Week 11: Motor system

This weeks topic was the motor system. I have previously been interested in the science of muscles from the viewpoint of an athlete. It is nice to get a deeper understanding of familiar topics like the fine control of muscles. I had known that different muscles are easier to have accurate control of, and that its usually inverse relationship to its strength, but the technical details were unclear. The ratio of alpha motor neurons to muscle fibers seems to be an important factor.

In the book there was talk of changing muscle phenotypes, for example from fast to slow. I think this is pretty common knowledge in sports circles, that to some extent you can change your phenotypes of your muscles with training (I didn’t know accurate that assumption was). According to the book this could be possible simply by changing the neuron activity, i.e changing the type of training. Sports science is pretty old, and there have been many less than effective methods used, still it’s funny how there are some very effective training methods I’m sure the inventor of had no scientific basis for. But it’s nice that their scientific effectiveness can be shown retroactively.

The phrase ‘running like a headless chicken’ was taken note of in the book. It is somewhat ironic in my mind that what we often think of brain as the most important part of a human, and the things that are most externally perceivable about us, our motions, are to some extent able to be completed without the brain. Of course, motions without brain have almost zero meaning. Having a feedback system from the senses of muscles, skin and etc. to alpha motor neurons does provide useful functions without having to go through the brain. I would guess skipping the brain allows for faster reactions.