Dexterity and Its Development

By Mark L. Latash; Michael T. Turvey et al. | Go to book overview

The Bernstein Problem: How Does the Central Nervous System Make Its Choices?

Mark L. Latash Pennsylvania State University

In the second quarter of the 20th century, two great physicists, Albert Einstein and Niels Bohr, discussed the basic principles of the physical foundation of our world. Recent progress in theoretical physics, at that time, had led to the formulation of the principle of uncertainty (the Heisenberg principle) according to which there are limits to the accuracy with which one can define position and impulse (the product of mass and velocity) of a particle. In a sense, this principle means that a particle is in a way spread over an area of space, and one can speak only about the probability of finding the particle in a certain point. This principle represented a huge leap from the determinism of the Newtonian classical mechanics. Einstein was very reluctant to accept this idea. He is attributed with saying that God does not play dice with nature. However, the later development in physics has proven that Heisenberg and Bohr were right: God does play dice!

Strong effects of the probabilistic properties of our world are commonly seen only at the level of elementary particles but not in the physics of everyday life. However, one is tempted to ask the following string of questions: Are the basic physical principles equally applicable to movements of inanimate objects and to the functioning of the human brain? Does the brain play dice with nature? How does it come to its wise solutions when it seems to have a virtually infinite number of choices? What does it mean to have a choice? Can one formally separate having a choice from being forced into a unique response? In this chapter, I move through this spectrum of questions, hoping that at the end I will be able to say something smart about whether the brain plays dice with nature.

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Dexterity and Its Development
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Resources for Ecological Psychology ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface vii
  • Resources for Ecological Psychology ix
  • Series Dedication x
  • Part I on Dexterity and Its Development 1
  • Introduction 3
  • Essay 1 What Is Dexterity? 9
  • Essay2 on Motor Control 25
  • Essay3 on the Origin of Movements 45
  • Essay 4 on the Construction of Movements 97
  • Essays 5 Levels of Construction of Movements 115
  • Essay 6 on Exercise and Motor Skill 171
  • Essay 7 Dexterity and Its Features 207
  • From the Author 237
  • Part II Commentaries 245
  • N. A. Bernstein: the Reformer of Neuroscience 247
  • References 275
  • The Bernstein Problem: How Does the Central Nervous System Make Its Choices? 277
  • On the Biomechanical Basis of Dexterity 305
  • Dynamics of Bernstein's Level of Synergies 339
  • Dexterity in Cascade Juggling 377
  • Change in Movement and Skill: Learning, Retention, and Transfer 393
  • Further Reading 429
  • The Primacy of Action in Development 431
  • References 450
  • Author Index 453
  • Subject Index 457
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