Laura J. Claxton

Research Interests:

Dr. Claxton's primary research interest focuses on motor development in infants and young children. When infants first start to stand, they are typically very unstable and unable to remain upright for an extended period of time. However, Dr. Claxton and her colleagues are finding evidence that these newly standing infants can easily adapt their postural sway to facilitate task performance. For example, a newly standing infant can typically only remain stable for around 4 seconds before they fall. However, if you give that infant a toy to hold onto, he/she will stand for around 12 seconds. This threefold increase in stability appears to enable the infants to complete their task of exploring the toy. Continuing along this research line, Dr. Claxton is addressing the following questions: 1) Does this adaptive constraining of sway develop when infants first start to stand or is this adaptive behavior present at earlier key postural milestones (e.g., when infants first start to sit)? 2) Can we develop a mathematical model that accounts for the different mechanism behind the development of infant postural sway? 3) Can we develop training paradigms for infants with motor developmental delays to help improve the rate at which they reach key motor milestones?

Dr. Claxton is also investigating the relation between motor skills and cognitive skills in preschool-aged children. An increasing amount of research has demonstrated that cognitive and motor abilities are linked in development. Children who have better cognitive skills tend to also excel at motor abilities and vice versa. One mechanism that might link these two abilities is our executive functioning ability. One key component of executive functioning is our ability to inhibit behaviors, commonly referred to as inhibitory control. Dr. Claxton is currently exploring the role inhibitory control might play in the expression of fine motor and gross motor behaviors and whether training in fine and gross motor abilities will transfer to overall improvements in inhibitory control abilities.

Education:

Ph.D. (2007), Developmental Psychology, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
M.S. (2002), Developmental Psychology, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
B.A. (1998), Psychology, University of Oregon, Eugene

Selected Publications:

  • Arnold, A.J., & Claxton, L.J. (in press). To Drop or Not to Drop: Newly Standing Infants Maintain Hold of Objects When Experiencing a Loss of Balance. Journal of Motor Learning and Development.
  • O’Brien, K.M., Zhang, J., Walley, P.R., Rhoads, J.F., Haddad, J.M., & Claxton, L.J. (2015). A model to investigate the mechanisms underlying the emergence and development of independent sitting.  Developmental Science, 18(4), 622-634.
  • Carlson, S.M., Claxton, L.J., & Moses, L.J. (2015). The relation between executive function and theory of mind is more than skin deep. Journal of Cognition and Development, 16, 186-197.
  • Melzer, D.K. & Claxton, L.J. (2014).  Do actions speak louder than knowledge? Action 
    manipulation, parental discourse, and children’s mental state understanding in pretense. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 128, 21-36.  
  • Claxton, L.J., Strasser, J.M., Leung, E.J., Ryu, J.H., & O’Brien, K.M.  (2014).  Sitting infants alter the magnitude and structure of postural sway when performing a manual goal-directed task. Developmental Psychobiology, 56(6), 1416-1422.  
  • Claxton, L.J., Haddad, J.M., Ponto, K., Ryu, J.H., & Newcomer, S. (2013).  Newly standing infants increase postural stability when performing a supra-postural task. PLoS ONE 8(8): e71288. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0071288.
  • Haddad, J.M., Claxton, L.J., Melzer, D.K., Hamill, J., & Van Emmerik, R. (2013). Developmental changes in postural stability during the performance of a precision manual task. Journal of Motor Learning and Development, 1, 12-19.
  • Haddad, J.M., Rietdyk, S., Claxton, L.J., & Huber, J.E. (2013). Task dependent postural control throughout the lifespan. Exercise and Sport Sciences Reviews, 41(2), 123-132.
  • Claxton, L.J. & Ponto, K. (2013). Understanding the properties of interactive televised characters. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 34, 57-62.
  • Claxton, L.J., Melzer, D.K., Ryu, J.H., & Haddad, J.M. (2012). The control of posture in newly standing infants is task dependent. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 113, 159-165.
  • Haddad, J. M., Rietdyk, S., & Claxton, L. J. (2012). Exercise training to improve
    independence and quality of life in impaired individuals: A commentary on Li and Hondzinski’s “Reversal of movement dysfunction due to peripheral neuropathy with exercise modalities”. Exercise and Sports Science Reviews, 40(3), 117.
  • Haddad, J.M., Claxton, L.J., Keen, R., Berthier, N., Riccio, G.E., Hamill, J., & Van Emmerik, R. (2012). Development of the coordination between posture and manual control. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 111, 286-298.
  • Claxton, L.J. (2011). An investigation of preschoolers’ misattributions of the properties of two-dimensional images: Understanding the relationship between a symbol and its referent. Infant and Child Development, 20, 301-312.
  • Claxton, L.J., McCarty, M.E., & Keen, R. (2009). Self-directed action affects planning in tool-use tasks with toddlers. Infant Behavior and Development, 32, 230-233.
  • Carlson, S. M., Moses, L. J., & Claxton, L.J. (2004). Individual differences in executive functioning and theory of mind: An investigation of inhibitory control and planning. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 87, 299-319.
  • Claxton, L.J., Keen, R., & McCarty, M. E. (2003). Evidence of motor planning in infant reaching behavior. Psychological Science, 14, 354-356.

