Topic 9: Movement

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We begin with some general observations about the relationship of movement to behaviour. Our analysis of movement will concentrate on simple kinds of movement that make use of some very general principles common to all animals. One thing we quickly learn is that nervous systems evolved together with muscles, and in some sense, nervous systems are for movement.

We meet the degrees of freedom problem, that assures us that the brain is not acting like a puppeteer in the generation of coordinated movement. We meet Rolf Pfeifer, a roboticist, who shows us that behaviours are not just a function of a controller, but involve bodies and environments as well.

In studying the generic principles that underlie all coordinated movement, we will find the basic mathematical model of the oscillator to be of great use. Systems of oscillators have been well studied, and provide us with a useful tool for studying coordinated movement.

We find lawful patterns of coordination in animal movement despite enormous variation in body size and make up. We here survey regularities involved in locomotion in many different species.

When energetic components are suitable constrained, we may see the emergence of coordinative patterns defined over the set of components. These are sometimes called coordinative structures or synergies. In this short video I do my best to demystify this jargon (using puppies).

We look at an early experiment in the study of coordinated movement, and observe that the limbs, when involved in a single task, become functionally non-independent. This has consequences for how we think of the role of the brain in movement.

We wrap up the topic of movement with a brief look at robotics, and at speech motor control.

Required reading:

It is difficult to find appropriate readings on this topic. So enjoy this video about Eadward Muybridge instead: