The functional significance of arm movements in neonates

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Science  03 Feb 1995:
Vol. 267, Issue 5198, pp. 693-695
DOI: 10.1126/science.7839147


Arm movements made by newborn babies are usually dismissed as unintentional, purposeless, or reflexive. Spontaneous arm-waving movements were recorded while newborns lay supine facing to one side. They were allowed to see only the arm they were facing, only the opposite arm on a video monitor, or neither arm. Small forces pulled on their wrists in the direction of the toes. The babies opposed the perturbing force so as to keep an arm up and moving normally, but only when they could see the arm, either directly or on the video monitor. The findings indicate that newborns can purposely control their arm movements in the face of external forces and that development of visual control of arm movement is underway soon after birth.