Dr. Laura Claxton

Associate Professor
Department of Health and Kinesiology


Lambert Fieldhouse, Room 304A
(765) 496-1239


PhD, Developmental Psychology, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
MS, Developmental Psychology, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
BA, Psychology, University of Oregon, Eugene

Research Interests

Cognitive development; Infant motor development; Postural stability in newly sitting and standing infants

Dr. Laura Claxton

Research description

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.

Current Students

Paige Thompson (Health and Kinesiology)
Expected Degree: PhD

Past Students

Amanda Arnold (PhD - 2019)

  • Dissertation title: The Impact of Object Carriage on Walking Abilities and Language Development in Infancy
  • Current position (2019): Postdoctoral Researcher in the Pediatric Rehabilitation Technology Lab, Department of Bioengineering, University of California Riverside