The visual world is cluttered with many targets and many distractions. Learning requires selecting and stabilizing attention on just some of that information. The proposed research examines the idea that for toddlers, effective visual attention is fundamentally a sensory-motor process involving external bodily actions. The proposed research addresses a gap in current understanding of how sensory- motor behavior supports effective visual attention, a critical gap given the evidence implicating atypical attention in many developmental disorders and the well established co-morbidity of atypical sensory-motor patterns in these same developmental disorders The proposed experiments measure multiple sensory and motor streams: head and hand movements, eye-gaze direction, and the first- person head-centered view as 12 to 24 month old children act on and learn about objects. The studies will provide a fine-grained description of the dynamics of visual attention, of how children's own actions help to sustain and stabilize visual attention, and the role of these processes in learning about objects.
The co-morbidity of motor and cognitive disorders and the link between of excessive movement and poor attentional control are well-known but not well- understood. This research -by linking attention to early sensory-motor coordination - may provide a breakthrough domain for understanding the developmental dependencies between sensory-motor processes and early cognitive development, for early diagnosis, and for early intervention.
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