INTRODUCTION: During early childhood, typical human motor behavior reveals a gradual transition from automatic motor patterns to acquired motor skills, by the continuous interplay between nature and nurture. During the wiring and shaping of the underlying motor networks, insight into the neurological phenotype of developmental motor patterns is incomplete. In healthy, typically developing children (0-3 years of age), we therefore aimed to investigate the neurological phenotype of developmental motor patterns.
METHODS: In 32 healthy, typically developing children (0-3 years), we video-recorded spontaneous motor behavior, general movements (GMs), and standardized motor tasks. We classified the motor patterns by: (a) the traditional neurodevelopmental approach, by Gestalt perception and (b) the classical neurological approach, by the clinical phenotypic determination of movement disorder features. We associated outcomes by Cramer's V.
RESULTS: Developmental motor patterns revealed (a) choreatic-like features (≤3 months; associated with fidgety GMs (r = 0.732) and startles (r = 0.687)), (b) myoclonic-like features (≤3 months; associated with fidgety GMs (r = 0.878) and startles (r = 0.808)), (c) dystonic-like features (0-3 years; associated with asymmetrical tonic neck reflex (r = 0.641) and voluntary movements (r = 0.517)), and (d) ataxic-like features (>3 months; associated with voluntary movements (r = 0.928)).
CONCLUSIONS: In healthy infants and toddlers (0-3 years), typical developmental motor patterns reveal choreatic-, myoclonic-, dystonic- and ataxic-like features. The transient character of these neurological phenotypes is placed in perspective of the physiological shaping of the underlying motor centers. Neurological phenotypic insight into developmental motor patterns can contribute to adequate discrimination between ontogenetic and initiating pathological movement features and to adequate interpretation of therapeutic interactions.