Dr. Berger and her research team study the development of infants’ problem-solving skills in the context of locomotion. For example, we study how infants learn to navigate around obstacles that stand between them and a goal. We use infants’ motor behaviors to gain insight into underlying cognitive processes. A second research interest tests the premise that sleep facilitates efficient motor learning in infancy. We ask whether a period of sleep that follows infants’ experience with a challenging new task enhances learning, whether the amount of time between learning and sleep matters, and whether individual differences in the quality of sleep mediates sleep and learning. Please visit the Child Development Lab's web page, https://www.csi.cuny.edu/academics-and-research/departments-programs/psychology/child-development-lab

 

Degrees

PhD, New York University

MA, New York University

BA, University of Texas

Scholarship / Publications

National Science Foundation Award, “The Role of Sleep in Infant Motor Learning”, 2016-2020

Fulbright Research Fellowship, CIES, 2010-11

 

Recent Publications (*student authors)

Horger, M. N.* & Berger, S. E. (in press). The role of walking experience on whole-body exploration and problem solving. Cognitive Development.

Harbourne, R. T. & Berger, S. E. (2019). Embodied cognition in practice: Exploring effects of a motor-based problem solving intervention. Physical Therapy, 99(6), 786-796.

Berger, S. E., Harbourne, R. T., Arman, F.*& Sonsini, J.*(2019). Balancing act(ion): Attentional and postural control strategies predict extent of infants’ perseveration in a sitting and reaching task.Cognitive Development, 50, 13-21.

Berger, S. E., Harbourne, R. T., & Lliguichuzhca, C. G.*(2018). Sit still and pay attention! Trunk movement and attentional resources in infants with typical and delayed development. Physical & Occupational Therapy in Pediatrics, DOI: 10.1080/01942638.2018.1432005.

Berger, S. E. & Scher, A. (2017). Naps improve new walkers’ locomotor problem solving. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 162, 292-300.

Berger, S. E., Cunsolo, M.*, Ali, M.*, & Iverson, J. M. (2017). The trajectory of concurrent motor and vocal behaviors over the transition to crawling in infancy. Infancy, 22(5), 681-694.

Surkar, S. M.*, Edelbrock, C.*, Stergiou, N., Berger, S., & Harbourne, R. (2015). Sitting postural control affects the development of focused attention in children with cerebral palsy. Pediatric Physical Therapy, 27(1), 16-22.

Berger, S. E., Chin, B.*, Basra, S.*, & Kim, H.*(2015). Step-by-step: A microgenetic study of the development of strategy choice in infancy. British Journal of Developmental Psychology, 33(1), 106-122.

Research Interests

My work investigates the organization of attention in infancy by looking at cognition-action trade-offs. Using both experimental and naturalistic designs, I have shown that postures that depend on balance require significant attention to maintain control. During the acquisition of new skills, infants may have to reallocate their attention, often by suspending one behavior while carrying out another.

 

With Dr. Anat Scher at the University of Haifa, I am studying the effects of sleep on locomotor problem solving. Funding from the NSF allows us to ask about the impact of napping on learning to solve novel problems; how individual differences in the quality of sleep affect infants’ readiness to learn; whether the timing of a nap is related to effectiveness of learning. We are also interested in how the onset of new motor skills changes infants’ sleep patterns.

 

In collaboration with Dr. Regina Harbourne at Duquesne University, we study the effects of postural control and reaching ability on infants’ problem-solving. By comparing typically developing infants with infants at-risk for motor delays, we hope to better understand the implications of motor impairments for learning and information-processing, as well as the implications of the relationship between motor control and learning for intervention. Our newest study investigates the impact of sleep on learning to solve a novel problem in newly sitting infanct born premature and at term.

 

We are also collaborating with Nanit, the home video baby monitoring company, to ask several questions about the relation between sleep and motor skill development in infancy. Specifically, we are taking advantage of the "video in the crib" to longitudinally study sleep over the transitions to crawling and walking by documenting sleep behaviors, such as night wakings and movement.

 

With Karen Adolph at NYU, I have studied infants’ understanding of a handrail as a tool for keeping balance. In a series of studies, 16-month-old walking infants made highly accurate locomotor decisions: they only crossed narrow bridges when a handrail was available; modified the way they walked to fit their bodies on on the bridges; took into account whether the handrail was wobbly or sturdy and whether it was near or far from the bridge when judging its effectiveness as a tool. They even invented new strategies for walking and using the handrails when only a sub-optimal handrail was available.

