Neuromotor Processes - Part 1

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Just as the environment and the movement skill have constraints that contribute to the action system, factors within the individual also have constraints that affect the movement outcome.  The individual factors are vast and cover a wide range, but one with the most recent areas of advancement in understanding motor control is the neuromuscular process of movement as it relates to perception, cognition and action (Rose & Christina, 2011). The neuromotor processes are essentially the activity that occurs in the brain in order to create movement. Movement must begin by forming a plan.  Therefore, these processes begin before the movement occurs in the planning phase in the central nervous system (CNS).    This process is sub-conscious, we can't describe or feel what is happening while it occurs.  

Perception is the result of sensory impressions into psychologically meaningful information (Shumway-Cook, 2012).  Fundamentally it is what we see, feel and hear and how we translate it from the environment to our bodies.  These systems give information about the state of the body (e.g., is it on a side hill, is there a branch, is the wind strong, is there distracting noise?).   The golfer’s ability to interpret and adjust movement according to the environment is critical and perception includes the processes that do the collecting and interpreting. 

Cognition and cognitive processes include the planning part of movement.  This is includes attention, planning, problem solving, motivation and emotional aspects of motor control.  These processes are particularly important for golf instructors to understand not only in isolation but also how they interact with the task constraints and the environment.  

Over 50 years ago, the Russian neurophysiologist Nikolai Bernstein initiated a new idea about how movement functions and how our minds work to create movement (Bernstein, 1967).  Beforehand, physiologists believed the motor act was organized in a reflex-arc fashion: when learning a movement, its program is mapped and recorded in motor centers; then some kind of stimulus activates that program, the motor command impulses are sent to the muscles and the movement occurs.   Bernstein argued that the process was more complex and should include more than just reactionary responses but actual adjustments based on the sensory information.  He reasoned that there were a whole series of factors that introduce variability and deviation from the motor plan.  Ultimately, he argued, the movement includes what he called sensory adjustments, signals to create slight modifications to the movement, which are made when peripheral sense organs give new commands for adjustment.  Movement scientists around the world have adopted his perspective and it still stands today.

This process of receiving and interpreting differences from one trial to the next is important in the learning process and the coach can facilitate it by incorporating “feel” into the students’ awareness.  The more the student is aware of how it feels, the more accessible that movement will be for later recall.  Since then advancements in neuroscience have enabled us to look more closely at the intricate process underlying reception, transmission and processing of this sensory information.  The involvement of the individual in this process of planning and executing is relevant to golf instructors who may have misguided beliefs about how the movement process occurs

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Rose, D. J., & Christina, R. (2011). A multi-level approach to the study of motor control and learning. Needham Heights, MA: Allyn & Bacon.

Shumway-Cook, A., & Woollacot, M.H. (2012). Motor control: Theory and practical applications. Baltimore, MD: Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins. 

Bernstein, A. (1967). The Coordination and Regulation of Movement. New York: Pergamon Press.