Motor behavior is the study of how humans move and interact with their environment. It encompasses three subfields: biomechanics, motor control and motor development. Biomechanics is the study of movement from a mechanical perspective, including cellular mechanics, muscle behavior, locomotion, reaching and prehension. Motor control investigates the natural laws that describe how the central nervous system interacts with the body and environment to produce coordinated, purposeful movement. Motor development studies the emergence of motor ability in infants and how it co-evolves alongside perceptual abilities. In this article, we will explore how motor behavior research is closely related to biomechanics and why this relationship is important for understanding human movement.
Biomechanics as a Foundation for Motor Behavior Research
Biomechanics provides the foundation for motor behavior research by describing the physical principles and constraints that govern human movement. By applying concepts such as force, torque, work, power, energy, momentum and kinematics, biomechanists can analyze the structure and function of the human body and its interaction with external forces. Biomechanics also helps to measure and quantify movement variables such as displacement, velocity, acceleration, angular velocity, angular acceleration and joint angles. These variables can be used to evaluate performance, efficiency, safety and injury risk of various movements.
Biomechanics also helps to understand the underlying mechanisms of movement at different levels of analysis. For example, cellular biomechanics studies how cells respond to mechanical stimuli and how they generate forces and deformations. Muscle biomechanics studies how muscles produce force and power and how they are affected by fatigue, injury and disease. Locomotion biomechanics studies how humans walk, run, jump and balance and how they adapt to different terrains, speeds and loads. Reaching and prehension biomechanics studies how humans manipulate objects with their hands and arms and how they coordinate their eye-hand movements.
Biomechanics as a Tool for Motor Behavior Research
Biomechanics also provides a tool for motor behavior research by enabling the development of novel technologies and methods for measuring and enhancing human movement. For example, biomechanists use motion capture systems, force plates, electromyography (EMG), electroencephalography (EEG), functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and other devices to record and analyze movement data. Biomechanists also design and test prosthetic limbs, orthotic devices, wearable sensors, exoskeletons, robots and virtual reality systems to assist or augment human movement.
Biomechanics also helps to test and validate theoretical models and hypotheses of motor behavior. For example, biomechanists use computational methods such as optimization, simulation, machine learning and artificial intelligence to model human movement and its neural control. Biomechanists also use experimental methods such as perturbation, feedback manipulation, skill training and intervention to examine how humans learn and adapt their movements in response to changes in task or environment.
Biomechanics as a Goal for Motor Behavior Research
Biomechanics also provides a goal for motor behavior research by inspiring new questions and challenges for understanding human movement. For example, biomechanists seek to discover the optimal strategies for achieving high performance, efficiency, safety and comfort in various movements. Biomechanists also seek to understand the trade-offs between stability and flexibility, accuracy and speed, simplicity and complexity in movement control. Biomechanists also seek to explore the diversity and variability of human movement across individuals, groups, cultures and species.
Biomechanics also helps to translate motor behavior research into practical applications that benefit society. For example, biomechanists apply their knowledge and skills to improve health care, sports performance, education, entertainment, industry, military and space exploration. Biomechanists also contribute to the development of policies, standards and guidelines that promote physical activity, prevent injury and enhance quality of life.
Motor behavior research is closely related to biomechanics because biomechanics provides the foundation, tool, goal and application for understanding human movement. By integrating biomechanics with motor control and motor development, motor behavior researchers can advance the science of human movement as well as its impact on health, well-being and society.