Publications

PEER-REVIEWED JOURNAL ARTICLES

Horger, M. N. & Berger, S. E. (in press). The role of walking experience on whole-body exploration and problem solving. Cognitive Development.

Harbourne, R. T. & Berger, S. E. (2019). Embodied cognition in practice: Exploring effects of a motor-based problem solving intervention. Physical Therapy, 99(6), 786-796.

Berger, S. E., Harbourne, R. T., Arman, F. & Sonsini, J. (2019). Balancing act(ion): Attentional and postural control strategies predict extent of infants’ perseveration in a sitting and reaching task. Cognitive Development, 50, 13-21.

Berger, S. E., Harbourne, R. T., & Lliguichuzhca, C. G. (2018). Sit still and pay attention! Trunk movement and attentional resources in infants with typical and delayed development. Physical & Occupational Therapy in Pediatrics, DOI: 10.1080/01942638.2018.1432005.

Berger, S. E. & Scher, A. (2017). Naps improve new walkers’ locomotor problem solving. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 162, 292-300.

Berger, S. E., Cunsolo, M., Ali, M., & Iverson, J. M. (2017). The trajectory of concurrent motor and vocal behaviors over the transition to crawling in infancy. Infancy, 22(5), 681-694.

Surkar, S. M., Edelbrock, C., Stergiou, N., Berger, S., & Harbourne, R. (2015). Sitting postural control affects the development of focused attention in children with cerebral palsy. Pediatric Physical Therapy, 27(1), 16-22.

Berger, S. E., Chin, B., Basra, S., & Kim, H. (2015). Step-by-step: A microgenetic study of the development of strategy choice in infancy. British Journal of Developmental Psychology, 33(1), 106-122.

Berger, S. E., Chan, G. L. Y., & Adolph, K. E. (2014). What cruising infants understand about support for locomotion. Infancy, 19(2), 117-137.

Atun-Einy, O., Berger, S. E., Ducz, J., & Scher, A. (2014). Strength of infants’ bimanual reaching patterns is related to the onset of upright locomotion. Infancy, 19(1), 82-102.

Atun-Einy, O., Berger, S. E., & Scher, A. (2013). Assessing motivation to move and its relationship to motor development in infancy. Infant Behavior and Development, 36(3), 457-469.

Atun-Einy, O., Berger, S. E., & Scher, A. (2012). Pulling to Stand: Common trajectories and individual differences. Developmental Psychobiology, 54, 187-198.

Berger, S. E., Friedman, R., & Polis, M. C. (2011). The role of locomotor posture and experience on handedness and footedness in infancy. Infant Behavior and Development, 34(3), 472-480.

Adolph, K. E., Berger, S. E., & Leo, A. J. (2011). Developmental continuity? Crawling, cruising, and walking. Developmental Science, 14(2), 306-318.

Berger, S. E., Adolph, K. E., & Kavookjian, A. E. (2010). Bridging the gap: Solving spatial means-ends relations in a locomotor task. Child Development, 81(5), 1367-1375.

Berger, S. E. (2010). Locomotor expertise predicts infants’ perseverative errors. Developmental Psychology, 46(2), 326-336.

Berger, S. E., & Nuzzo, K. (2008). Older siblings influence younger siblings’ motor development. Infant and Child Development, 17(6), 607-615.

Berger, S. E., Theuring, C. F., & Adolph, K. E. (2007). How and when infants learn to climb stairs. Infant Behavior and Development, 30(1), 36-49.

Berger, S. E., Adolph, K. E., & Lobo, S.A. (2005). Out of the toolbox: Toddlers differentiate wobbly and wooden handrails. Child Development, 76(6), 1294-1307.

Berger, S. E. (2004). Demands on finite cognitive capacity cause infants' perseverative errors. Infancy, 5(2), 217-238.

Berger, S. E., & Adolph, K. E. (2003). Infants use handrails as tools in a locomotor task. Developmental Psychology, 39(3), 594-605.

Berger, S. E. (2001). Accounting for infant perseveration beyond the manual search task. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 24(1), 34 – 35.

CHAPTERS AND ENCYCLOPEDIA ENTRIES

Horger, M. N., DeMasi, A., Allia, A. M., Scher, A., & Berger, S. E. (in press). Newly walking infants' night sleep impacts next day learning and problem-solving. In S. E. Berger, A. Scher, & R. T. Harboune (Eds.), Advances in Child Development and Behavior, Volume 60 (pp. xx-xx). Burlington: Academic Press.

Berger, S. E., Harbourne, R. T., & Horger, M. N. (2018). Cognition–action trade-offs reflect organization of attention in infancy. In J. B. Benson (Ed.), Advances in Child Development and Behavior, Volume 54 (pp. 45-86). Burlington: Academic Press.

Adolph, K. E. & Berger, S. E. (2015). Physical and motor development. In M. H. Bornstein & M. E. Lamb (Eds.), Developmental science: An advanced textbook, (7th ed., pp. 261-333). New York: Psychology Press/Tayor & Francis.

Adolph, K. E., & Berger, S. E. (2013). Development of the motor system. In H. Pashler, T. Crane, M. Kinsbourne, F. Ferreira, & R. Zemel (Eds.), Encyclopedia of the Mind (pp. 532-535). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publishers.

Adolph, K. E., & Berger, S. E. (2011). Physical and motor development. In Marc H. Bornstein & Michael E. Lamb (Eds.), Cognitive Development: An Advanced Textbook (6th ed., pp. 257-318). New York: Psychology Press. 

Adolph, K. E., & Berger, S. E. (2011). Physical and motor development. In Marc H. Bornstein & Michael E. Lamb (Eds.), Developmental Science: An Advanced Textbook (6th ed., pp. 241-302). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. 

Adolph, K. E. & Berger, S. E. (2009). Physical and motor development. In M. H. Bornstein & M. E. Lamb (Eds.), [Developmental science: An advanced textbook], (5th ed., pp. 315-393). (K. Kwak and the SNU Developmental Psychology Laboratory, Trans.). Seoul, South Korea: Hakjisa.

Berger, S. E., & Adolph, K. E. (2007). Learning and development in infant locomotion. C. von Hofsten & K. Rosander (Eds.), From Action to Cognition (pp. 237-255). Amsterdam, The Netherlands: Elsevier.

Berger, S. E., Theuring, C. F., & Adolph, K. E. (2007). How and when infants learn to climb stairs. FLASH Alert to New Science and Health Research Stories. Oxford: Elsevier. (Reprinted from Infant Behavior and Development, 30, 36-49, 2007).

Adolph, K. E., & Berger, S. E. (2006). Motor development. In W. Damon & R. Lerner (Series Eds.) & D. Kuhn & R. S. Siegler (Vol. Eds.), Handbook of child psychology: Vol. 2: Cognition, Perception and Language (6th ed., pp. 161-213). New York: John Wiley & Sons. 

Adolph, K. E., & Berger, S. E. (2005). Physical and motor development. In Marc H. Bornstein & Michael E. Lamb (Eds.), Developmental Science: An Advanced Textbook (5th ed., pp. 223-281). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum. 

Berger, S. E., & Adolph, K. E. (2004). Infants use handrails as tools in a locomotor task. In M. Gauvain & M. Cole (Eds.), Readings on the development of children (3rd ed., pp. 87-102). New York: Freeman. (Reprinted from Developmental Psychology, 39, pp. 594-605, 2003).

Berger, S. E. (2001). Executive functioning in manual and locomotor tasks. In J. van der Kamp, A. Ledebt, G. Savelsbergh and E. Thelen (Eds.), Advances in Motor Development and Learning in Infancy: Behavioural, Neurological, and Modelling Issues

Berger, S. E. (1999). Infants’ perseverative errors in a locomotor A-not-B task. In M. A. Grealy & J. A. Thomson (Eds.), Studies in Perception and Action X. NJ: Erlbaum.

RECENT CONFERENCE PRESENTATIONS (*student authors)

Marsiliani, R. S.* &  Berger, S. E. (July, 2020). Lip and tongue ties: impact on infants' sleep before and after a frenectomy. Poster presented at the XXII Biennial Meeting of the International Congress on Infant Studies, Glasgow, SCOTLAND.

Horger, M. N.* &  Berger, S. E. (July, 2020). Task difficulty moderates the impact of learning on fragmentation (but not duration) during REM-dominant sleep. Poster presented at the XXII Biennial Meeting of the International Congress on Infant Studies, Glasgow, SCOTLAND.

DeMasi, A.*, Berger, S. E., Horger, M. N.*, & Allia, A. M.* (July, 2020). Movement during nighttime wake episodes reflects the onset of crawling and walking. Poster presented at the XXII Biennial Meeting of the International Congress on Infant Studies, Glasgow, SCOTLAND.

