A person’s unique skills and abilities

The role of the neuromuscular system

Whether it is learning a golf swing, tennis serve, surgical procedure, ballroom dancing or playing a musical instrument, the control of movement is dependent on the structure and function of the neuromuscular system.

The initial stage of learning requires much conscious thought about the components of the skill. Early performance gains rely strongly on nerve connections in the premotor cortex of the brain. As the task becomes more automatic, there is increased activity in the cerebellum and basal ganglia.

The feedback received from the instructor, the body’s sensory systems and cognitive processing help to establish a memory representation of the movement, which some would call “muscle memory”. With learning and practice, neuro-muscular patterns of more coordinated movements are developed and stored in the brain.

The sensorimotor system

The body’s sensory receptors are responsible for providing information about the movement and sensation of the movement. Besides, the visual, auditory and vestibular systems, the sensori-motor system will be discussed here.

The muscle spindle, located within muscle fibres, provides feedback and regulates muscle length and tension.  It helps towards fine and gross motor coordination as well as providing dynamic stability to the joint(s). Receptors, located in tendons, ligaments and joint capsules, provide information about body and limb position, direction, speed, resistance and type of movement.

This sensory information is integrated with other information in the brain to produce a desired response for the initiation and regulation of movement.

Coordination

Skilled motor performance requires the organized sequencing of muscle contractions done with proper timing, precision and accuracy.

The deep stabilizer muscles should provide relatively constant low grade muscle control to stabilize the spine, pelvis and scapulae, while the mover muscles or agonists produce limb and trunk movement. The right amount of stability and mobility is important. The opposer muscles or antagonist muscles control the force and speed of movement.

Motor programming and abilities

For the most part, a person’s genes predetermine his or her level of proficiency at specific motor abilities. However, experience, training and practice can compensate for lack of certain levels of specific abilities.

Individuals possess many different and relatively independent motor abilities. Each person has different levels of these abilities. A surgeon who plays golf might be at the high end of the scale for manual dexterity and eye-hand coordination. A dancer would be at the high end for dynamic balance and gross body coordination.

References:

Magill, Richard A (1985) Motor Learning Concepts and Applications 2nd Edition. Iowa: WCB publishers

Thomas, J.R. & Halliwell, W (1976) Individual differences in motor skill acquisition. Journal of Motor
Behaviour. 8,89-99.

By PHYSIONIQUE – Physiotherapy & Rehabilitation Centre, Singapore