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3. 6. 2012.

Higher brain centers

Reflexes involve the simplest form of neural integration. But most movements used in sport activities involve control and coordination through the higher brain centers,specifically the primary motor cortex, the basal ganglia, and the cerebellum.

Primary motor cortex

The primary motor cortex is responsible for the control of fine and discrete muscle movements. It is located in the frontal lobe, specifically within the precentral gyrus. Neurons here, known as pyramidal cells, let us consciously control movement of our skeletal muscles. Think of the primary motor cortex as the part of the brain that decides what movement one wants to make. For example, in baseball, if a players is in the batter’s box waiting for the next pitch, the decision to swing the bat is made in the primary motor cortex, where the entire body is carefully mapped out. The areas that require the finest motor control have a greater representation in the motor cortex: thus, more neural control is provided to them.
The cell bodies of the pyramidal cells are housed in the primary motor cortex, and their axons form the extrapyramidal tracts. These are also known as the corticospinal tracts because the nerve processes extend from the cerebral cortex down to the spinal cord. These tracts provide the major voluntary control of skeletal muscles.
In addition to the primary motor cortex, there is a premotor cortex just anterior to the precentral gyrus in the frontal lobe. Learned motor skills of a repetitious or patterned nature are stored here. This region can be thought of as the memory bank for skilled motor activities.

Basal ganglia

The basal ganglia(nuclei) are not part of the cerebral cortex. Rather, they are in the cerebral white matter, deep in the cortex. These ganglia are clusters of nerve cell bodies. The complex functions of the basal ganglia are not well understood, but the ganglia are known to be important in initiating movements of a sustained and repetitive nature(such as arm swinging during walking), and thus they control complex movements such as walking and running. These cells also are involved in maintaining posture and muscle tone.


The cerebellum is crucial to the control of all rapid and complex muscular activities. It helps coordinate the timing of motor activities and the rapid progression from one movement to the next by monitoring and making corrective adjustments in the motor activities that are elicited by other parts of the brain. The cerebellum assists the functions of both the primary motor cortex and the basal ganglia. It facilitates movement patterns by smoothing out the movement, which would otherwise be jerky and uncontrolled.
The cerebellum acts as an integration system, comparing the programmed or intended activity with the actual changes occurring in the body and then initiating corrective adjustments through the motor system. It receives information from the cerebrum and other parts of the brain and also from sensory receptors(proprioceptors) in the muscles and joints that keep the cerebellum informed about the body’s current position. The cerebellum also receives visual and equilibrium input. Thus, it notes all incoming information about the exact tension and position of all muscles, joints, and tendons and the body’s current position relative to its surroundings; then it determines the best plan of action to produce the desired movement.
The primary motor cortex is the part of the brain that makes the decision to perform a movement. This decision is relayed to the cerebellum. The cerebellum notes the desired action and then compares the intended movement with the actual movement based on sensory feedback from the muscles and joints. If the action is different than planned, the cerebellum informs the higher centers of the desrepancy so corrective action can be initiated.

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