VU-researcher Nadia Dominici has been given an ERC Starting grant of 1,4 million euros

Study about the neural origin of the first steps in children

Associate professor Nadia Dominici (dept. of Human Movement Sciences) has been given an ERC Starting Grant for her project to investigate the neural origin of the first steps in children Learn2Walk - Brain meets spine: the neural origin of toddlers’ first steps.

The ERC grant enables Nadia to research the neural mechanisms underlying the emergence of walking in children and to unravel the detailed processes underlying the process of learning to walk. Nadia Dominici: ‘I will apply the results to the identification of optimal rehabilitation techniques for children with cerebral palsy. Moreover, it is my long-term ambition to exploit fundamental insights into neuro-motor control for promoting normal walking in children with motor impairments. The ERC project provides an exciting opportunity for me to realize this goal.’

Small steps but a giant leap for development
Children have the instinct to walk from the moment they are born, and even before; a 'stepping reflex' is hardwired in their neural circuitry. But it typically takes about one year before children can start walking independently. Dominici: ‘The first independent steps of a child represent a milestone of human growth and development, but the brain must reach a certain degree of maturity before the ability to walk can be manifested. As I said in my proposal, a child’s first steps may be small, but they are a giant leap for its development.’

For more information, please visit Nadia’s webpage.