- Unknown Binding: 196 pages
- Publisher: Pergamon Press; [1st English ed.] edition (1967)
- Language: English
- ASIN: B0007ITDZ8
- Package Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.6 x 0.8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 2 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #7,510,566 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The co-ordination and regulation of movements, Unknown Binding – 1967
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The importance of this much-cited work to many fundamental problems in neuroscience cannot be understated. Although some of the details are hard to get through, and much of the science is outdated, Bernstein uses plenty of analogies and helpful examples to help correlate his groundbreaking work to the real world. Furthermore, his open-mindedness pervades the text, with the ongoing realization that neuroscience is still dynamically evolving at an ever-increasing rate. The organization of the text reads like the compilation it is: somewhat non-intuitively, combining history, physiological studies, and much of the author's personal views on motor control. Nonetheless, there are several key scientific ideas that resonate in the text and continue to be cited to this date. Overall, I found the text highly informative and broadly applicable to my area of research (motor control), although someone ignorant of the field or wary of highly technical jargon should probably steer clear.
Book Summary and General Comments
The book is divided into six chapters, each individual papers, organized by chronological date of publication. The first chapter is on the methods Bernstein used to study movement, and probably the least relevant chapter, considering the half-century of technological advances since the book was first published. The second chapter details much of the problems involved in studying such a complex biological system in context of our highly limited knowledge on the topic. The third chapter discusses locomotion as a model behavior for motor control in general, and what implications this particular behavior has for the rest of neuroscience. The fourth through sixth chapters read less like papers and more like nonfiction, detailing a wide spectrum of history, the author's own inferences, and cybernetic relationships between the human body and non-biological controllers.
Although Bernstein's methods revealed novel insights, the details of this chapter will probably bore a casual reader who is not intimately familiar with this field. Four techniques for studying human movement are given an overview: Cinematography (video recording of movements), cyclography (planar projection of different movements, using light bulbs attached directly to a subject), stereoscopy (recording from two cameras in order to derive perspective and force/acceleration data), and measuring relative masses of different limbs. The latter method is especially detailed, as Bernstein was the first to devise a system for weighing individual limbs and limb segments pre-mortem. His extensive studies covered 152 patients and details center of mass locations, gender and age-related differences in measurements, as well as many other anthropometric details.
This chapter is very relevant to motor control to this day, outlining several difficulties with studying motion as a whole. The first difficulty in motor control is the complexity of the mathematics; a multi-jointed system, having force actuators that change properties with their length and tension (i.e. muscles), and depending both on neural input and mechanical constraints. Furthermore, the author makes sure the reader understands that a single, unequivocal descriptor of the relationship between the impulses of the central nervous system (CNS) and the executed movement does not exist; paradoxically, though, a movement is only possible if the CNS and its target (muscles) are in sync. The two major problems discussed are "coordination" and "localization." Coordination is defined as the common action of several elements in a system, and localization is defined as the organization of neural activity being reflected in an anatomical plan. The author shuns traditional theories that postulated representation of single muscles in the CNS, and suggests that a "radical re-examination" of traditional cortical mappings is needed. In fact, since his work, this is exactly what has been carried out--or attempted--in motor control research.
The second half of this chapter postulates schemes regarding the spatiotemporal organization of movements. Two contrasting hypothetical models of motor control are presented: the "comb" hypothesis, where a neural controller guides each successive step in a movement, and a "chain" hypothesis, where each step in a movement signals the next step. The author continues to reiterate that movements are organized topologically, not metrically. That is to say, the CNS encodes goal-based movements, rather than specific muscle and joint actions. This is seen in the variety of ways we can carry out a single task, such as handwriting. Finally, the author defines a "principle of equal simplicity" in accordance with this multiplicity of movements; the principle states that multiple movements are equal in the view of the CNS as long as they accomplish the task goal. As complicated as the topic is, the author continues to keep the reader interested with relevant examples and overarching ideas, which is uncommon and pleasantly surprising when reading scientific work.
This chapter highlights locomotion as a model behavior for studying motor control. The reasons for doing this are fivefold: the movement is highly automated, incorporates the whole musculature, can be generalized across subjects, has an evolutionary basis, and possesses an unusually stable structure. As the author stresses, "movements are not chains of details but structures which are differentiated into details," outlining a fundamental difference between the way we often study motion (in isolated spatiotemporal dimensions) versus the way the CNS may see motion (as an underlying way to solve a problem or achieve a desired goal). The author's logic in this chapter is airtight, although the discussion of how we learn to walk as we develop is extremely lengthy and feels drawn-out. He concludes the chapter by posing a problem that continues to interest scientists to this day: the so-called "Degrees of Freedom Problem," where the CNS must figure out how to deal with redundant kinematic, mechanical, and physiological variables. Bernstein suggests that two stages are involved in addressing this problem. The first stage is a learning period, where degrees of freedom are manually reduced by "stiffening up" the musculature. The second stage is a development period, where the CNS gradually learns how to optimize a movement to perform a certain task. For those interested in motor control like myself, this may be the most interesting part of the whole work. It seamlessly fuses high-level ideas and common sense to impress the reader with a sense of awe at the capabilities of the nervous system.
These more theoretical chapters deal with the author's analysis of a "motor problem" as the guiding principle behind all movement. To achieve purposeful movements, we must have a full and complete perception of reality; furthermore, and more importantly, our perception of reality must be objective and objectively realizable. The author outlines a "self-regulating system" and describes what components the nervous system must possess in order to execute a purposeful movement. He stresses that the interaction of the nervous system with the environment is hardly one-way, but rather a "closed circle of interaction" on which both the environment and the CNS can act. All of the ideas from the previous chapters are re-introduced in the context of system-wide analysis, and again plentiful analogies are used so the details don't become all that boring. One can almost see a progression through the entire work, as the author's early publications tend to be more technical, while his later works are more accessible and better at conveying a general message.
I would recommend this book to any scientific-minded individual interested in learning the fundamentals of a certain aspect of neuroscience about which we still know very little. The latter half of the book is more engaging, but the former provides much scientific context. The come-away message from the book is that motor control is an aspect of neuroscience worth investigating for its complexity and immediate relevance to the working conditions of everyday life.
This being said, it is NOT worth 1000$. Certainly not. Never. It is available in most (public) university libraries and almost all scholars I know have it in pdf and/or printed version. So it can be very easily borrowed and read.
And for collectors, just think about how the price will fall when thousands of library will be selling their copy...