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Locomotor Primitives in Newborn Babies and Their Development

Science  18 Nov 2011:
Vol. 334, Issue 6058, pp. 997-999
DOI: 10.1126/science.1210617

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Abstract

How rudimentary movements evolve into sophisticated ones during development remains unclear. It is often assumed that the primitive patterns of neural control are suppressed during development, replaced by entirely new patterns. Here we identified the basic patterns of lumbosacral motoneuron activity from multimuscle recordings in stepping neonates, toddlers, preschoolers, and adults. Surprisingly, we found that the two basic patterns of stepping neonates are retained through development, augmented by two new patterns first revealed in toddlers. Markedly similar patterns were observed also in the rat, cat, macaque, and guineafowl, consistent with the hypothesis that, despite substantial phylogenetic distances and morphological differences, locomotion in several animal species is built starting from common primitives, perhaps related to a common ancestral neural network.

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