Development of state estimation explains improvements in sensorimotor performance across childhood

Bradley R. King, Marcio A. Oliveira, Jose L. Contreras-Vidal, Jane E. Clark

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Previous developmental research examining sensorimotor control of the arm in school-age children has demonstrated age-related improvements in movement kinematics. However, the mechanisms that underlie these age-related improvements are still unclear. This study hypothesized that changes in sensorimotor performance across childhood can be attributed, in part, to the development of state estimation, defined as estimates computed by the central nervous system, which specify both current and future hand positions and velocities (i.e., hand "state"). Two behavioral experiments were conducted, in which 6- to 12-year-old children and young adults executed goal-directed arm movements. Results from Experiment 1 revealed that young children (i.e., ∼6-8 years) have less precise proprioceptive feedback for static (i.e., stationary) hand state estimation compared with older children (i.e., ∼10-12 years), resulting in increased variability of target-directed reaching movements. Experiment 2 demonstrated that young children rely on delayed and unreliable state estimates during the execution of goal-directed hand movements (i.e., dynamic state estimation), resulting in both increased movement errors and directional variability. Collectively, these results suggest that improvements in sensorimotor behavior across childhood can be attributed, at least partially, to the development of both static and dynamic state estimation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3040-3049
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Neurophysiology
Issue number11
StatePublished - Jun 1 2012


  • Motor development
  • Multisensory
  • Reaching
  • Visuomotor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Neuroscience(all)


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