Gottwald, J. M. Achermann, S., Marciszko, C., Lindskog, M. & Gredebäck, G. (2016) An embodied account of early executive function development: Prospective motor control in infancy is related to inhibition and working memory. Psychological Science, 27, 1600-1610.

Executive functions’ (EF) importance for later life outcomes, along with the potential to be positively affected by intervention programs, motivates the need to find early EF markers. In this study, 18-month-olds performed three EF tasks (simple inhibition, working memory, more complex inhibition) and a motion-capture task assessing prospective motor control during reaching. We demonstrate that prospective motor control, as measured by the peak velocity of the first movement unit, is related to infants’ performance on simple inhibition and working memory tasks. The current study gives evidence that motor control and EF are intertwined early in life, suggesting an embodied perspective on EF development. We argue that EF and prospective motor control develop from a common source and a single motive: to control action. This is the first demonstration that low-level movement planning is related to higher order executive control early in life.