Ever wonder how babies learn to walk? This adorable experiment in which a newborn gets perp-walked (complete with a blurred-out face) by a scientist tells us a little about how that happens.
The needlessly anonymised little baby being forced to walk along above is having his or her lumbosacral motoneuron activity monitored. As you can see, the kid does manage to take steps, even though it clearly can’t walk. The scientists dragging the baby along went on to monitor toddlers, preschoolers, and adults — none of which were cute enough to film.
The recordings gave an interesting result. Everyone had assumed that babies came with a few pre-programmed muscle response (the instinct to suck, to grab hold of whatever is in their hand, and of course crying) and that these responses were suppressed as the baby grew so that new and more useful responses could move in. Monitoring the motoneuron activity showed that babies have the same two basic step patterns that everyone else does. As we grow to be toddlers, we add two more patterns.
And it’s not just humans who develop like this. According to the study, “Markedly similar patterns were observed also in the rat, cat, macaque, and guineafowl, consistent with the hypothesis that, despite substantial phylogenetic distances and morphological differences, locomotion in several animal species is built starting from common primitives, perhaps related to a common ancestral neural network.”
Why did they not have video of that, as well?