Indexed on: 19 Mar '15Published on: 19 Mar '15Published in: Developmental Psychobiology
In this paper we focus on how a developmental perspective on plasticity in the control of human movement can promote early therapy and improve gait acquisition in infants with developmental disabilities. Current knowledge about stepping development in healthy infants across the first year of life highlights strong plasticity, both in behavioral outcome and in underlying neuro-muscular activation. These data show that stepping, like other motor skills, emerges from the interaction between infant's maturation and the environment. This view is reinforced by showing that infants with different internal resources (like genetic disorder or neural tube defect) show unique developmental trajectories when supported on a treadmill, yet do respond. Moreover, we will show that their behavior can be improved by context manipulations (mostly sensory stimulation) or practice. Overall, plasticity in the neural, skeletal, and muscle tissues create new opportunities for optimizing early intervention by creatively tapping into the same developmental processes experienced by healthy infants.