The development of sitting postural control in five normal infants was examined longitudinally at three stages of sitting: Stage 1, when infants could hold up their head and upper trunk, but could not sit independently; Stage 2, when infants began to sit independently briefly; and Stage 3, when infants could sit independently. Methods from nonlinear dynamics were used to analyze center of pressure (COP) data during sitting in terms of stability of the neuromuscular system (Lyapunov Exponent), movement dimensionality (Correlation Dimension), and complexity/regularity (Approximate Entropy). Results indicated significant changes in the nonlinear measures over time, with increased stability and increased regularity revealing a more stable and periodic strategy of maintaining postural control. Dimensionality decreased from Stage 1 to 2, indicating a constraint of the degrees of freedom. Subsequently, dimensionality increased from Stage 2 to 3, indicating a release of the degrees of freedom as sitting independence emerged. Nonlinear analysis of the COP time series supports the perspective that the development of postural control is a dynamic process whereby the infant learns to control the body's degrees of freedom to achieve the sitting posture.
Copyright 2003 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Dev Psychobiol 42: 368-377, 2003.