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Biography [eng]

I am a developmental psychologist and movement scientist. Currently, I am leading the three-year longitudinal project An Embodied Account of Early Executive Functioning funded by the Swedish Research Council. This 3-years project seeks to understand the early links between infants’ body movements and their cognitive abilities. Generally, my research focuses on sensorimotor and cognitive development from infancy to middle childhood. I am especially passionate about embodied cognitive science, dynamic systems approaches, and active/direct perception perspectives.

Publications (10 of 14) Show all publications
Mowbray, R., Gottwald, J. M., Zhao, M., Atkinson, A. P. & Cowie, D. (2019). The development of visually guided stepping. Experimental Brain Research, 237(11), 2875-2883
Open this publication in new window or tab >>The development of visually guided stepping
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2019 (English)In: Experimental Brain Research, ISSN 0014-4819, E-ISSN 1432-1106, Vol. 237, no 11, p. 2875-2883Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Adults use vision during stepping and walking to fine-tune foot placement. However, the developmental profile of visually guided stepping is unclear. We asked (1) whether children use online vision to fine-tune precise steps and (2) whether preci- sion stepping develops as part of broader visuomotor development, alongside other fundamental motor skills like reaching. With 6-(N = 11), 7-(N = 11), 8-(N = 11)-year-olds and adults (N = 15), we manipulated visual input during steps and reaches. Using motion capture, we measured step and reach error, and postural stability. We expected (1) both steps and reaches would be visually guided (2) with similar developmental profiles (3) foot placement biases that promote stability, and (4) correlations between postural stability and step error. Children used vision to fine-tune both steps and reaches. At all ages, foot placement was biased (albeit not in the predicted directions). Contrary to our predictions, step error was not correlated with postural stability. By 8 years, children’s step and reach error were adult-like. Despite similar visual control mechanisms, stepping and reaching had different developmental profiles: step error reduced with age whilst reach error was lower and stable with age. We argue that the development of both visually guided and non-visually guided action is limb-specific.

National Category
Neurology Psychology
Research subject
Psychology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-392218 (URN)10.1007/s00221-019-05629-5 (DOI)000490291500011 ()31471678 (PubMedID)
Available from: 2019-08-31 Created: 2019-08-31 Last updated: 2019-11-06Bibliographically approved
Gottwald, J., Gredebäck, G. & Lindskog, M. (2019). Two-step actions in infancy—the TWAIN model. Experimental Brain Research, 237, 2495-2503
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Two-step actions in infancy—the TWAIN model
2019 (English)In: Experimental Brain Research, ISSN 0014-4819, E-ISSN 1432-1106, Vol. 237, p. 2495-2503Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

