Ball catching: development


Angelakopoulos GT, Tsorbatzoudis H, Grouios G. Children's catching performance when the demands on the postural system is altered. Motor Control. 2014 Jul;18(3):244-62. doi: 10.1123/mc.2012-0101. PubMed PMID: 24277925.

In many dynamic interceptive actions performers need to integrate activity of manual and postural subsystems for successful performance. Groups of different skill level (poor and good catchers), (mean age = 9.1 and 9.4 respectively) were required to perform one-handed catches under different postural constraints: standing; standing in contact with a postural support aid by their side (PSAS) or to the left of their trunk (PSAF); Tandem; and sitting (control). Results revealed that, for poor catchers, the number of successful catches increased and grasp errors decreased significantly when sitting and with both postural aids in comparison with standing alone and Tandem conditions. Kinematic analyses showed that the postural aid devices reduced head sway in the anterior-posterior direction, while the PSAF reduced lateral head sway. The poor catchers' performance benefited from an enlarged support surface, and reduction of lateral sway. Good catchers performed successfully under all task constraints, signifying the existence of a functional relationship between postural and grasping subsystems during performance. The results are discussed in the frame of Bernstein's (1967) and Newell's (1986) theory.

Asmussen MJ, Przysucha EP, Zerpa C. Intralimb coordination in children with and without developmental coordination disorder in one-handed catching. J Mot Behav. 2014;46(6):445-53. doi: 10.1080/00222895.2014.945394. PubMed PMID: 25226351.

There is a gap in the literature in regard to analysis of intralimb coordination exhibited by children with (n = 10) and without developmental coordination disorder (DCD; n = 9) in 1-handed catching. The functional data showed that children without DCD (M age = 10.6 years, SD = 1.08 years) were nearly perfect. Children with DCD (M age = 11.0 years, SD = 1.16 years) caught significantly fewer balls, and this was despite the fact that not all of them had difficulties organizing their actions at intralimb level of coordination. The analysis of the coinciding actions revealed differences at the distal (elbow-wrist relations), but not at the proximal joints where both groups exhibited decoupling between the shoulder and elbow joints. Large variability within the groups also suggested that the notion of universal coordinative tendencies at intralimb level of coordination has to be treated with caution. This is particularly true for children with DCD as different subgroups emerged in the present sample.

Fagard, J., Spelke, E., & von Hofsten, C. (2009). Reaching and grasping a moving object in 6-, 8-, and 10-month-old infants: laterality and performance. Infant Behavior & Development, 32(2), 137–46. doi:10.1016/j.infbeh.2008.12.002

The goal of this study was to investigate some of the visuo-motor factors underlying an infant's developing ability to grasp a laterally-moving object. In particular, hand preference, midline crossing, and visual-field asymmetry were investigated by comparing performance as a function of the object's direction of motion. We presented 6-, 8-, and 10-month-old infants with a graspable object, moving in a circular trajectory in the horizontal plane. Six-month-old infants reached for the object with the ipsilateral hand and grasped it with the contralateral hand. Eight-month-old infants showed a strong right-hand bias for both reaching and grasping. Ten-month-old infants showed a greater diversity of strategy use including bimanual and successful ipsilateral grasping following ipsilateral reaching in both directions of motion. Thus, motor constraints due to spatial compatibility, hand preference and bimanual coordination (but not midline crossing) must be taken into account to understand age differences in grasping a moving object.

Kayed, N. S., & Van der Meer, A. L. H. (2009). A longitudinal study of prospective control in catching by full-term and preterm infants. Experimental Brain Research, 194(2), 245–58. doi:10.1007/s00221-008-1692-2

Prospective control when catching moving toys was studied longitudinally in full-term and preterm infants between the ages of 22 and 48 weeks. The toy's distance and time to the catching place and its velocity were explored as possible timing strategies used by infants to start their hand movement. The aim of the study was to find evidence for a shift in timing strategy and whether there were differences between full-term and preterm infants. In addition, it was investigated how infants continuously guided their hands to the toy and whether this guidance was influenced by their use of timing strategy. The toy approached the infants from the side with different constant velocities and constant accelerations. Results showed that there was little difference between full-term and preterm infants' use of timing strategies. Initially, infants used a distance- or velocity-strategy, possibly causing them to have many unsuccessful catches. After a shift to a time-strategy, infants appeared to increase the number of successful catches and performed longer and more functional tau-couplings between the hand and the toy. One preterm infant did not switch to a time-strategy, and frequently missed the moving toy. The same infant also showed less functional tau-coupling with non-controlled collisions between the hand and the toy. More follow-up research is needed to investigate whether problems with extracting the relevant perceptual information for action could be an early indication of later perceptuo-motor difficulties.

Mazyn, L. I. N., Lenoir, M., Montagne, G., & Savelsbergh, G. J. P. (2007). Spatial and temporal adaptations that accompany increasing catching performance during learning. Journal of Motor Behavior, 39(6), 491–502. doi:10.3200/JMBR.39.6.491-502

The authors studied changes in performance and kinematics during the acquisition of a 1-handed catch. Participants were 8 women who took an intensive 2-week training program during which they evolved from poor catchers to subexpert catchers. An increased temporal consistency, shift in spatial location of ball-hand contact away from the body, and higher peak velocity of the transport of the hand toward the ball accompanied their improvement in catching performance. Moreover, novice catchers first adjusted spatial characteristics of the catch to the task constraints and fine-tuned temporal features only later during learning. A principal components analysis on a large set of kinematic variables indicated that a successful catch depends on (a) forward displacement of the hand and (b) the dynamics of the hand closure, thereby providing a kinematic underpinning for the traditional transport-manipulation dissociation in the grasping and catching literature.

