What Are “normal Movements” In Atypical Populations?
Redundancy of the motor control system is an important feature that gives the central control structures options for solving everyday motor problems. The choice of particular control patterns is based on priorities (coordinative rules) that are presently unknown. Motor patterns observed in unimpaired young adults reflect these priorities. We hypothesize that under certain atypical conditions, which may include disorders in perception of the environment and in decision making, structural or biochemical changes within the central nervous system (CNS), and/or structural changes of the effectors, the central nervous system may reconsider its priorities. A new set of priorities will reflect the current state of the system and may lead to different patterns of voluntary movement. Under such conditions, changed motor patterns should be considered not pathological but rather adaptive to a primary disorder and may even be viewed as optimal for a given state of the system of movement production. Therapeutic approaches should not be directed toward restoring the motor patterns to as close to “normal” as possible but rather toward resolving the original underlying problem. We illustrate this approach using, as examples, movements in amputees, in patients with Parkinson's disease, in patients with dystonia, and in persons with Down syndrome.