Central Control of Movements in Exercise and Sport
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Central Control of Movements in Exercise and Sport

by Alastair Riley

The central nervous system (CNS) coordinates the activity of all parts of the body. The human brain is the centre of the human nervous system; it is arguable one of the most complex organ in the body. The CNS also consists of the spinal cord. The brain is protected by the skull and the spinal cord by the vertebrae.

The cerebellum is a small region of the brain that plays an important role in coordination, sensory perception and motor control. The cerebral motor cortex, spinocerebrallar tract and cerebellum are linked by neural pathways which allow for information to reach the muscles causing them to move. The cerebellum integrates these pathways using the constant feedback to enhance motor activity. (Fine et al 2002)

Central Control of Movements in Exercise and SportVoluntary and involuntary movements are produced by spatial and temporal patterns of muscular contractions of the brain and spinal cord. Hogan (1984) describes voluntary movement as being able to make the smoothest movement possible under the circumstances. Motor neurons are discharged and these innervate the mechanical response of muscles. Central control incorporates the sensory inputs from the eyes, ears and from the skin, muscle and joint receptors that are able to characterize the location, size, shape, weight and texture of the object that forms the goal of movement.

The different parts of the CNS concerned with movement control are organised in a distributed fashion and are known to act in parallel. The motor pathways from the brain stem,midbrain and cerebral cortex directly influence groups of interneurons and motor neurons that are concerned with trunk, shoulder, pelvic girdle and distal limb movments (Macaluso & Driver 2005)

A ‘loop’ is where an output of a particular structure is sent to a number of other regions from which process the information and send it back, directly and indirectly. The two most important ‘loops’ are those linking the areas of cerebral cortex concerned with movement with the cerebellum and basal ganglia. There is a detectable activity in the brain as much as a whole second before the onset of voluntary movement. This is a relatively long time delay with respect to nerve conduction velocity. This allows time for processing the information.


Fine EJ, Ionita CC, Lohr L (2002). "The history of the development of the cerebellar examination". Semin Neurol 22 (4): 375–84

Hogan N. (1984) An Organising Principle for a Class of Voluntary Movement. The Journal of Neuroscience Vol. 4, No. 11, pp. 2745-2754

Macaluso E, Driver J. (2005). "Multisensory spatial interactions: a window onto functional integration in the human brain.". Trends in Neurosciences 28: 263-271.

Porter, R. and Lemon, R. N. (1993). Corticospinal function and voluntary movement. Oxford University Press.

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