From Egocentric to Exocentric Spatial Orientation: Development of Posture Control in Bimanual and Trunk Inclination Tasks


  • Roncesvalles Maria Nida
  • Schmitz Christina
  • Zedka Milan
  • Assaiante Christine
  • Woollacott Marjorie

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The authors investigated the emergence of independent control of body segments in bimanual tasks involving either voluntary or involuntary trunk motion by tracking the transition from an ego- to an exocentric mode of postural control during childhood (i.e., from body-referenced orientation to externally referenced action). A paradigm combining a seated manual task and various trunk manipulations described the coordination strategies used by 24 children at different ages (2 to 9 years) and by adults. The following questions were asked: (a) When do children begin to dissociate upper limb movements from those of the trunk? (b) What segmental strategies are exhibited by each age group (2-3, 4-6, and 7-9 years, and adults)? Kinematic analyses revealed that younger children (2-6 years) used either the trunk or the support surface as reference to orient the limbs. Older children (7-9 years) began to use a gravitational reference frame similar to that of adults; they uncoupled upper limb motion from the trunk in either voluntary or imposed conditions. Young children patterned the forearm trajectory after the initiating segment (support surface or the trunk), thus reducing the degrees of freedom during the dual task. Echoing previous reports, 7-9 years of age appears to be a critical period in which children master postural control and develop an internal representation of body scheme.

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