DeMasi, A.* Allia, A. M.*, Horger, M. N.*, & Berger, S. E.  (July, 2020). Prior locomotor experience and sleep quality predict newly walking infants' learning. Poster presented at the XXII Biennial Meeting of the International Congress on Infant Studies, Glasgow, SCOTLAND.

DeMasi, A.* & Berger, S. E. (March, 2020). First Steps: Using the Nanit baby monitor to classify nocturnal infant movements. Paper presented at the 125th Meeting of the Eastern Psychological Association, Boston, MA.

Berger, S. E., Horger, M. N.*, DeMasi, A*, & Barnett, N. L. (November, 2019). Video from the crib: Using the Nanit home baby monitoring system to explore the relation between motor development and sleep in infancy. Poster presented at the 10th Biennial Pediatric Sleep Medicine Meeting, Naples, FL.

Horger, M. N.*, Berger, S. E., Barnett, N. L. & Glazer, A. (November, 2019). Methods for infant sleep measurement: A comparison of parent report, actigraphy, and the Nanit video monitoring system. Poster presented at the 10th Biennial Pediatric Sleep Medicine Meeting, Naples, FL.

Hinav A.*, Horger M. N.*, Berger S., & Scher A. (September, 2019). Novice walkers perform a challenging task: Does temperament play a role? Poster presented at the 19th European Conference on Developmental Psychology, Athens, GREECE.

Simon, T., Horger M. N.*, Berger S. E., & Scher A. (July, 2019). Novice walkers solve a motor challenge: Does sleep quality predict performance? 3rd World Conference on Movement and Cognition, Tel Aviv, ISRAEL.

Horger, M. N.*, Berger, S. E., DeMasi, A*, Allia, A. M.*, & Scher, A. (June, 2019). Night sleep and napping together consolidate infants’ motor problem solving. Poster presented at the 33rd Annual Meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies, San Antonio, TX.

Horger, M. N.*, Marsilliani, R. S.*, & Berger, S. E. (2019, March). The intersection of motor and language skills in problem solving. Paper presented at the Eastern Psychological Association, New York, NY.

Berger, S. E., Scher, A., & Horger, M. N.* (February, 2019). Learning to solve a novel locomotor problem depends on quality and timing of infants’ sleep. Poster presented at the 6th Conference on Cognition Research of the Israeli Society for Cognitive Psychology, Akko, ISRAEL.

Berger, S. E. & Scher, A. (October, 2018). Sleep as a context for studying bio-behavioral regulation and developmental change. Paper presented at the Joint International Workshop for Understanding and Promoting Change from Early to Complex Skills in Typical and Atypical Development: A Cross-Population Approach, University of Bologna, Bologna, ITALY.

Horger, M. N.*, Friedman, D.*, Scher, A., & Berger, S. E. (July, 2018). Individual differences in the quality of night sleep influence infants’ preparedness for learning the following day. Poster presented at the XXI Biennial Meeting of the International Congress on Infant Studies, Philadelphia, PA.

Horger, M. N.*, Saad, P.*, Scher, A., & Berger, S. E. (July, 2018). Infants’ ability to consolidate new information depends on the timing of a nap relative to learning and test. Poster presented at the XXI Biennial Meeting of the International Congress on Infant Studies, Philadelphia, PA.

Harbourne, R. T. & Berger, S. E. (July, 2018). Finding your own way: Comparison of interventions for infants with motor delays to improve movement and problem-solving. Flash Talk presented at the XXI Biennial Meeting of the International Congress on Infant Studies, Philadelphia, PA.

Berger, S. E. & Moore, C. T. (April, 2018). The onset of motor milestones changes infants’ sleep patterns. Poster presented at the International Pediatric Sleep Association Congress, Paris, FRANCE.

Horger, M. N.*, Saad, P.*, Zillig, A.*, & Berger, S. E. (October, 2017). Regress for success: Returning to crawling places attentional demands on new walkers. Poster presented at the Tenth Biennial Meeting of the Cognitive Development Society, Portland, OR.

Benipayo, D.*, Hardy, D.*, & Berger, S. E. (October, 2017). “A-maze-ing" problem solving: Motor demands impact young children's strategy choices. Poster presented at the Tenth Biennial Meeting of the Cognitive Development Society, Portland, OR.

Horger, M. N.*, Berger, S. E., Orr, E., & Benish-Weisman, M. (May, 2017). The relation between culture, parental values, and young children’s play. Poster presented at the 29th Annual Convention of the Association for Psychological Science, Boston, MA.

