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BrainFacts.org

A PUBLIC INFORMATION
INITIATIVE OF:

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Smart Moves: Daniel Wolpert, Motor Control, and the Brain

Think about the word “thinking” and typically it conjures up mulling the meaning of life or plotting your next move in chess. But the brain is also thinking constantly in ways less...

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Introduction

Every movement we make — from walking and writing to blinking and talking — requires intricate communication between the brain and our muscles. Our sensory systems guide this communication by providing information about the external environment and then work with the motor system to plan movements and to control the actions that muscles make. Scientists are using new imaging, molecular, and cellular tools to explore the complex interactions between brain regions and systems every time a movement is planned. Ongoing studies are helping researchers map how brain regions work together to control movement and how dysfunction in these regions contributes to movement disorders, including amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Researchers continue to study why the nerve cells that control planned movements begin to break down in people with ALS. These studies could one day lead to new treatments and physical therapy options for people with movement disorders, or those whose movement has been compromised by stroke or injury.

Discoveries

Dancing and the Brain

Source: Society for Neuroscience

Let your brain boogie and learn the secrets of how rhythm and motion combine in your head to make your body move.


Searching for Answers: Improving Movement

Source: Society for Neuroscience

In this video, doctors, researchers, and patients explain the causes and effects of movement disorders.


The Activation Sequence for the Motor Areas

Source: CIHR – Institute of Neurosciences, Mental Health and Addiction

The basic function of the brain is to produce behaviors, which are, first and foremost, movements. Several different regions of the cerebral cortex are involved in controlling the body's movements.


More Complex Movements

Source: Society for Neuroscience
Networks of spinal neurons also participate in controlling the alternating action of the legs during normal walking, maintaining posture, and, to a large degree, in all movements.

Involuntary Movements

Source: Society for Neuroscience
Perhaps the simplest and most fundamental movements are reflexes. These are relatively fixed, automatic muscle responses to particular stimuli, such as the slight extension of the leg when a physician taps the knee with a small rubber hammer.

Movement in the News

Involuntary Shaking Can Be Caused By Essential Tremors

Source: NPR Shots Blog
Date: 7 April 2014
Essential tremor is a condition which causes involuntary shaking and while it usually develops in middle age it can start much younger.

Neurons Responsible for 'Moonwalking' Flies Isolated

Source: WIRED
Date: 3 April 2014
A team of geneticists has been able to map the capabilities of some fruit flies to walk backwards to the specific neurons in the brain responsible.

A Disorder That Stops the Music

Date: 13 March 2012

A look at how a muscian trained himself to use different muscles to play guitar, despite having focal dystonia.