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Ten-week-old babies practice learning to walk by ‘reflex walking’, according to new research by Lancaster University.
Two sets of infants took part in the study which was published in Neuropsychologia.
One set of infants participated in the reflex walking exercises, the other did not.
Reflex walking is a primitive instinct in babies which disappears around 12 weeks of age. The baby will usually touch a flat surface with the soles of their feet, reflexively putting one foot in front of the other.
The group of infants that did this took an average of 23 steps in three minutes.
Both sets of babies were then shown video footage of human figures walking and crawling and their brain activity was monitored. The group that had attended the reflex walking exercises were the only ones who were able to recognise the same movement in the film of figures walking.
This response was more akin to that of older children learning to walk rather than that of babies. The more mature brain activity was not present in those children who did not take part in the reflex walking.
Psychologist Professor Vincent Reid said: “This result strongly suggests that experience refines the perception of biological motion during early infancy.
“The act of walking has therefore shifted the percept of biological motion for those infants who had experienced self-produced stepping behaviour. This suggests that the limited period of experience … altered the infant’s perception of walking, indicating a link between action perception and action production in early infancy.”