Use it or lose it? Effects of age, experience, and disuse on crawling

Whitney G. Cole, Beatrix Vereijken, Jesse W. Young, Scott R. Robinson, Karen E. Adolph

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


What happens to early acquired but later abandoned motor skills? To investigate effects of disuse on early-developing motor skills, we examined crawling in two groups of habitual crawlers (34 6–12-month-old infants and five adults with Uner Tan Syndrome) and two groups of rusty crawlers (27 11–12-year-old children and 13 college-aged adults). Habitual crawlers showed striking similarities in gait patterns, limbs supporting the body, and crawling speed, despite dramatic differences in crawling practice, posture, and body size. Habitual crawlers trotted predominantly, whereas rusty crawlers showed a variety of gait patterns. Within sequences, habitual crawlers and children showed more switches in gait patterns than young adults. Children crawled faster and kept fewer limbs on the grounds than the other groups. Old crawling patterns were retained despite disuse, but new ones were also added. Surprisingly, results indicate that nothing was lost with disuse, but some features of crawling were gained or altered.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)29-42
Number of pages14
JournalDevelopmental Psychobiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2019


  • crawling
  • disuse
  • experience
  • locomotion
  • motor development
  • quadrupedal gait

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Developmental Neuroscience
  • Developmental Biology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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