Infant motor development and cognitive performance in early old age: the Helsinki Birth Cohort Study

May 5, 2015

Authors: Taina Poranen-Clark, Mikaela B von Bonsdorff, Jari Lahti, Katri Räikkönen, Clive Osmond, Taina Rantanen, Eero Kajantie, Johan G Eriksson

Journal: Age

DOI: 10.1007/s11357-015-9785-x

Year Published: 2015

Motor development and cognitive development in childhood have been found to be fundamentally interrelated, but less is known about the association extending over the life course. The aim of this study was to examine the association between early motor development and cognitive performance in early old age. From men and women belonging to the Helsinki Birth Cohort Study, who were born between 1934 and 1944 and resided in Finland in 1971, 1279 participated in cognitive performance tests (CogState®, version 3.0.5) between 2001 and 2006 at an average age of 64.2 years (SD 3.0). Of these, age at first walking extracted from child welfare clinic records was available for 398 participants. Longer reaction times in cognitive tasks measuring simple reaction time (SRT), choice reaction time (CRT), working memory (WM), divided attention (DA), and associated learning (AL) indicated poorer cognitive performance. Adjustment was made for sex, age at testing, father’s occupational status and own highest attained education, and occupation in adulthood. Average age of learning to walk was 12.2 months (SD 2.1). After adjusting for covariates, earlier attainment of learning to walk was associated with shorter reaction times in cognitive performance tasks (SRT 10.32 % per month, 95 % CI 0.48-21.12, p = 0.039; CRT 14.17 % per month, 95 % CI 3.75-25.63, p = 0.007; WM 15.14 % per month, 95 % CI 4.95-26.32, p = 0.003). People who learned to walk earlier had better cognitive performance in early old age. The earlier attainment of motor skills may track over to early old age and possibly reflect greater cognitive reserve in older age.

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