In this paper, we propose a novel model—the TWAIN model—to describe the durations of two-step actions in a reach-to-place task in human infants. Previous research demonstrates that infants and adults plan their actions across multiple steps. They adjust, for instance, the velocity of a reaching action depending on what they intend to do with the object once it is grasped. Despite these findings and irrespective of the larger context in which the action occurs, current models (e.g., Fitts’ law) target single, isolated actions, as, for example, pointing to a goal. In the current paper, we develop and empirically test a more ecologically valid model of two-step action planning. More specifically, 61 18-month olds took part in a reach-to-place task and their reaching and placing durations were measured with a motion-capture system. Our model explained the highest amount of variance in placing duration and outperformed six previously suggested models, when using model comparison. We show that including parameters of the first action step, here the duration of the reaching action, can improve the description of the second action step, here the duration of the placing action. This move towards more ecologically valid models of action planning contributes knowledge as well as a framework for assessing human machine interactions. The TWAIN model provides an updated way to quantify motor learning by the time these abilities develop, which might help to assess performance in typically developing human children.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Springer, 2019
National Category
Social Sciences Psychology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-390180 (URN)10.1007/s00221-019-05604-0 (DOI)000507492200004 ()31324927 (PubMedID)
Funder
EU, European Research Council, ERC-StG CACTUS 312292Swedish Research Council, VR-PG 2017-01504
Available from: 2019-08-06 Created: 2019-08-06 Last updated: 2020-02-20Bibliographically approved
Gottwald, J. M., de Bortoli Vizioli, A., Lindskog, M., Nyström, P., Ekberg, T. L., von Hofsten, C. & Gredebäck, G. (2017). Infants prospectively control reaching based on the difficulty of future actions: To what extent can infants' multiple step actions be explained by Fitts' law?. Developmental Psychology, 53(1), 4-12
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Infants prospectively control reaching based on the difficulty of future actions: To what extent can infants' multiple step actions be explained by Fitts' law?
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2017 (English)In: Developmental Psychology, ISSN 0012-1649, E-ISSN 1939-0599, Vol. 53, no 1, p. 4-12Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Prospective motor control, a key element of action planning, is the ability to adjust one's actions with respect to task demands and action goals in an anticipatory manner. The current study investigates whether 14-month-olds can prospectively control their reaching actions based on the difficulty of the subsequent action. We used a reach-to-place task, with difficulty of the placing action varied by goal size and goal distance. To target prospective motor control, we determined the kinematics of the prior reaching movements using a motion-tracking system. Peak velocity of the first movement unit of the reach served as indicator for prospective motor control. Both difficulty aspects (goal size and goal distance) affected prior reaching, suggesting that both these aspects of the subsequent action have an impact on the prior action. The smaller the goal size and the longer the distance to the goal, the slower infants were in the beginning of their reach toward the object. Additionally, we modeled movement times of both reaching and placing actions using a formulation of Fitts' law (as in heading). The model was significant for placement and reaching movement times. These findings suggest that 14-month-olds can plan their future actions and prospectively control their related movements with respect to future task difficulties.

Keywords
prospective motor control, action planning, action sequence, action development, movement unit, Fitts' law, infancy
National Category
Psychology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-297638 (URN)10.1037/dev0000212 (DOI)000391700500002 ()28026189 (PubMedID)
Funder
EU, European Research Council, 289404
Available from: 2016-06-26 Created: 2016-06-26 Last updated: 2017-11-28Bibliographically approved
Gottwald, J. M., Achermann, S., Marciszko, C., Lindskog, M. & Gredebäck, G. (2016). An embodied account of early executive functions development: Prospective motor control in infancy is related to prohibition and working memory. Psychological Science, 27
Open this publication in new window or tab >>An embodied account of early executive functions development: Prospective motor control in infancy is related to prohibition and working memory
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2016 (English)In: Psychological Science, ISSN 0956-7976, E-ISSN 1467-9280, Vol. 27Article in journal (Refereed) Published
National Category
Psychology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-297641 (URN)
Available from: 2016-06-26 Created: 2016-06-26 Last updated: 2017-11-28
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(12), 1600-1610
Open this publication in new window or tab >>An Embodied Account of Early Executive-Function Development: Prospective Motor Control in Infancy Is Related to Inhibition and Working Memory
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2016 (English)In: Psychological Science, ISSN 0956-7976, E-ISSN 1467-9280, Vol. 27, no 12, p. 1600-1610Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

The importance of executive functioning for later life outcomes, along with its potential to be positively affected by intervention programs, motivates the need to find early markers of executive functioning. In this study, 18-month-olds performed three executive-function tasksinvolving simple inhibition, working memory, and more complex inhibitionand a motion-capture task assessing prospective motor control during reaching. We demonstrated 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 provides evidence that motor control and executive functioning are intertwined early in life, which suggests an embodied perspective on executive-functioning development. We argue that executive functions 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.

Keywords
prospective motor control, motor development, executive functions, reaching, infancy
National Category
Psychology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-314054 (URN)10.1177/0956797616667447 (DOI)000390582500006 ()
Funder
EU, European Research Council, 312292
Available from: 2017-01-26 Created: 2017-01-26 Last updated: 2020-04-08Bibliographically approved
Gottwald, J. (2016). Infants in Control: Prospective Motor Control and Executive Functions in Action Development. (Doctoral dissertation). Uppsala: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Infants in Control: Prospective Motor Control and Executive Functions in Action Development
2016 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This thesis assesses the link between action and cognition early in development. Thus the notion of an embodied cognition is investigated by tying together two levels of action control in the context of reaching in infancy: prospective motor control and executive functions.

