Index finger movement imitation by human neonates: motivation, learning, and left-hand preference

Pediatr Res. 2005 Oct;58(4):749-53. doi: 10.1203/01.PDR.0000180570.28111.D9.


Imitation of a fine motor movement, index finger protrusion, was examined in 39 neonates using an ethologically based objective coding system. Results confirmed that imitation of finger movements exists, and infants demonstrated "learning" as imitation developed through an incomplete imitation stage. Neonatal imitation was more frequently left-handed, an early sign of laterality in motivation to be investigated further. The existence of index finger imitation in human neonates indicates that volitional control of individuated finger movements develops much earlier than previously thought. The differential increase of index finger protrusion movements during the imitation periods suggests that this behavior is not an automatic response triggered by general arousal but instead is a true indicator of purposeful neonatal imitation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Analysis of Variance
  • Brain / pathology
  • Female
  • Fingers / anatomy & histology*
  • Functional Laterality*
  • Humans
  • Imitative Behavior*
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Learning*
  • Male
  • Movement*
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology
  • Time Factors
  • Video Recording