School

School of Humanities and Sciences

Department

Psychology

ICC Theme

Inquiry, Imagination, and Innovation

Date

2-4-2019 12:10 PM

Abstract

While executive functioning has been shown to be important for academic success, how it develops is unknown. Executive functioning involves regulatory processes associated with cognitive flexibility, the planning, and initiation of voluntary actions, and inhibitory control (Diamond, 2000). One theory posits that its development is dependent on self-produced locomotion. This claim was investigated at Ithaca College through a multi-year interdisciplinary project. Following random assignment to a locomotor or non-locomotor condition, five-month-old non-locomoting infants participated in 12 play sessions. In the locomotor condition, infants could locomote towards a toy using a robotic-controlled device; sessions were identical for the non-locomotor condition except that infants did not locomote. At seven months of age, all infants were assessed on a variety of executive functioning tasks, including the two reported here – a means-end and a rule switching task. The data were produced using an eye-tracking system from Applied Science Laboratories and Gazetracker software from Eye Response Technology, which recorded the eye gaze and pupil diameter during the tasks.

We hypothesized that the infants who had locomoted during the 12 play sessions would show more evidence of executive functioning at seven months of age than the non-locomoting infants.

In the means-end task infants viewed a video where a block tower was positioned on a platform; as a screen was placed in front of the tower, they could see the platform move. When the screen was removed, the tower was either shifted to a new location (following the movement of the platform) or it remained in the same location (despite the platform moving). We hypothesized that the locomotor group would show more surprise, as measured by pupil dilation, when the tower did not move with the platform, due to an anticipated change in location. Results are reported for 9 infants in the locomotor condition and 11 infants in the non-locomotor condition. Using non-parametric analyses, our hypothesis was supported. We did not find a change in pupil diameter for the non-locomotor group (M= 30.18 vs. M= 30.29) but did for the locomotor group (M= 26.62 vs. M= 29.63), p = .022.

For the switch task, we measured the ability of the participants to switch from using one established rule to a new rule. The task started with a puppet that emerged on the right side of the screen for nine consecutive trials before switching to the left side of the screen. Before each trial, a visual cue was presented to guide the infants in the direction they were expected to look at. With the use of the eye tracker, we measured anticipation of the side the puppet was to appear. We hypothesized that the infants in the locomotor condition would be more likely than the infants in the non-locomotor condition to inhibit the response learned during the first nine trials. Scores for the trials following the switch were determined as follows: +2 for a correct look, 0 for no looks, -1 for looks in both directions, and -2 for an incorrect look. Results are reported for 22 participants in the locomotor condition and 23 in the non-locomotor condition. An ANOVA revealed that infants in the locomotor condition performed better on the task, compared to those in the non-locomotor condition (M= -.14 vs. M= -1.86), F (1,40) = 4.45, p=.041.

The results of this study suggest that self-produced locomotion can contribute to the development of executive functioning in infancy. This conclusion has implications for physical and occupational therapists working with children with motor limitations. Early intervention with a robotic device such as the one used here may help to develop the executive functioning of these children.

Document Type

Poster

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Apr 2nd, 12:10 PM

Learning to Think by Learning to Move: Effects of Self-Produced Locomotion on Executive Functioning During Infancy.

While executive functioning has been shown to be important for academic success, how it develops is unknown. Executive functioning involves regulatory processes associated with cognitive flexibility, the planning, and initiation of voluntary actions, and inhibitory control (Diamond, 2000). One theory posits that its development is dependent on self-produced locomotion. This claim was investigated at Ithaca College through a multi-year interdisciplinary project. Following random assignment to a locomotor or non-locomotor condition, five-month-old non-locomoting infants participated in 12 play sessions. In the locomotor condition, infants could locomote towards a toy using a robotic-controlled device; sessions were identical for the non-locomotor condition except that infants did not locomote. At seven months of age, all infants were assessed on a variety of executive functioning tasks, including the two reported here – a means-end and a rule switching task. The data were produced using an eye-tracking system from Applied Science Laboratories and Gazetracker software from Eye Response Technology, which recorded the eye gaze and pupil diameter during the tasks.

We hypothesized that the infants who had locomoted during the 12 play sessions would show more evidence of executive functioning at seven months of age than the non-locomoting infants.

In the means-end task infants viewed a video where a block tower was positioned on a platform; as a screen was placed in front of the tower, they could see the platform move. When the screen was removed, the tower was either shifted to a new location (following the movement of the platform) or it remained in the same location (despite the platform moving). We hypothesized that the locomotor group would show more surprise, as measured by pupil dilation, when the tower did not move with the platform, due to an anticipated change in location. Results are reported for 9 infants in the locomotor condition and 11 infants in the non-locomotor condition. Using non-parametric analyses, our hypothesis was supported. We did not find a change in pupil diameter for the non-locomotor group (M= 30.18 vs. M= 30.29) but did for the locomotor group (M= 26.62 vs. M= 29.63), p = .022.

For the switch task, we measured the ability of the participants to switch from using one established rule to a new rule. The task started with a puppet that emerged on the right side of the screen for nine consecutive trials before switching to the left side of the screen. Before each trial, a visual cue was presented to guide the infants in the direction they were expected to look at. With the use of the eye tracker, we measured anticipation of the side the puppet was to appear. We hypothesized that the infants in the locomotor condition would be more likely than the infants in the non-locomotor condition to inhibit the response learned during the first nine trials. Scores for the trials following the switch were determined as follows: +2 for a correct look, 0 for no looks, -1 for looks in both directions, and -2 for an incorrect look. Results are reported for 22 participants in the locomotor condition and 23 in the non-locomotor condition. An ANOVA revealed that infants in the locomotor condition performed better on the task, compared to those in the non-locomotor condition (M= -.14 vs. M= -1.86), F (1,40) = 4.45, p=.041.

The results of this study suggest that self-produced locomotion can contribute to the development of executive functioning in infancy. This conclusion has implications for physical and occupational therapists working with children with motor limitations. Early intervention with a robotic device such as the one used here may help to develop the executive functioning of these children.

 

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