Experimental Brain Research

, Volume 151, Issue 1, pp 32–45 | Cite as

Development of postural adjustments during reaching in sitting children

  • Jolanda C. van der Heide
  • Bert Otten
  • Leo A. van Eykern
  • Mijna Hadders-Algra
Research Article


We evaluated the development of postural adjustments accompanying reaching movements in sitting children. Twenty-nine typically developing children aged, 2–11 years, and ten adults were studied with multiple surface electromyograms (EMGs) and kinematics during reaching in four conditions: sitting with the seat-surface oriented horizontally with and without an additional task load, and sitting with the seat-surface tilted 15° forward and 15° backward. The development of postural adjustments during reaching in a sitting position turned out to have a non-linear and protracted course, which is not finished by the age of 11 years. The development of these adjustments is characterised by variation, yet specific developmental sequences could be distinguished. Firstly, the development of postural adjustments during reaching from the age of 2 years onwards lacked a preference for an en bloc strategy, which consists of an in concert activation of the direction-specific neck and trunk muscles. Secondly, anticipatory postural muscle activity, which was consistently present in adults, was virtually absent between 2 and 11 years of age. Thirdly, the data demonstrated that with increasing age the head gradually becomes the dominant frame of reference. In addition, the study suggested that, in terms of postural control, the forward-tilted position is the most efficient one.


Postural adjustments Development Child Sitting position Reaching 


  1. Aruin AS, Forrest WR, Latash ML (1998) Anticipatory postural adjustments in conditions of postural instability. Electroencephalogr Clin Neurophysiol 109:350–359PubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. Assaiante C (1998) Development of locomotor balance control in healthy children. Neurosci Biobehav Rev 22:527–532Google Scholar
  3. Assaiante C, Amblard B (1993) Ontogenesis of head stabilisation in space during locomotion in children: influence of visual cues. Exp Brain Res 93:499–515PubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. Assaiante C, Woollacott M, Amblard B (2000) Development of postural adjustment during gait initiation: kinematic and EMG analysis. J Mot Behav 32:211–226PubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. Berger W, Trippel M, Assaiante C, Zijlstra W, Dietz V (1995) Developmental aspects of equilibrium control during stance: a kinematic and EMG study. Gait Posture 3:149–155CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. De Wolf S, Slijper H, Latash ML (1998). Anticipatory postural adjustments during self-paced and reaction-time movements. Exp Brain Res 121:7–19PubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. Forssberg H, Hirschfeld H (1994) Postural adjustments in sitting humans following external perturbations: muscle activity and kinematics. Exp Brain Res 97:515–527PubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. Forssberg H, Nashner LM (1982) Ontogenetic development of postural control in man: adaptation to altered support and visual conditions during stance. J Neurosci 2:545–552PubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. Gerver WJM (1988) Measurements of the body proportions in children. The Oosterwolde study. PhD Thesis, University of GroningenGoogle Scholar
  10. Haas G, Diener HC, Rapp H, Dichgans J (1989) Development of feedback and feedforward control of upright stance. Dev Med Child Neurol 31:481–488PubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. Hadders-Algra M, Brogren E, Forssberg H (1996) Ontogeny of postural adjustments during sitting in infancy: variation, selection and modulation. J Physiol 493:273–288PubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. Hadders-Algra M, Brogren E, Forssberg H (1998) Postural adjustments during sitting at pre-school age: presence of a transient toddling phase. Dev Med Child Neurol 40:436–447PubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. Hay L, Redon C (1999) Feedforward versus feedback control in children and adults subjected to a postural disturbance. Exp Brain Res 125:153–162CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  14. Henderson SE, Sugden DA (1992) The movement assessment battery of children (MABC). Psychological Corporation, Kent UKGoogle Scholar
  15. Horak FB, Esselman P, Anderson ME, Lynch MK (1984) The effects of movement velocity, mass displaced, and task certainty on associated postural adjustments made by normal and hemiplegic individuals. J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry 47:1020–1028PubMedGoogle Scholar
  16. Kirshenbaum N, Riach CL, Starkes JL (2001) Non-linear development of postural control. Exp Brain Res 140:420–431. DOI 10.1007/s002210100835CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  17. Massion J, Ioffe M, Schmitz C, Viallet F, Gantcheva R (1999) Acquisition of anticipatory postural adjustments in a bimanual load-lifting task: normal and pathological aspects. Exp Brain Res 128:229–235CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. McClenaghan BA, Thombs L, Milner M (1992) Effects of seat-surface inclination on postural stability and function of the upper extremities of children with cerebral palsy. Dev Med Child Neurol 34:40–48PubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. Moore S, Brunt D, Nesbitt ML, Juarez T (1992) Investigation of evidence for anticipatory postural adjustments in seated subjects who performed a reaching task. Phys Ther 72:335–343PubMedGoogle Scholar
  20. Myhr U, Von Wendt L (1991) Improvement of functional sitting position for children with cerebral palsy. Dev Med Child Neurol 33:246–256PubMedGoogle Scholar
  21. Pozzo T, Berthoz A, Lefort L (1990) Head stabilisation during various locomotor tasks in humans. I. Normal subjects. Exp Brain Res 82:97–106PubMedGoogle Scholar
  22. Pozzo T, Levik Y, Berthoz A (1995) Head and trunk movements in the frontal plane during complex dynamic equilibrium tasks in humans. Exp Brain Res 106:327–338PubMedGoogle Scholar
  23. Riach CL, Hayes KC (1990) Anticipatory postural control in children. J Mot Behav 22:250–256Google Scholar
  24. Riach CJ, Starkes JL (1994) Velocity of centre of pressure excursion as an indicator of postural control systems in children. Gait Posture 2:167–172Google Scholar
  25. Schmitz C, Martin N, Assaiante C (2002) Building anticipatory adjustment during childhood: a kinematic and electromyographic analysis of unloading in children from 4 to 8 years of age. Exp Brain Res 142:354–64 DOI 10.1007/s00221–001–0910-yCrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  26. Shumway-Cook A, Woollacott MH (1985) The growth of stability: postural control from a developmental perspective. J Mot Behav 17:131–147Google Scholar
  27. Van der Fits IBM, Klip AWJ, Van Eykern LA, Hadders-Algra M (1998) Postural adjustments accompanying fast pointing movements in standing, sitting and lying adults. Exp Brain Res 120:202–216CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  28. Van der Fits IBM, Klip AWJ, Van Eykern LA, Hadders-Algra M (1999a) Postural adjustments during spontaneous and goal-directed arm movements in the first half year of life. Behav Brain Res 106:75–90CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  29. Van der Fits IBM, Otten E, Klip AWJ, Van Eykern LA, Hadders-Algra M (1999b) The development of postural adjustments during reaching in 6- to 18-month-old infants: evidence for two transitions. Exp Brain Res 126:517–528CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  30. Woollacott M, Debû B, Mowatt M (1987) Neuromuscular control of posture in the infant and child: is vision dominant? J Mot Behav 19:167–186Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jolanda C. van der Heide
    • 1
  • Bert Otten
    • 2
  • Leo A. van Eykern
    • 1
  • Mijna Hadders-Algra
    • 1
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of NeurologyUniversity of GroningenGroningenThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Department of Human Movement SciencesUniversity of GroningenGroningenThe Netherlands
  3. 3.Developmental NeurologyUniversity Hospital GroningenGroningenThe Netherlands

Personalised recommendations