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Center for Motor Behavior & Pediatric Disabilities

Current Research

Long term outcomes of preambulatory treadmill training in children with Down syndrome

Contact: Dale Ulrich (
Rosa Angulo Barroso (

Cognitive and motor development continuously interact and are intrinsically linked (Campos, et al., 1992; Thelen & Smith, 1994; Zelazo, et al., 1984). The role of early motor intervention on cognitive development is an under-explored area. Children with Down syndrome (DS) have both cognitive and motor delays. These children often receive early intervention services in the form of speech therapy, physical therapy and occupational therapy. By intervening at the motor level and promoting the development of certain motor skills (e.g. crawling, cruising, walking), it is possible that certain cognitive skills could be achieved earlier as well. Low intensity treadmill training has resulted in earlier onset of independent walking in children with DS (Ulrich, Ulrich, Angulo-Kinzler, Yun, 2001). In a follow-up clinical trial, the effects of high and low intensity treadmill training on motor and cognitive development were investigated. The Bayley Scale of Infant Development 2nd Edition was administered monthly to all infants (n=28) until one year of walking experience (Bayley, 1993). Eight items on the Motor Scale and fifteen items on the Mental Scale were chosen for their particular salience. Infants in the high intensity group achieved all 8 motor items and all 15 mental items earlier than the low intensity group (average of 50 and 39 days, respectively). Principal component analysis demonstrated a significant difference between high and low intensity groups in both the motor (p=.045) and the mental (p=.028) domains. As there were no differences in the ages of the participants with DS at the start of the study, the high intensity treadmill intervention appears to have a further influence on the motor and cognitive development compared to the low intensity intervention. For ethical reasons, this clinical trial did not include a group of infants with DS who did not receive the intervention and therefore no relative conclusions can be drawn when comparing these particular groups. Nevertheless, it appears that enhancement of early locomotor skills facilitates development in the cognitive domain.

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Center for Motor Behavior & Pediatric Disabilities
401 Washtenaw Ave
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-2214
(734)936-2607, Fax (734)936-1925

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Created September 1, 1999