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"The key to success is discipline. Teens don't want to hear that. They think that they can just snap their fingers, and voila! But with discipline come knowledge, coordination, balance, muscle memory, confidence — things that make it possible to hit the bulls-eye three times in a row."

—Carlos Santana, musician, 1947



This chapter provides an overview of nerve and muscle interaction and how they function together. After reading this chapter, you should be able to:

  • Describe the properties of irritability, excitability, and transmission that are the unique capabilities of nerve and muscle tissue;

  • Give an overview of the nervous system's physiological, anatomical, and functional divisions and explain their functions;

  • Describe the basic structure of skeletal muscle and how skeletal muscle contracts;

  • Describe the different types of muscle fibers and their contribution to functional movement;

  • Describe the function of proprioceptors—Golgi tendon organ, joint receptors, and muscle spindle—and explain how they contribute to human movement control;

  • Define and describe what motor control means;

  • Describe the functional contributions to motor control from the spinal region, the brainstem, the cerebellum, the basal ganglia, and the motor cortex, and summarize the functional consequences of damage to those areas;

  • Describe the following common movement system impairments—weakness, abnormal muscle tone, coordination problems, and involuntary movements.



Joseph is a 5-year old child with spastic diplegic cerebral palsy. He has spasticity in both lower extremities and weakness in his trunk, but he is able to ambulate around school and home using a walker. While playing outside, he fell, landing his elbow onto a broken glass bottle and partially severed his left ulnar nerve at the medial epicondyle. Jay, his clinician, needs to explain to Joseph's mother the differences between the weakness that he is displaying in his left hand and the weakness and spasticity that is present in his legs.


Since this is a clinical kinesiology textbook, you may wonder what a chapter whose primary information regards physiology and movement theory is doing in such a text. As clinicians, it is important for us to understand how the body works, what makes it work, and how we can influence how it works in the exercise and rehabilitation programs we create for our patients. Since kinesiology is the study of human movement, we must appreciate the elements that produce motion. Human movement occurs as a result of an intimate relationship between anatomy and physiology. This chapter presents information relevant to the connections between these two systems; melding this chapter's information with the subsequent chapters will provide you with a clear understanding and appreciation of human movement.

Providing a basic understanding of neural physiology for the development and appreciation of the kinesiological functions in human performance is the goal of this chapter. We will first identify the basic physiology of uniquely excitable ...

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