Complexity of modular neuromuscular control increases and variability decreases during human locomotor development

Francesca Sylos-Labini, Valentina La Scaleia, Germana Cappellini, Arthur Dewolf, Adele Fabiano, Irina A. Solopova, Vito Mondì, Yury Ivanenko, Francesco Lacquaniti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


When does modular control of locomotion emerge during human development? One view is that modularity is not innate, being learnt over several months of experience. Alternatively, the basic motor modules are present at birth, but are subsequently reconfigured due to changing brain-body-environment interactions. One problem in identifying modular structures in stepping infants is the presence of noise. Here, using both simulated and experimental muscle activity data from stepping neonates, infants, preschoolers, and adults, we dissect the influence of noise, and identify modular structures in all individuals, including neonates. Complexity of modularity increases from the neonatal stage to adulthood at multiple levels of the motor infrastructure, from the intrinsic rhythmicity measured at the level of individual muscles activities, to the level of muscle synergies and of bilateral intermuscular network connectivity. Low complexity and high variability of neuromuscular signals attest neonatal immaturity, but they also involve potential benefits for learning locomotor tasks.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1256
JournalCommunications Biology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)


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