NeuroKinetic Therapy and Motor Control

NeuroKinetic Therapy not only utilizes manual muscle testing in its protocol but also integrates motor control theory. The following explanation of motor control theory is based on the work of Vernon Brooks, and comes from his book ” The Neural Basis of Motor Control”.

Motor Control refers to the integration of the neural circuitry and the muscles. It also refers to the study of postures and movements and to the functions of mind and body that govern posture and movement. Motor learning is concerned with the coordination of joints, and as a matter of detail, the muscles that move and hold them. Motor memory is twofold: how it felt to make the effort and what result was achieved by it. Our “sense of effort” is based on messages that arrive from sense organs  in your muscles (muscle spindles and Golgi tendon organs). The information contained in these messages is used in two ways: it regulates ongoing, present activity, and it guides, as part of the motor memory, the execution of such a task in the future.     Thus our sense of effort and its memory are essential to both the execution and planning of motor action. Motor programs are a set of muscle commands that are structured before the motor acts began and that can be sent to the muscles with the correct timing so that the entire sequence can be carried out in the absence of peripheral feedback. In fact, feedback is normally used to adjust program movements. We can think of motor plans and programs as communications within the central nervous system that are based on past experience and can contribute to the generation of intended postures and movements. Feedback brings the program commands up to date with how their execution is coming along and correct errors. Motor plans are made up of several programs that in turn, consist of coordinated, smaller learned subroutines called subprograms. These subprograms not only encode actual muscle activity but also act as commands for the initiation of other subprograms that also produce motor action and command yet other subprograms. This hierarchy of plans, programs and subprograms finally exits into non-learned automatic (“reflex”) adjustments. Some programs can have various levels of complexity. Motor skill is the optimal use of programmed movements. If a motor task is executed successfully and the success is recognized, then the neural and muscular activity associated with that movement is committed to motor memory as subprograms. Continued use of the same programs for the performance of the test to be learned increases the accuracy of the memory, and therefore that of movement execution.

The Hierarchy of Motor Control

Movement starts as demands expressed as “needs” by the limbic system. These are then analyzed by the cerebral cortex, which selects the appropriate strategy. This strategy is then passed to the motor control center in the cerebellum, which chooses the most appropriate motor program. This program guides the spinal cord how and when to give orders for specific motor actions to the musculoskeletal system. Thus the spinal system executes the program and the musculoskeletal system does the actual movement.

Motor Control Center

The motor control center is stimulated by a muscle or function failure.  A good example of this is when a baby is learning to stand.  Many unsuccessful attempts are made before standing upright is achieved. With each failure the motor control center is “lit up” for new learning. The motor control center organizes all body movement and patterns. It can learn new successful routines (e.g. gymnastics), or in response to trauma it can create dysfunctional patterns.  With each attempt some aspect of success is achieved and assimilated. Finally the baby learns to stand.  The successful information is now programmed into the motor control center.  Conversely, when one is injured, dysfunctional patterns get stored.  For example, in whiplash, the neck extensor muscles can become extremely tight and painful. Massage, stretching, etc., may have little or no effect.

Why?  The motor control center has now stored in its memory the fact that the neck flexors are weak and vulnerable.  How is it going to keep the head upright?  It chooses to keep the neck extensors tight to support the weight of the head.  Until the pattern is cleared using the NeuroKinetic  Therapy protocol (or something similar), the neck extensors will remain locked.