Individual differences in motor development during early childhood: an MEG study

Blake Johnson, Cecilia Jobst, Rita Al-Loos, Wei He, Douglas Cheyne*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    5 Citations (Scopus)


    In a previous study, we reported the first measurements of pre-movement and sensorimotor cortex activity in preschool age children (ages 3–5 years) using a customized pediatric magnetoencephalographic system. Movement-related activity in the sensorimotor cortex differed from that typically observed in adults, suggesting that maturation of cortical motor networks was still incomplete by late preschool age. Here we compare these earlier results to a group of school age children (ages 6–8 years) including seven children from the original study measured again two years later, and a group of adults (mean age 31.1 years) performing the same task. Differences in movement-related brain activity were observed both longitudinally within children in which repeated measurements were made, and cross-sectionally between preschool age children, school age children, and adults. Movement-related mu (8–12 Hz) and beta (15–30 Hz) oscillations demonstrated linear increases in amplitude and mean frequency with age. In contrast, movement-evoked gamma synchronization demonstrated a step-like transition from low (30–50 Hz) to high (70–90 Hz) narrow-band oscillations, and this occurred at different ages in different children. Notably, pre-movement activity (‘readiness fields’) observed in adults was absent in even the oldest children. These are the first direct observations of brain activity accompanying motor responses throughout early childhood, confirming that maturation of this activity is still incomplete by mid-childhood. In addition, individual children demonstrated markedly different developmental trajectories in movement-related brain activity, suggesting that individual differences need to be taken into account when studying motor development across age groups.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article numbere12935
    Number of pages15
    JournalDevelopmental Science
    Issue number5
    Early online date23 Dec 2019
    Publication statusPublished - Sep 2020


    • development
    • magnetoencephalography
    • motor cortex
    • mu rhythm
    • readiness potential
    • sensorimotor oscillations


    Dive into the research topics of 'Individual differences in motor development during early childhood: an MEG study'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this