Fifty years of physics of living systems

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

3 Scopus citations


The equilibrium-point hypothesis and its more recent version, the referent configuration hypothesis, represent the physical approach to the neural control of action. This hypothesis can be naturally combined with the idea of hierarchical control of movements and of synergic organization of the abundant systems involved in all actions. Any action starts with defining trajectories of a few referent coordinates for a handful of salient task-specific variables. Further, referent coordinates at hierarchically lower levels emerge down to thresholds of the tonic stretch reflex for the participating muscles. Stability of performance with respect to salient variables is reflected in the structure of inter-trial variance and phenomena of motor equivalence. Three lines of recent research within this framework are reviewed. First, synergic adjustments of the referent coordinate and apparent stiffness have been demonstrated during finger force production supporting the main idea of control with referent coordinates. Second, the notion of unintentional voluntary movements has been introduced reflecting unintentional drifts in referent coordinates. Two types of unintentional movements have been observed with different characteristic times. Third, this framework has been applied to studies of impaired movements in neurological patients. Overall, the physical approach searching for laws of nature underlying biological movement has been highly stimulating and productive.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationAdvances in Experimental Medicine and Biology
PublisherSpringer New York LLC
Number of pages23
StatePublished - 2016

Publication series

NameAdvances in Experimental Medicine and Biology
ISSN (Print)0065-2598
ISSN (Electronic)2214-8019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology


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