Berger, S. E. & Moore, C. T. (April, 2017). The timing and density of longitudinal observations shapes the portrayal of how motor development impacts infants’ sleep. Poster presented at the Biennial Meeting of the Society for Research in Child Development, Austin, TX.

Harbourne, R. & Berger, S. E. (2016, July). Magnification of variable movements helps predict sitting ability in infants with neuromotor disorder. Poster presented at the IV STEP Conference, Columbus, OH.

Berger, S. E. & Moore, C. T. (May, 2016). Exploring the relationship between infant motor development and sleep using times series and point process models. Poster presented at the Twentieth Biennial International Conference on Infant Studies, New Orleans, LA.

Berger, S. E., Harbourne, R., Sonsini, J.*, Surkar, S.*, Schriefer, A.*, Arman, F.* & Guallpa, C.* (May, 2016). Video magnification reveals postural dynamics in sitting in typical and atypical development during phases of focused attention. Poster presented at the Twentieth Biennial International Conference on Infant Studies, New Orleans, LA.

Moore, C. T. & Berger, S. E. (2015, October). An interdisciplinary approach to developmental psychology: Statistical techniques for analyzing the interaction between sleep and motor development in infants. Paper presented at the SACNAS National Conference, Washington, DC.

Berger, S. E., Sonsini, J.*, & Harbourne, R. (2015, October). Newly sitting infants recruit compensatory postural strategies to facilitate inhibition. Poster presented at the Ninth Biennial Meeting of the Cognitive Development Society, Columbus, OH.

Berger, S. E., Cunsolo, M.*, & Iverson, J. M. (2015, October). Contingencies between motor and vocal behaviors over the transition to crawling in infancy. Poster presented at the Ninth Biennial Meeting of the Cognitive Development Society, Columbus, OH.

Berger, S. E., Scher, A., & Gniewkowski, L. A.* (2015, June). Naps improve infants’ motor learning. Poster presented at the 29th Annual Meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies, Seattle, WA.

Sonsini, J.*, Berger, S. E., & Harbourne, R. (2015, March). Newly sitting infants demonstrate decreased inhibition and postural control during an A not B task. Poster presented at the Society for Research in Child Development, Philadelphia, PA.

Ducz, J. K.*, Berger, S. E., & Chin, B.* (2015, March). Hand over foot: Differences in bimanual and bipedal coordination in children. Poster presented at the Society for Research in Child Development, Philadelphia, PA.

Surkar, S.*, Stergiou, N., Berger, S. E., & Harbourne, R. (2015, February). Sitting postural control contributes to the development of focused attention in children with cerebral palsy. Poster presented at the American Physical Therapy Association Combined Sections Meeting, Indianapolis, IN.

Berger, S. E., Scher, A., & Curovic, F.* (2014, July). Learning to solve a novel locomotor problem in infancy: Does sleep play a role? Poster presented at the Nineteenth Biennial International Conference on Infant Studies, Berlin, GERMANY.

Media Coverage

2019, Jette, A. (Editor-in-Chief, Physical Therapy). (2019, May 28). From everyday wearables to robotics: Interdisciplinary collaborations and strategies for optimal development: An interview with Dr. Jill Heathcock [Audio podcast]. Retrieved from https://academic.oup.com/ptj/pages/podcasts

2019, Jette, A. (Editor-in-Chief, Physical Therapy). (2019, June 28). Embodied cognition in practice: “Human ognition about the world is situated in a real, physical body”: An author interview with Dr. Sarah Berger and Dr. Regina Harbourne [Audio podcast]. Retrieved from https://academic.oup.com/ptj/pages/podcasts

2013, May. CSI Collaboration Earns Mia Curovic First Place in NYC, Spot at the International Science and Engineering Fair, CSI Today.

2011, June. Parenting section of Yediot Ahronot, http://www.ynet.co.il/articles/0,7340,L-4075702,00.html [in Hebrew].

2010, September. 7 super sibling benefits. Parents Magazine. 

2010, June. Berger wins Fulbright scholarship, CSI Today. 

2007, February. Little white lies. The Staten Island Advance.

2007, September. Time to tackle the stairs? Babytalk Magazine, p. 26.

2007, September. One small step for man, one giant leap for infantkind: How toddlers learn to climb the stairs. CSI Today.

2006, April. Babies, snakes, campaign finance… The Staten Island Advance, pp. A10-A11.

2003, April. The baby human: To walk. Discovery Health Channel.

2003, June. Toddlers ride rail to tool use. Science News, 163(24).

2003, September. Tools for tots. Infants to Adolescents: Research Update, Vol. 4(5).