Bimanual strategies for object retrieval in infants and young children.
Birtles D., Anker S., Atkinson J., Shellens R., Briscoe A., Mahoney M., Braddick O.
Age differences in goal-directed bimanual coordination were studied in typically developing infants aged 9-29 months, compared to a group of children aged 4-6 years and a group of adults, using an object retrieval task. This task required one hand to open and hold the lid of a transparent box, while the second hand retrieved a small toy from inside the box. Well-coordinated retrieval strategies with differentiated use of the two hands were not established in the majority of infants until 18 months of age. Temporal analysis of the hand actions revealed that, unlike adults who perform the task with close synchronization of the hands at the start, the infants performed the task sequentially and did not activate the second hand until the first hand had started to lift the lid. The children's hand preferences for the two-hand actions also contrasted with those of adults. In children aged 27-29 months and 4-6 years, there was a preference for using the right-hand to lift the lid while in right-handed adults, the reverse pattern was observed. The results suggest that although bimanual coordination starts to develop in the second year of life, the adult pattern of performance on this task is not observed before 6 years of age. It is likely that further maturation of the brain networks involved in bimanual coordination, and in particular functional interhemispheric transfer via the corpus callosum, is required before automatization of bimanual hand actions is achieved.