Background: The relationship between the age of reaching infant developmental milestones and later intellectual function within the normal population remains unresolved. We hypothesised that the age of learning to stand in infancy would be associated with adult executive function and that the association would be apparent throughout the range of abilities, rather than confined to extremes.
Methods: The Northern Finland 1966 Birth Cohort is based upon 12,058 live-born children in a geographic and temporally defined population. Information on age at learning to stand without support was obtained at one year. At age 33-35 a random sample of 104 subjects underwent a neuropsychological test battery including tests of executive function (cognitive categorisation), visuo-spatial memory, verbal learning and visual object learning. We investigated associations between developmental data and adult neuropsychological test scores.
Results: There was a significant linear relationship between age of learning to stand and adult categorisation: the earlier the attainment of the milestone, the better was the categorisation. No such relationships were observed between infant neurodevelopment and adult cognition in other neuropsychological domains.
Conclusion: Even within the normal range of development, early development in the gross motor domain is associated with better adult executive function (in tests of categorisation). Investigation of the determinants and sequelae of normal neural development will facilitate research into a variety of neurodevelopmental disorders.