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Hum Mov Sci. 2010 Oct;29(5):642-54. doi: 10.1016/j.humov.2009.11.002. Epub 2010 Jan 8.

Stages in learning motor synergies: a view based on the equilibrium-point hypothesis.

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Department of Kinesiology, Rec. Hall-268N, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA 16802, USA.


This review describes a novel view on stages in motor learning based on recent developments of the notion of synergies, the uncontrolled manifold hypothesis, and the equilibrium-point hypothesis (referent configuration) that allow to merge these notions into a single scheme of motor control. The principle of abundance and the principle of minimal final action form the foundation for analyses of natural motor actions performed by redundant sets of elements. Two main stages of motor learning are introduced corresponding to (1) discovery and strengthening of motor synergies stabilizing salient performance variable(s) and (2) their weakening when other aspects of motor performance are optimized. The first stage may be viewed as consisting of two steps, the elaboration of an adequate referent configuration trajectory and the elaboration of multi-joint (multi-muscle) synergies stabilizing the referent configuration trajectory. Both steps are expected to lead to more variance in the space of elemental variables that is compatible with a desired time profile of the salient performance variable ("good variability"). Adjusting control to other aspects of performance during the second stage (for example, esthetics, energy expenditure, time, fatigue, etc.) may lead to a drop in the "good variability". Experimental support for the suggested scheme is reviewed.

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