Mini-review: Biological Movements as Objects of Natural Science




Law of nature, Referent coordinate, Uncontrolled manifold, Synergy, Hierarchy


BACKGROUND: Two approaches to biological movement have dominated the field, the computational approach (internal models) and the approach based on laws of nature pioneered by several researchers including Michael Turvey.

AIM AND METHOD: We review a body of literature exploring and expanding the approach based on laws of nature. We show, in particular, how this approach fits the philosophical traditions of Merleau-Ponty, the theory of control with spatial referent coordinates, the principle of abundance, and the concept of performance-stabilizing synergies using the uncontrolled manifold hypothesis.

RESULTS: Currently, this scheme of motor control has been applied successfully in studies of a variety of effectors, from single motor units to the whole body, a variety of tasks, and various populations. It led to the discovery of new phenomena and new interpretations of known phenomena. It has been productive in studies of neurological patients offering new understanding of some of the common pathologies (e.g., spasticity) and new tools for early diagnosis of various subcortical disorders and monitoring treatment effects.

CONCLUSION: Currently, this field faces a number of challenges including the following: Mapping steps in the hierarchical control scheme on neurophysiological structures and circuits, understanding the relative role of intra-muscle (spinal) and multi-effector (supraspinal) synergies, expanding studies of movements in intact animals and animal preparation, and moving beyond the current scheme to fields traditionally associated with psychology. Just like the current scheme represents moving “outside the box” of classical mechanics, a step outside the current thinking is needed.


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How to Cite

Latash, M. L. (2023). Mini-review: Biological Movements as Objects of Natural Science. Brazilian Journal of Motor Behavior, 17(6), 288–293.



Special Issue in memory of Michael Turvey