2011 Motor Control

Types of Movements

There are 4 types of movements: reflex, postural, rhythmic and voluntary. They can be thought of as a continuum with respect to the amount of control coming from higher centers, with reflexes having the least, and voluntary movements the most. Critical Fact Icon
  1. REFLEXES: fixed, automatic movements triggered in response to a specific sensory stimulus
    • usually fairly rapid
    • little voluntary control, but can be modulated
    • e.g., patellar tendon, eye blink, etc.
  2. POSTURAL MOVEMENTS: combination of reflex and volition used to maintain an upright position with respect to gravity
  3. RHYTHMIC MOVEMENTS: also a combination of reflex and volition
    • initiation and termination is voluntary, but the actual movement is more stereotyped
    • e.g., walking, running, chewing, etc.
  4. VOLUNTARY MOVEMENTS: purposeful, goal-directed movements
    • initiated entirely from within the CNS
    • performance improves with practice
    • reflex and postural movements are often initiated that compensate for the effects of the intended action on other parts of the body
Email: Dr. Janet Fitzakerley | ©2011 University of Minnesota Medical School Duluth | Last modified: 16-feb-11 12:00 PM