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A Dynamical Systems Approach To Movement Coordination

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image of Netherlands Journal of Zoology
For more content, see Archives Néerlandaises de Zoologie (Vol 1-17) and Animal Biology (Vol 53 and onwards).

In this mini-review, some of the key problems of motor control are discussed. In order to control movements, there must be synergies between elements of the motor system, which constrain the number of active degrees of freedom (df's). Limb coordination patterns are examples of such synergies. As there still is a large gap between functional morphology and motor control, a phenomenological approach is advocated as an alternative angle on the problem. In such an approach observed coordination patterns are studied rather than their biological substrate. Studies by von Holst have demonstrated the remarkable flexibility of coordination in the lipfish Labrus festivus and the centipede Lithobius forjicatus. In humans, limb coordination is attracted to either the in-phase or the anti-phase mode. Furthermore, at a critical movement frequency phase transitions are observed from the anti-phase to the in-phase mode. These phase transitions, as well as the generation of rhythmical limb movements themselves, were modeled using concepts from the field of synergetics, the theory of self-organization in complex systems. This model provides a consistent view of the characteristics of rhythmical limb movements and their coordination, while dramatically reducing the number of df's to be controlled. The use of the model is illustrated with a study of the motor symptoms associated with Parkinson's disease.

Affiliations: 1: Faculty of Human Movement Sciences, Vrije Universiteit, van der Boechorststraat 9, 1081 BT Amsterdam, The Netherlands


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