The ability to plan our actions is the inevitable foundation of reaching our goals. Thus actions can be stratified on different levels of control. There is the relatively low level of prospective motor control and the comparatively high level of cognitive control. Prospective motor control is concerned with goal-directed actions on the level of single movements and movement combinations of our body and ensures purposeful, coordinated movements, such as reaching for a cup of coffee. Cognitive control, in the context of this thesis more precisely referred to as executive functions, deals with goal-directed actions on the level of whole actions and action combinations and facilitates directedness towards mid- and long-term goals, such as finishing a doctoral thesis. Whereas prospective motor control and executive functions are well studied in adulthood, the early development of both is not sufficiently understood.

This thesis comprises three empirical motion-tracking studies that shed light on prospective motor control and executive functions in infancy. Study I investigated the prospective motor control of current actions by having 14-month-olds lift objects of varying weights. In doing so, multi-cue integration was addressed by comparing the use of visual and non-visual information to non-visual information only. Study II examined the prospective motor control of future actions in action sequences by investigating reach-to-place actions in 14-month-olds. Thus the extent to which Fitts’ law can explain movement duration in infancy was addressed. Study III lifted prospective motor control to a higher that is cognitive level, by investigating it relative to executive functions in 18-months-olds.

Main results were that 14-month-olds are able to prospectively control their manual actions based on object weight. In this action planning process, infants use different sources of information. Beyond this ability to prospectively control their current action, 14-month-olds also take future actions into account and plan their actions based on the difficulty of the subsequent action in action sequences. In 18-month-olds, prospective motor control in manual actions, such as reaching, is related to early executive functions, as demonstrated for behavioral prohibition and working memory. These findings are consistent with the idea that executive functions derive from prospective motor control. I suggest that executive functions could be grounded in the development of motor control. In other words, early executive functions should be seen as embodied. 

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis, 2016. p. 103
Series
Digital Comprehensive Summaries of Uppsala Dissertations from the Faculty of Social Sciences, ISSN 1652-9030 ; 127
Keywords
infant development, action development, prospective motor control, executive functions, action planning, motor development, motion tracking, embodied cognition, developmental psychology
National Category
Social Sciences
Research subject
Psychology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-297642 (URN)978-91-554-9618-0 (ISBN)
Public defence
2016-09-16, Sydnez Alrutz (13:026), von Kraemers Allé 1A (Blåsenhus), Uppsala, 10:15 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2016-08-26 Created: 2016-06-26 Last updated: 2019-12-11
Gottwald, J. M., Elsner, B. & Pollatos, O. (2015). Good is up-spatial metaphors in action observation. Frontiers in Psychology, 6, Article ID 1605.
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Good is up-spatial metaphors in action observation
2015 (English)In: Frontiers in Psychology, ISSN 1664-1078, E-ISSN 1664-1078, Vol. 6, article id 1605Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Positive objects or actions are associated with physical highness, whereas negative objects or actions are related to physical lowness. Previous research suggests that metaphorical connection ("good is up" or "bad is down") between spatial experience and evaluation of objects is grounded in actual experience with the body. Prior studies investigated effects of spatial metaphors with respect to verticality of either static objects or self-performed actions. By presenting videos of object placements, the current three experiments combined vertically-located stimuli with observation of vertically-directed actions. As expected, participants' ratings of emotionally-neutral objects were systematically influenced by the observed vertical positioning, that is, ratings were more positive for objects that were observed being placed up as compared to down. Moreover, effects were slightly more pronounced for "bad is down," because only the observed downward, but not the upward, action led to different ratings as compared to a medium-positioned action. Last, some ratings were even affected by observing only the upward/downward action, without seeing the final vertical placement of the object. Thus, both, a combination of observing a vertically-directed action and seeing a vertically-located object, and observing a vertically-directed action alone, affected participants' evaluation of emotional valence of the involved object. The present findings expand the relevance of spatial metaphors to action observation, thereby giving new impetus to embodied-cognition research.

