Dr. Laura Claxton

Associate Professor
Department of Health and Kinesiology

Contact

Lambert Fieldhouse, Room 304A
(765) 496-1239
ljclaxton@purdue.edu

Education

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.

Selected Publications

Liddy JJ, Zelaznik HN, Huber JE, Rietdyk S, Claxton LJ, Samuel A, & Haddad JM (2016). The efficacy of Microsoft Kinect(TM) to assess human bimanual coordination. Behavioral Research Methods, pp:1-18

O’Brien KM, Zhang J, Walley PR, Rhoads JF, Haddad JM, & Claxton LJ  (2015).  A model to investigate the mechanisms underlying the emergence and development of independent sitting. Developmental Science, 18:622-634.

Carlson SM, Claxton LJ, & Moses LJ (2015). The relation between executive function and theory of mind is more than skin deep. Journal of Cognition and Development, 16:186-197. 

Melzer DK & Claxton LJ (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 LJ, Strasser JM, Leung EJ, Ryu JH, & O’Brien KM (2014). Sitting infants alter the magnitude and structure of postural sway when performing a manual goal-directed task. Developmental Psychobiology, 56:1416-1422.  

Claxton LJ, Haddad JM, Ponto K, Ryu JH, & 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 JM, Claxton LJ, Melzer DK, 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 JM, Rietdyk S, Claxton LJ, & Huber JE (2013). Task dependent postural control throughout the lifespan. Exercise and Sport Sciences Reviews, 41:123-132.

Claxton LJ & Ponto K (2013). Understanding the properties of interactive televised characters. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 34:57-62.

Claxton LJ, Melzer DK, Ryu JH, & Haddad JM (2012). The control of posture in newly standing infants is task dependent. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 113:159-165.

Haddad JM, Rietdyk S, & Claxton LJ (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, 40:117.

Haddad JM, Claxton LJ, Keen R, Berthier N, Riccio GE, Hamill J, & Van Emmerik R (2012). Development of the coordination between posture and manual control. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 111:286-298.

Claxton LJ (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 LJ, McCarty ME, & Keen R (2009). Self-directed action affects planning in tool-use tasks with toddlers. Infant Behavior and Development, 32:230-233.

Carlson SM, Moses LJ, & Claxton LJ (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 LJ, Keen R, & McCarty ME (2003). Evidence of motor planning in infant reaching behavior. Psychological Science, 14:354-356.

Selected Presentations

Arnold AJ, Collignon A, Gaona P, Sheets R, Smith S, & Claxton LJ (2015).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 AJ, Collignon A, Gaona P, Sheets R, Smith S, & Claxton LJ (2015). 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 AJ, Harris RC, Liddy JJ, & Claxton LJ (2015). 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 JJ, Haddad JM, Huber JE, Claxton LJ, Rietdyk S, & Zelaznik H (2015). 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 RC, Liddy JJ, & Claxton LJ (2014). 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.

Claxton LJ, Strasser J, Leung E, O'Brien K, and Ryu JH (2013). Changes in the Postural Dynamics of Sitting Infants as They Perform a Concurrent Task. Talk given at the annual meeting of the North American Society for the Psychology of Sport and Physical Activity, New Orleans, Louisiana.

Claxton LJ, Strasser J, Leung E, Ryu JH, & O’Brien K (2013). Sitting Infants Increase Stability When Engaged in a Supra-postural Task. Poster presented at the biennial meeting of the Society for Research in Child Development, Seattle, Washington.

Claxton LJ, Leung E, Strasser J, O’Brien K, & Ryu JH (2013). Sitting Infants Reduce Sway Velocity in Response to Visual Task-Demands. Poster presented at the biennial meeting of the Society for Research in Child Development, Seattle, Washington.

Claxton LJ, Strasser J, Leung E, & Carlson SM (2012). Individual Differences in the Development of Executive Functioning and Motor Control in Preschool-aged Children. Talk given at the annual meeting of the North American Society for the Psychology of Sport and Physical Activity, Honolulu, Hawaii.

Claxton LJ, Strasser J, Leung E, & Ryu JH (2012). Newly Standing Infants Adapt Postural Sway When Engaging in a Visually-demanding Supra-postural Task. Talk given at the annual meeting of the North American Society for the Psychology of Sport and Physical Activity, Honolulu, Hawaii.

O’Brien K, Rhoads J, Haddad JM, & Claxton LJ (2012). A Mathematical Model to Explore the Mechanisms Underlying the Development of Independent Sitting in Infants. Talk given at the annual meeting of the North American Society for the Psychology of Sport and Physical Activity, Honolulu, Hawaii.

Current Students

Amanda Arnold  (Health and Kinesiology)
Expected Degree: PhD

Lucas Rooney  (Health and Kinesiology)
Expected Degree: MS