Learning to Move

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About Simons Foundation Lectures

Simons Foundation Lectures are free public colloquia related to basic science and mathematics. These high-level talks are intended for professors, students, postdocs and business professionals, but interested people from the metropolitan area are welcome as well.
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Basic motor skills such as looking, reaching and walking do not simply appear as the result of maturation. Rather, infants must learn to move. Learning entails discovering new forms of movements to suit the task at hand and using perceptual information to select and modify movements adaptively.

In this lecture, Karen E. Adolph will discuss how infants learn to generate and control their motor actions. Learning to move involves more than merely lifting the limbs against gravity. Adaptive action requires that movements be constructed, selected and modified in accordance with the constraints and opportunities provided by the physical and social environment. The learning process is geared toward flexibility rather than rote performance: Infants are ‘learning to learn’ rather than acquiring fixed solutions.

James C. Galloway will provide post-lecture commentary on how research on typical development can inform motor functioning in autism.

If this lecture is videotaped, it will be posted here after production.

About the Speaker

Karen E. Adolph is professor of psychology at the Center for Neuroscience at New York University, as well as a fellow of the American Psychological Association and the American Psychological Society. She is incoming president of the International Society for Infant Studies and is leading the Databrary.org project to enable open sharing of video data among developmental scientists.

Adolph has pioneered research on motor skill acquisition in infants, and in particular how infants learn to use perceptual and social information to guide actions adaptively. Her research also examines effects of body growth, exploratory activity, environmental and social supports, and culture on perceptual-motor learning and development.

James C. (Cole) Galloway is director of the Pediatric Mobility Lab and Design Studio, and professor of physical therapy at the University of Delaware. Galloway began focusing on young children following a postdoctoral fellowship with Esther Thelen. His research focuses on how multiple biological, psychological and environmental factors contribute to the emergence of exploratory behaviors. Current projects focus on advancing the technology and training to assist children in maximizing their daily exploration.

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