Research Seminar: 8th December

Developing brains in developing bodies:
Why should psychologists care about motor skills?

The development of motor control is central to our ability to act on and interact with the world, with a developing body providing the basis for exploration of the physical and social environment. However, motor development has often suffered as the ‘poor relation’ to other domains within psychology, such as perceptual, cognitive and social development, with motor control viewed as the execution system for the more complex abstract and conceptual processing going on in the mind.

In this talk, I will discuss the role of motor development within a complex, dynamic system, exploring its relationships with language, social processing, and cognition in typically- and atypically-developing populations. I will present data from studies of infants at-risk of autism spectrum disorder (ASD), considering the relationships between early motor skill and language and face processing outcomes in infants who go on to develop ASD, compared to those who do not. The second part of the talk will focus on Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD), a neurodevelopmental disorder diagnosed on the basis of motor impairment, presenting data from a study of executive functioning in children with DCD and others with motor difficulties. I will suggest that domains that are often studied separately within psychology are intrinsically linked at multiple levels, and that the emergence of motor control is a key organising factor in the dynamic system of human development.

Dr Hayley Leonard
School of Psychology, University of Surrey

4.00pm to 5.00pm in 01AC02