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Cell. 2016 Mar 10;164(6):1122-1135. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2016.02.038.

Movement: How the Brain Communicates with the World.

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Department of Neurobiology, School of Medicine, University of Pittsburgh, E1440 BSTWR, 200 Lothrop Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15213, USA. Electronic address:


Voluntary movement is a result of signals transmitted through a communication channel that links the internal world in our minds to the physical world around us. Intention can be considered the desire to effect change on our environment, and this is contained in the signals from the brain, passed through the nervous system to converge on muscles that generate displacements and forces on our surroundings. The resulting changes in the world act to generate sensations that feed back to the nervous system, closing the control loop. This Perspective discusses the experimental and theoretical underpinnings of current models of movement generation and the way they are modulated by external information. Movement systems embody intentionality and prediction, two factors that are propelling a revolution in engineering. Development of movement models that include the complexities of the external world may allow a better understanding of the neuronal populations regulating these processes, as well as the development of solutions for autonomous vehicles and robots, and neural prostheses for those who are motor impaired.

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