-olds. It was a nice experience talking to Thomas Gustafsson! You can find his article “Motorik kopplas till exekutiva funktioner hos spädbarn” here (in Swedish).
Measuring prospective motor control in action development
Gottwald, J.M. (2017). Measuring prospective motor control in action development. Journal of Motor Learning and Development. Advance online publication. Find this article here
Abstract: This article critically reviews kinematic measures of prospective motor control. Prospective motor control, the ability to anticipatorily adjust movements with respect to task demands and action goals, is an important process involved in action planning. In manual object manipulation tasks, prospective motor control has been studied in various ways mainly using motion-tracking. For this matter, it is crucial to pinpoint the early part of the movement that purely reflects prospective (feed-forward) processes, but not feedback influences from the unfolding movement. One way of defining this period is to rely on a fixed time criterion; another is to base it flexibly on the inherent structure of each movement itself. Velocity – as one key characteristic of human movement – offers such a possibility and describes the structure of movements in a meaningful way. Here, I argue for the latter way of investigating prospective motor control by applying the measure of peak velocity of the first movement unit. I further discuss movement units and their significance in motor development of infants and contrast the introduced measure with other peak-velocity related measures and duration related measures.
Infants prospectively control reaching based on the difficulty of future actions – To what extent can infants’ multiple step actions be explained by Fitts’ law?
Gottwald, J.M., De Bortoli Vizioli, A., Lindskog, M., Nyström, P., Ekberg, T.L., von Hofsten, C., & Gredebäck, G. (2017). Infants prospectively control reaching based on the difficulty of future actions – To what extent can infants’ multiple step actions be explained by Fitts’ law? Developmental Psychology, 53(1), 4-12. Find this article here
Abstract: Prospective motor control, a key element of action planning, is the ability to adjust one’s actions with respect to task demands and action goals in an anticipatory manner. The current study investigates whether 14-month-olds can prospectively control their reaching actions based on the difficulty of the subsequent action. We used a reach-to-place task, with difficulty of the placing action varied by goal size and goal distance. To target prospective motor control, we determined the kinematics of the prior reaching movements using a motion-tracking system. Peak velocity of the first movement unit of the reach served as indicator for prospective motor control. Both difficulty aspects (goal size and goal distance) affected prior reaching, suggesting that both these aspects of the subsequent action have an impact on the prior action. The smaller the goal size and the longer the distance to the goal, the slower infants were in the beginning of their reach toward the object. Additionally, we modeled movement times of both reaching and placing actions using a formulation of Fitts’ law (as in heading). The model was significant for placement and reaching movement times. These findings suggest that 14-month-olds can plan their future actions and prospectively control their related movements with respect to future task difficulties.
An embodied account of early executive-functions development: Prospective motor control in infancy is related to inhibition and working memory
Gottwald, J.M., Achermann, S., Lindskog, M., Marciszko, C., & Gredebäck, G. (2016). An embodied account of early executive-functions development: Prospective motor control in
infancy is related to inhibition and working memory. Psychological Science, 27(12), 1600-1610. Find this article here
Abstract: The importance of executive functioning for later life outcomes, along with its potential to be positively affected by intervention programs, motivates the need to find early markers of executive functioning. In this study, 18-month- olds performed three executive-function tasks—involving simple inhibition, working memory, and more complex inhibition—and a motion-capture task assessing prospective motor control during reaching. We demonstrated that prospective motor control, as measured by the peak velocity of the first movement unit, is related to infants’ performance on simple-inhibition and working memory tasks. The current study provides evidence that motor control and executive functioning are intertwined early in life, which suggests an embodied perspective on executive- functioning development. We argue that executive functions and prospective motor control develop from a common source and a single motive: to control action. This is the first demonstration that low-level movement planning is related to higher-order executive control early in life.
Infants’ prospective control during object manipulation in an uncertain environment
Gottwald, J. M., & Gredebäck, G. (2015). Infants’ prospective control during object manipulation in an uncertain environment. Experimental Brain Research, 233(8), 2383–2390.
Find this article here
Abstract: 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.
Good is up – spatial metaphors in action observation
Gottwald, J. M., Elsner, B., & Pollatos, O. (2015). Good is up – spatial metaphors in action observation. Frontiers in Psychology, 6(OCT), 1605.
Find this article here
Abstract: Positive objects or actions are associated with physical highness, whereas negative objects or actions are related to physical lowness. Previous research suggests that metaphorical connection (“good is up” or “bad is down”) between spatial experience and evaluation of objects is grounded in actual experience with the body. Prior studies investigated effects of spatial metaphors with respect to verticality of either static objects or self-performed actions. By presenting videos of object placements, the current three experiments combined vertically-located stimuli with observation of vertically- directed actions. As expected, participants’ ratings of emotionally-neutral objects were systematically influenced by the observed vertical positioning, that is, ratings were more positive for objects that were observed being placed up as compared to down. Moreover, effects were slightly more pronounced for “bad is down,” because only the observed downward, but not the upward, action led to different ratings as compared to a medium-positioned action. Last, some ratings were even affected by observing only the upward/downward action, without seeing the final vertical placement of the object. Thus, both, a combination of observing a vertically-directed action and seeing a vertically- located object, and observing a vertically-directed action alone, affected participants’ evaluation of emotional valence of the involved object. The present findings expand the relevance of spatial metaphors to action observation, thereby giving new impetus to embodied-cognition research.
The neuropsychology of infants’ pro-social preferences
Gredebäck, G., Kaduk, K., Bakker, M., Gottwald, J., Ekberg, T., Elsner, C., Reid, V., & Kenward, B. (2015). The neuropsychology of infants’ pro-social preferences. Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, 12, 106–113.
Find this article here
Abstract: The current study is the first to investigate neural correlates of infants’ detection of pro- and antisocial agents. Differences in ERP component P400 over posterior temporal areas were found during 6-month-olds’ observation of helping and hindering agents (Experiment 1), but not during observation of identically moving agents that did not help or hinder (Experiment 2). The results demonstrate that the P400 component indexes activation of infants’ memories of previously perceived interactions between social agents. This leads to suggest that similar processes might be involved in infants’ processing of pro- and antisocial agents and other social perception processes (encoding gaze direction, goal directed grasping and pointing).