Keywords
embodied cognition, spatial metaphors, emotional valence, action observation, action perception
National Category
Psychology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-267669 (URN)10.3389/fpsyg.2015.01605 (DOI)000363863600001 ()26539147 (PubMedID)
Funder
German Research Foundation (DFG), GRK 1668/1German Research Foundation (DFG), PO 1011/2-1EU, FP7, Seventh Framework Programme, 289404
Available from: 2015-11-25 Created: 2015-11-25 Last updated: 2017-12-01Bibliographically approved
Gottwald, J., Hofsten, von, C. & Gredebäck, G. (2015). Infants’ Prospective Control during Object Manipulation. In: : . Paper presented at BCCC15, Budapest, Hungary (Symposium Talk). January 2015..
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Infants’ Prospective Control during Object Manipulation
2015 (English)Conference paper, Oral presentation only (Other academic)
National Category
Psychology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-284521 (URN)
Conference
BCCC15, Budapest, Hungary (Symposium Talk). January 2015.
Available from: 2016-04-18 Created: 2016-04-18 Last updated: 2017-01-25
Gottwald, J. & Gredebäck, G. (2015). Infants’ Prospective Control during Object Manipulation in an Uncertain Environment. In: : . Paper presented at 2015 Society for Research in Child Development Biennial Meeting, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. March 2015..
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Infants’ Prospective Control during Object Manipulation in an Uncertain Environment
2015 (English)Conference paper, Oral presentation only (Other academic)
National Category
Psychology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-284511 (URN)
Conference
2015 Society for Research in Child Development Biennial Meeting, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. March 2015.
Available from: 2016-04-18 Created: 2016-04-18 Last updated: 2017-01-25
Gottwald, J. M. & Gredebäck, G. (2015). Infants' prospective control during object manipulation in an uncertain environment. Experimental Brain Research, 233(8), 2383-2390
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Infants' prospective control during object manipulation in an uncertain environment
2015 (English)In: Experimental Brain Research, ISSN 0014-4819, E-ISSN 1432-1106, Vol. 233, no 8, p. 2383-2390Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

This study investigates how infants use visual and sensorimotor information to prospectively control their actions. We gave 14-month-olds two objects of different weight and observed how high they were lifted, using a Qualisys Motion Capture System. In one condition, the two objects were visually distinct (different color condition) in another they were visually identical (same color condition). Lifting amplitudes of the first movement unit were analyzed in order to assess prospective control. Results demonstrate that infants lifted a light object higher than a heavy object, especially when vision could be used to assess weight (different color condition). When being confronted with two visually identical objects of different weight (same color condition), infants showed a different lifting pattern than what could be observed in the different color condition, expressed by a significant interaction effect between object weight and color condition on lifting amplitude. These results indicate that (a) visual information about object weight can be used to prospectively control lifting actions and that (b) infants are able to prospectively control their lifting actions even without visual information about object weight. We argue that infants, in the absence of reliable visual information about object weight, heighten their dependence on non-visual information (tactile, sensorimotor memory) in order to estimate weight and pre-adjust their lifting actions in a prospective manner.

Keywords
Prospective control, Object manipulation, Sensorimotor, Action, Motor development, Motor control
National Category
Neurology Neurosciences
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-260605 (URN)10.1007/s00221-015-4308-7 (DOI)000358322500014 ()25963753 (PubMedID)
Funder
EU, FP7, Seventh Framework Programme, 289404
Note

Funding: ERC-StG CACTUS, 312292

Available from: 2015-08-24 Created: 2015-08-21 Last updated: 2018-01-11Bibliographically approved
Organisations
Identifiers
ORCID iD: ORCID iD iconorcid.org/0000-0001-5497-4001

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