Savelsbergh GJ, Bennett SJ, Angelakopoulos GT, Davids K. Perceptual-motor organization of children's catching behaviour under different postural constraints. Neurosci Lett. 2005 Jan 10;373(2):153-8. PubMed PMID: 15567572.

The experiment investigates the perceptual-motor organization underlying children's catching performance when the demands on the postural system are varied. For this purpose, one-handed catching performance was observed under different postural constraints in children aged 9-10 years. Two groups of eleven participants, classified as either good or poor catchers, performed one-handed catches under three different postural conditions: standing, sitting, and standing while pressing a button positioned to a postural support aid (PSA). Results revealed, first, that when seated, poor catchers approached the level of the good catchers' performance. Second, poor catchers improved their performance by using the PSA, but not to the same performance as when sitting. Third, there was no effect of postural condition on the performance of the good catchers. The performance increase in the poor catchers is attributable to a combined change in functional postural sway and better timed movement of the catching hand, made possible by exploiting the extra surface support area afforded by sitting.

Stone JA, Maynard IW, North JS, Panchuk D, Davids K. Emergent perception-action couplings regulate postural adjustments during performance of externally-timed dynamic interceptive actions. Psychol Res. 2015 Sep;79(5):829-43. doi: 10.1007/s00426-014-0613-1. PubMed PMID: 25260389.

Studies of postural coordination during performance of externally-timed interceptive actions, such as catching a ball, have been infrequent, with advanced visual information from a thrower's actions towards a catcher, typically excluded in experimental task constraints. Yet previous research suggests that manipulating participant access to such information alters their hand movements and gaze behaviours when catching. In this study, we manipulated participant access to advanced information of a thrower's actions, and from ball flight, while recording whole body kinematic and kinetic data to investigate effects on postural control during performance of interceptive actions. Twelve participants attempted to make or simulate performance of one-handed catches in three experimental conditions: when facing integrated videos of advanced visual information and ball flight only, videos of a thrower's actions only, and of ball flight only. Findings revealed when integrating advanced visual information and ball flight, and when participants were provided with ball flight information only, lower limb adjustments were primarily used to regulate posture. However, movement was initiated earlier when advanced visual information was available prior to ball flight, resulting in more controlled action and superior catching performance in the integrated condition. When advanced visual information was presented without ball flight, smaller displacements were observed in lower limb joint angles, resulting in upward projection of the centre of mass, compared to a downward trajectory when ball flight information was available, in the integrated video and ball flight, and ball-flight only conditions. Results revealed how postural coordination behaviors are dependent on specific informational constraints designed into experiments, implying that integration of task constraints in studies of human perception and action needs careful consideration.

Tijtgat P, Vanrenterghem J, Bennett SJ, De Clercq D, Savelsbergh GJ, Lenoir M. Postural adjustments in catching: on the interplay between segment stabilization and equilibrium control. Motor Control. 2013 Jan;17(1):48-61. PubMed PMID: 23154204.

The purpose of this study was to investigate postural adjustments in one-handed ball catching. Specifically, the functional role of anticipatory postural adjustments (APA) during the initial arm raising and subsequent postural adjustments (SPA) for equilibrium control and ball-hand impact were scrutinized. Full-body kinematics and kinetics allowed an analysis of the mechanical consequences of raising up the arm and preparing for ball-hand impact. APA for catching were suggested to be for segment stabilization. SPA had a functional role for equilibrium control by an inverted pendulum mechanism but were also involved in preparing for the impact of the ball on the hand, which was illustrated by an increased postural response at the end of the movement. These results were compared with raising up the arm in a well-studied reaction-time task, for which an additional counter rotation equilibrium mechanism was observed. Together, our findings demonstrate that postural adjustments should be investigated in relation to their specific functional task constraints, rather than generalizing the functional role of these postural adjustments over different tasks.

Tijtgat P, Vanrenterghem J, Bennett SJ, De Clercq D, Savelsbergh GJ, Lenoir M. Implicit advance knowledge effects on the interplay between arm movements and postural adjustments in catching. Neurosci Lett. 2012 Jun 19;518(2):117-21. doi: 10.1016/j.neulet.2012.04.066. PubMed PMID: 22580063.

This study examined if, and how, implicit advance knowledge of upcoming ball speed influences the interplay between arm movements and concomitant postural adjustments in one-handed catching. While standing, subjects were asked to catch balls that were presented with or without implicit advance knowledge of four different ball speeds. Full body kinematics and ground reaction forces were measured, which allowed the assessment of arm movements and postural adjustments through the momentum of the arm, rest of the body and whole body. Providing implicit advance knowledge induced a forward arm raising movement scaled to ball speed in the initial transport phase. However, the accompanying backward postural adjustments were unaffected, which is suggestive of a passive control mechanism. In the subsequent grasping phase, the scaling of arm raising movement exhibited in the presence of implicit advance knowledge resulted in a reduced need for postural adjustments, particularly at the highest ball speed. Together, these findings suggest that cortical involvement based on previous experience not only shapes the arm movements but also the subsequent interplaying postural responses.