On Primitives in Motor Control

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32 Scopus citations


The concept of primitives has been used in motor control both as a theoretical construct and as a means of describing the results of experimental studies involving multiple moving elements. This concept is close to Bernstein’s notion of engrams and level of synergies. Performance primitives have been explored in spaces of peripheral variables but interpreted in terms of neural control primitives. Performance primitives reflect a variety of mechanisms ranging from body mechanics to spinal mechanisms and to supraspinal circuitry. This review suggests that primitives originate at the task level as preferred time functions of spatial referent coordinates or at mappings from higher level referent coordinates to lower level, frequently abundant, referent coordinate sets. Different patterns of performance primitives can emerge depending, in particular, on the external force field.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)318-346
Number of pages29
JournalMotor control
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Physiology (medical)


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