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What makes newborn walking: role of visual and somesthesic stimulation

Since our previous discovery that exposure to a terrestrial optic flow specifying forward translation can elicit air stepping in human newborns, we found that the direction of optic flow leads to qualitative differences in infants’ stepping patterns. This precocious adaptability of primitive locomotion extends to tactile information as we observed that, as soon at birth, newborns change the quality of their stepping when stimulated to walk on a treadmill. These remarkable findings suggest that the human infant is biologically prepared at birth to regulate his locomotion on the basis of different visual or tactile proprioceptive information. Interestingly, these early couplings disappear in 2 months old infants not trained to step. These findings open new directions to improve early walking in infant at risk of developing motor delays.

Project team lead
Marianne Barbu-Roth