Selected Presentations:

  • Arnold, A.J., Harris, R.C., Liddy, J.J., Schwichtenberg, A.J., & Claxton, L.J. (2017, June). Sitting Postural Sway of 12-month-old Infants at Low and High Risk of Autism Spectrum Disorder. North American Society for the Psychology of Sport and Physical Activity, San Diego, California. Podium.
  • Melzer, D.M & Claxton, L.J. (2017, April). The Relationship Between Cognition and Action in At-risk Preschool Children. Society for Research in Child Development, Austin, Texas. Poster
  • Ducharme, S.W., Liddy, J.J., Haddad, J.M., Busa, M.A., Claxton, L.J., & van Emmerik, R.E.A. (2016, June).  Fractal dynamics and gait adaptability during asymmetrical walking.  North American Society for the Psychology of Sport and Physical Activity Conference, Montreal, Canada. Podium.
  • Liddy, J.J., Chagdes, J.R., Arnold, A.J., Claxton, L.J., & Haddad, J.M. (2016, June).  Postural sway                inaccuracies using the Wii Balance Board: A mathematical description. North American Society for the Psychology of Sport and Physical Activity Conference, Montreal, Canada. Podium.
  • Arnold, A.J., Harris, R.C., Liddy, J.J., Schwichtenberg, A.J., Claxton L.J. (2016, May).  Impact of surface stability on sitting postural sway in 15-month-old infants at low- and high-risk of ASD. International Conference of Infant Studies, New Orleans, LA. Poster.
  • Arnold, A. J., Collignon, A., Gaona, P., Sheets, R., Smith, S., & Claxton, L. J. (2015, June).Evidence of object prioritization in infancy. Talk given at the North American Society for the Psychology of Sport and Physical Activity Conference, Portland, OR.
  • Arnold, A. J., Collignon, A., Gaona, P., Sheets, R., Smith, S., & Claxton, L. J. (2015, June). The impact of holding a toy on arm guard position in newly standing infants. Talk given at the North American Society for the Psychology of Sport and Physical Activity Conference, Portland, OR.
  • Arnold, A. J., Harris, R. C., Liddy, J. J., & Claxton, L. J. (2015, June). Postural sway of sitting infants on solid and foam surfaces while engaged in concurrent tasks. Poster presented at the North American Society for the Psychology of Sport and Physical Activity Conference, Portland, OR.
  • Liddy, J.J.,Haddad, J.M., Huber, J.E., Claxton, L.J., Rietdyk, S., & Zelaznik, H. (2015, June).  
    Assessing bimanual coordination with the Microsoft Kinect.  Talk given at the North American Society for the Psychology of Sport and Physical Activity Conference, Portland, OR.
  • Harris, R.C., Liddy, J.J., & Claxton, L.J. (2014, September). Validation of the Wii Balance Board as a Device to Assess Postural Sway in Sitting Infants. Poster presented at the Society for Research in Child Development, Special Topics Meeting: Developmental Methodology, San Diego, California.

Laura J. Claxton

Associate Professor

Lambert, Room 304A
Phone: (765) 496-2293
Fax: (765) 496-1239
Email: ljclaxton@purdue.edu

The Motor Behavior Group

Health & Kinesiology, 800 W. Stadium Ave., West Lafayette, IN 47907, PH:(765) 494-3170, Fax: (765) 496-1239

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