Saturday, March 27, 2010


In my last blog I mentioned preprogrammed motor activity, so I thought this might be a good time to expand on that concept. There is a vast literature on motor control – the physiology of how we execute movements - and the brain pathways involved in even simple tasks are complex.

Think back to when you learned how to ride a bike. Initially there were several things you needed to learn; how to balance, how to peddle, how to turn, how to stop, and how to shift gears. To help balance, you may initially have used trainer wheels. But as you progressed, the trainer wheels came off and you became more confident. Part of this learning process was that repetitive movements like peddling were becoming programmed into your nervous system so that you didn’t have to think about them and you could focus on more important tasks, such as where to turn.

Another example is shooting baskets. The first time you threw a basketball at a hoop you probably didn’t come close to hitting it, much less sinking the shot. The weight of the ball was new and you had no concept of the forces needed to send it in the right trajectory. As you practiced, your nervous system learned to make numerous calculations extremely rapidly and your accuracy improved. Some of these calculations went from the conscious to the unconscious level. In addition your nervous system transitioned from linear processing to parallel processing. In parallel processing a process is broken down into several component tasks which are solved simultaneously and then made whole again.

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