Early manifestation of arm–leg coordination during stepping on a surface in human neonates

Valentina la Scaleia, Y. Ivanenko, A. Fabiano, F. Sylos-Labini, G. Cappellini, S. Picone, P. Paolillo, A. Di Paolo, F. Lacquaniti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The accomplishment of mature locomotor movements relies upon the integrated coordination of the lower and upper limbs and the trunk. Human adults normally swing their arms and a quadrupedal limb coordination persists during bipedal walking despite a strong corticospinal control of the upper extremities that allows to uncouple this connection during voluntary activities. Here we investigated arm–leg coordination during stepping responses on a surface in human neonates. In eight neonates, we found the overt presence of alternating arm–leg oscillations, the arms moving up and down in alternation with ipsilateral lower limb movements. These neonates moved the diagonal limbs together, and the peak of the arm-to-trunk angle (i.e., maximum vertical excursion of the arm) occurred around the end of the ipsilateral stance phase, as it occurs during typical adult walking. Although episodes of arm–leg coordination were sporadic in our sample of neonates, their presence provides significant evidence for a neural coupling between the upper and lower limbs during early ontogenesis of locomotion in humans.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
JournalExperimental Brain Research
Publication statusAccepted/In press - Feb 13 2018


  • Arm–leg coordination
  • Early development
  • Human locomotion
  • Neonatal stepping

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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