Motor Control and Learning

Original Editor - Naomi O'Reilly

Top Contributors - Naomi O'Reilly and Claire Knott  

Introduction

According Roller et al (2012) in Contemporary Issues and Theories of Motor Control, Motor Learning, and Neuroplasticity, the production and control of human movement is a process that varies from a simple reflex loop to a complex network of neural patterns that communicate throughout the Central Nervous System (CNS) and Peripheral Nervous System (PNS). [1]

Motor Control

Definition

"The process of initiating, directing, and grading purposeful voluntary movement". [2]

Theories of Motor Control 

The organization and production of movement is a complex problem, so the study of motor control has been approached from a wide range of disciplines, including psychology, cognitive science, biomechanics and neuroscience. The control of human movement has been described in many different ways with many different models of Motor Control put forward throughout the 19th & 20th Centuries. Motor Control Theories include production of reflexive, automatic, adaptive, and voluntary movements and the performance of efficient, coordinated, goal-directed movement patterns which involve multiple body systems (input, output, and central processing) and multiple levels within the nervous system. Within the field of Neurology many textbooks and researcher recommend adoption of a systems model of Motor Control incorporating neurophysiology, biomechanics and motor learning principles which also considers learning solutions based on the interaction between the patient, the task and the environment. As a therapist it is these key areas that we need to be aware of when planning our interventions. As therapists we can change the environment, or the task in such a way as to enable our oatients to achieve their goals.  [3] [1] 

MOTOR CONTROL THEORIES AUTHOR DATE PREMISE CLINICAL IMPLICATIONS
Reflex Theory Sherrington 1906
  • Movement is controlled by stimulus-response. 
  • Reflexes are basis for movement - Reflexes are combined into actions that create behavior.
  • Use sensory input to control motor output 
  • Stimulate good reflexes 
  • Inhibit undesirable (primitive) reflexes 
  • Rely heavily on Feedback
Dynamical Systems Theory

Bernstein 

Turvey 

Kelso & Tuller 

Thelen 

1967 

1977 

1984 

1987 

  • Movement emerges to control degrees of freedom. 
  • Patterns of movements self-organize within the characteristics of environmental conditions and the existing body systems of the individual. 
  • Functional synergies are developed naturally through practice and experience and help solve the problem of coordinating multiple muscles and joint movements at once. 
  • De-emphasize commands from CNS in controlling movement and emphasize physical explanations for movement.
  • Movement is an emergent property from the interaction of multiple elements. 
  • Understand the physical & dynamic properties of the body - i.e. Velocity- important for dynamics of movement. May be good to encourage faster movement in patients to produce momentum and therefore help weak patients move with greater ease. 
Hierarchical Theories Adams 1971
  • Cortical centers control movement in a top-down manner throughout the nervous system. 
  • Closed-loop Mode: Sensory feedback is needed and used to control the movement. 
  • Voluntary movementts initiated by “Will” (higher levels). Reflexive movements dominate only after CNS damage.
  • Identify & prevent primitive reflexes 
  • Reduce hyperactive stretch 
  • Normalize tone 
  • Facilitate “normal” movement patterns 
  • Developmental Sequence 
  • Recapitulation 
Motor Program Theory Schmidt 1976
  • Adaptive, exible motor programs (MPs) and generalized motor programs (GMPs) exist to control actions that have common characteristics. 
  • Higher-level Motor Programs - Store rules for generating movements.
  • Abnormal Movement - Not just reflexive, also including abnormalities in central pattern generators or higher level motor programs. 
  • Help patients relearn the correct rules for action 
  • Retrain movements important to functional task 
  • Do not just reeducate muscles in isolation
Ecological Theories Gibson & Pick 2000
  • The person, the task, and the environment interact to in uence motor behavior and learning. The interaction of the person with any given environment provides perceptual information used to control movement. 
  • The motivation to solve problems to accomplish a desired movement task goal facilitates learning.
  • Help patient explore multiple ways in achieving functional task → Discovering best solution for patient, given the set of limitations
Systems Model Shumway-Cook 2007
  • Multiple body systems overlap to activate synergies for the production of movements that are organized around functional goals. 
  • Considers interaction of the person with the environment. 
  • Goal-directed Behavior - Task Orientated
  • Identifiable, functional tasks 
  • Practice under a variety of conditions 
  • Modify environmental contexts


Motor Learning

Definition

1. " The process of acquiring a skill by which the learner, through practice and assimilation, refines and makes automatic the desired movement".
2. "An internal neurologic process that results in the ability to produce a new motor task". [2]

Theories of Motor Learning 

Motor learning is a  “set of internal processes associated with practice or experience leading to relatively permanent changes in the capability for skilled behavior.” In other words, motor learning is when complex processes in the brain occur in response to practice or experience of a certain skill resulting in changes in the central nervous system that allow for production of a new motor skill. It often involves improving the smoothness and accuracy of movements and is obviously necessary for developing c; but it is also important for calibrating simple movements like reflexes, as parameters of the body and environment change over time. Motor learning research often considers variables that contribute to motor program formation (i.e., underlying skilled motor behaviour), sensitivity of error-detection processes, and strength of movement schemas. There are many different theories of Motor Learning. [3] [1]

