Training infant treadmill stepping: the role of individual pattern stability

Dev Psychobiol. 1997 Mar;30(2):89-102. doi: 10.1002/(sici)1098-2302(199703)30:2<89::aid-dev1>;2-q.


In this study, we investigated the responsiveness of a developing neuromotor system to training: When is training effective and when are the effects specific to the training condition? Eight infants, six 3-month-olds and two 7-month-olds, received month-long daily training on either a fast-running treadmill, a slow-running treadmill, or a stationary treadmill. Two additional 3-month-old infants served as controls and received no training. Results showed that training led to an increased number of steps. This improvement was inversely related to initial performance: Training had more effect on infants that initially performed unstable stepping patterns. Furthermore, training facilitated the transition from multiple stepping patterns to more alternate stepping. Again, initial pattern preferences influenced these effects of training and often remained visible throughout training. Infant's responses to training at specific speeds were less clear-cut, but some indications were found that this also depended on their initial performances as well as on the characteristics of training. In general, when initial performances corresponded to the training condition, they were strengthened. When they were different from the training condition, training effects generalized to other speeds. These results suggest that the developing neuromotor system is amenable to training whenever performance is unstable, and that training effects interact with the individual's initially preferred patterns. These results are consistent with a dynamic systems view of motor development.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Analysis of Variance
  • Child Development / physiology*
  • Female
  • Gait / physiology
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Motor Skills / physiology*
  • Physical Education and Training*
  • Practice, Psychological*
  • Time and Motion Studies
  • Walking / physiology*