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INTRODUCTION

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Concept: Specific characteristics of the performance of various types of motor skills provide the basis for much of our understanding of motor control.

After completing this chapter, you will be able to

  • Describe Fitts' law and explain how it relates to the speed-accuracy trade-off phenomenon

  • Define the term prehension; describe a prehension example; discuss, from a motor control perspective, the relationship among the components of a prehension action; and discuss the role of vision in prehension

  • Describe how handwriting provides a good example of the concept of motor equivalence and the influence of vision on handwriting

  • Describe the difference between symmetric and asymmetric bimanual coordination, and discuss why asymmetric bimanual coordination is more difficult to learn than symmetric

  • Describe the rhythmic relationships associated with walking and running gait patterns, the role of maintaining head stability during locomotion, and the characteristics associated with gait transitions that occur at certain speeds of locomotion

  • Describe the three movement phases of catching a moving object and the role vision plays in each phase and answer the question of whether it is important to be able to see one's hands throughout the flight of an object to catch it

  • Discuss how vision influences the striking of a moving object and what that influence tells us about the control of this type of action

  • Describe how vision influences locomotion when the action goal is to contact an object or avoid contact with an object in the environment

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APPLICATION

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Appropriate instruction and practice intervention procedures are important to develop to help people acquire or rehabilitate skills effectively and efficiently. As you saw in chapters 5 and 6, a basic understanding of motor control theory and the sensory processes involved in motor control form important parts of a foundation on which to base the development of these procedures. Consider the following two examples. If a person were having difficulty reaching, grasping, and drinking from a cup, how would the therapist determine the reason for this problem and then develop an appropriate intervention strategy to help the person perform this type of skill? An important part of the answer to these questions comes from research concerned with the motor control of prehension. Or, suppose a beginning student in a tennis class is having problems learning to serve because he or she cannot coordinate the ball toss and racquet movement that must simultaneously occur to perform a successful serve. Motor control researchers have identified some distinct characteristics of bimanual coordination that provide teachers and coaches some insight into how to overcome the tennis serve problem.

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These two examples illustrate situations in which an understanding of motor control processes and characteristics associated with specific motor skills can give you insights into helping people overcome performance problems in skill learning and rehabilitation contexts. We could consider many more examples, but these two should allow you to see how to apply an understanding of ...

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