MOTOR LEARNING THEORY  AUTHOR DATE PREMISE CLINICAL IMPLICATIONS
Adams Closed Loop Theory Adams 1971
  • Closed Loop - Sensory feedback is used for the ongoing production of skilled movement 
  • Slow movements 
  • Relies on sensory feedback (Sherrington) 
  • Blocked Practice 
  • Errors = Bad! Needs to be accurate! 
  • Memory Trace - Initiation of movement 
  • Perceptual Trace - Built up over a period of practice & is the reference of correctness.  
  • Improvements = Increased capability of performer to use the reference in closed loop
  • Perform same exact movement repeatedly to one accurate end point 
  • Increase Practice → Increase Learning 
  • Errors produced during learning → Increase strength of incorrect perceptual trace
Schmidt's Schema Theory Schmidt 1975
  • Open Loop 
  • Schema - Abstract memory representation for events → RULE 
  • Generalized Motor Program - Rules that allow for the generation of novel movements 
  • Rapid, ballistic movements = recall memory withmotor programs and parameters to carry out movement without peripheral feedback 
  • Variability of Practice → Improve Motor Learning
  • Optimal Learning → Task practiced under many different conditions 
  • Positive benefits for error production (learn from own mistakes) 
  • Schema has rules for all stored elements, not just correct elements
Ecological Theory Newell 1991
  • Based on Systems & Ecological Motor Control Theories 
  • Motor Learnining = Increases coordination between perception and action thru task & environmental constraints. 
  • Perceptual-motor workspace - Identifies mvmts and perceptual cues most relevant to performance of task 
  • Optimal task-relevant mapping of perception & action → NO Rules!
  • Patient learns to distinguish relevant perceptual cues important to action.

Stages of Motor Learning

Stages of Learning Characteristics Attention Demands  Activities Description
Cognitive
  • Movements are slow, inconsistent and inefficient.
  • Considerable cognitive activity is required.
  • Attention to understand what must move to produce a specific result.
  • Large parts of the movement are controlled consciously

Practise sessions are:

  • performance focused
  • less variable
  • incorporate a clear mental image (technical & visual).

Early Cognitive;

Essential Elements were not observed or not present

Late Cognitive;

Essential elements are starting to appear

Associative
  • Movements are more fluid, reliable and efficient
  • Less cognitive activity is required
  • Some parts of the movements are controlled consciously, some automatically.
  • Practise sessions link performance and results, conditions can be varied.
  • Clear Mental Image = Accurate Performance


Early Associative;

Essential elements appear, but not with consistency.

Late Associative;

Essential elements appear regulalry at a satisfactory level.

Autonomous
  • Movements are accurate, consistent and efficient.
  • Little or no cognitive activity is required.
  • Movement is largely controlled automatically
  • Attention can be focused on tactical choices


  • Practise sessions are more results orientated
  • Focus is on greater range of movement, speed, acceleration and use of skill in a novel situation.


Early Autonomous;

Essential elements appear frequently avove required level.

Late Autonomous;

Essential elements appear continuously at a superior level.

Resources 

Presentations 

Podcasts

  • Making Sense of Sensory and Motor Control of Human Movement. Dr. Kristen Pickett is an Assistant Professor in the Occupational Therapy Program within the Department of Kinesiology at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. She received her Masters in Kinesiology and her PhD in Kinesiology, Biomechanics, and Neural Control from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. http://www.peoplebehindthescience.com/dr-kristen-pickett/

Video 

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References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Roller L et al, Contemporary Issues and Theories of Motor Control, Motor Learning, and Neuroplasticity. In: Neurological Rehabilitation 6th Edition. Mosby, 2012. p69 - 105.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Medical Dictionary for the Health Professions and Nursing. (2012). Retrieved March 11 2016 from http://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/motor+learning
  3. 3.0 3.1 Bate P, Motor Control. In: Sheila Lennon & Maria Stokes. Pocketbook of Neurological Physiotherapy. Churchill Livingstone, 2008. p31 - 40.
  4. Dr, Richard Keegan. Lecture 1 Classifying Skills and Abilities. Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wlvh8mxxsr4 [last accessed 01/03/16]
  5. Dr, Richard Keegan. Lecture 2 Conceptualising Motor Learning. Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NOthWZhdXVE [last accessed 01/03/16]
  6. Dr, Richard Keegan. Lecture 3 Models of Motor Learning Stages. Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i8xeLsfigGs [last accessed 01/03/16]
  7. Dr, Richard Keegan. Lecture 4 Structuring the Learning Experience. Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8OvZpBdyPFo [last accessed 01/03/16]