Spatially specific changes in infants' muscle coactivity as they learn to reach

John P. Spencer, Esther Thelen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Citations (Scopus)


Infants first reach out and touch objects between the ages of 3 and 5 months. This article reports changes in muscle coactivity associated with this transition. A group of 4 infants were observed weekly from 3 to 30 weeks and every 2 weeks from 30 to 52 weeks. Hand kinematics of both prereaching and reaching movements were collected, as was electromyographic activity from the trapezius, deltoid, biceps, and triceps. Before infants first reached for toys presented at midline, they used biceps and triceps to move their hands near the toy in front of them and 45° to the side of midline. After the transition, they used trapezius and deltoid to move the hand toward the toy and combinations of multiple muscles when their arms were high and extended near the toy. Thus, infants showed a dramatic change in which muscles worked together across the transition to reaching, even though their hands moved in similar spatial regions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)275-302
Number of pages28
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2000

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