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Durham University



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Publication details

Mowbray, R., Gottwald, J.M, Zhao, M., Atkinson, A.P. & Cowie, D. (2019). The development of visually guided stepping. Experimental Brain Research 237(11): 2875-2883.

Author(s) from Durham


Adults use vision during stepping and walking to fine-tune foot placement. However, the developmental profile of visually guided stepping is unclear. We asked (1) whether children use online vision to fine-tune precise steps and (2) whether preci- sion stepping develops as part of broader visuomotor development, alongside other fundamental motor skills like reaching. With 6-(N = 11), 7-(N = 11), 8-(N = 11)-year-olds and adults (N = 15), we manipulated visual input during steps and reaches. Using motion capture, we measured step and reach error, and postural stability.
We expected (1) both steps and reaches would be visually guided (2) with similar developmental profiles (3) foot placement biases that promote stability, and (4) correlations between postural stability and step error.
Children used vision to fine-tune both steps and reaches. At all ages, foot placement was biased (albeit not in the predicted directions). Contrary to our predictions, step error was not correlated with postural stability. By
8 years, children’s step and reach error were adult-like. Despite similar visual control mechanisms, stepping and reaching had different developmental profiles: step error reduced with age whilst reach error was lower and stable with age. We argue that the development of both visually guided and non-visually guided action is limb-specific.