Body processes

Motor Skills – Function, Task & Diseases

Motor skills

Motor skills are divided into the areas of gross motor skills and fine motor skills. Gross motor skills are the basis of spatial orientation and summarize large movement sequences of the body. Gross motor skills are the coordination of movements and the ability to react . Fine motor skills describe the dexterity of the hands , facial expressions and oral motor skills . Gross motor and fine motor development are closely related.

What is the motor skills?

Physicians understand motor functions to mean the entirety of all actions that take place during all movements in the human body, i.e. all movement processes controlled by the human brain . Basic motor skills are coordination skills such as movement coordination. Good muscle tension is necessary for basic motor movements to take place . The best example of this is the sense of balance .

A distinction is made between gross motor skills and fine motor skills. Each area can be promoted individually. When we think of fine motor skills, we initially think of hands, such as holding a pen, but facial expressions and oral motor skills are also part of it.

Gross motor skills include all major movement sequences such as climbing, running, jumping and maintaining balance. These are processes that require a large range of motion. Target motor skills cannot be performed without posture, balance and position.

Larger muscle groups are used for gross motor skills, but the functions can fail even if there are very small missing movements. Fine motor skills develop by age three and stabilize by age five.

function & task

Every muscle movement in the body is directly or indirectly controlled by the brain. The motor endplate is significantly involved in this. It is a synapse and creates the connection between a motor nerve cell and a muscle cell. 

In order for gross and fine motor skills to function properly, people need different coordination skills. A distinction is made between seven basic abilities: coupling ability , differentiation ability , reaction ability, balance ability , orientation ability , rhythmic ability and adaptability . The coordinative abilities interact with the conditional abilities in every sporting performance.

The motor areas of the cerebral cortex design and plan each movement and send the information to the muscles for execution . In order for the information to be implemented smoothly, two other brain structures are necessary: ​​the cerebellum and the basal ganglia .

A targeted movement can only be carried out smoothly and precisely with the support of the cerebellum. An example of this is the movement of the outstretched finger to the tip of the nose. In order for this movement to take place properly, several coordinated muscle contractions of the shoulder , arm and hand are necessary. It’s the same when we stand on one leg , for example . The cerebral cortex carries out additional fine corrections in all movements. When we lift a leg, the cerebellum sends the commands to the muscles that prevent it from tipping over. All of this happens unconsciously.

The basal ganglia, in turn, constantly choose between desired and undesired action sequences. Only in this way is fine motor movement in the correct direction and with the right intensity possible. Just by balancing, we manage to touch even a sensitive object like a raw egg in such a way that it doesn’t break. In turn, through the cerebellum, initiated movements can be translated into precise and fluid action sequences.

Diseases & Ailments

More than half of all nerve cells in the brain are located in the cerebellum. This makes it easy to see how complex the neural connections in this brain area are. Severe motor development disorders can already occur in early childhood, which can usually be treated well. 

Larger amounts of alcohol disrupt the functioning of the cerebellum significantly and the effects are the same as in a cerebellar disorder. Balance disorders occur , the affected person staggers and walks with their legs apart. The language also seems choppy. The cerebellum is also heavily involved in motor learning. If it is damaged, we can no longer learn properly.

The brain areas of basal ganglia and thalamus filter out the right movement patterns and allow the impulses to be transmitted to the cerebral cortex and thus the movement to be carried out. In order to be able to make complex, learned movements, the filtering in the basal ganglia is of paramount importance.

However, the basal ganglia cannot initiate movement. In Parkinson’s disease, too much information gets stuck in this filter so that movement impulses are not transmitted to the cerebral cortex. Conspicuous disorders are recognizable: the patient has a rigid facial expression, swallows less often than a healthy person and his arms hardly swing when walking. He also lifts his feet only slightly, so he often stumbles. Slow tremors and muscle stiffness are other symptoms of this disease.

Exactly the opposite happens in the hereditary disease Huntington ‘s disease, the filter lets far too many signals through. Muscle movements start suddenly and unexpectedly, the patient has little control over them, for example grimacing or throwing arms and legs back and forth.

With age, most motor tasks require more concentration. A disturbance of the gross motor skills is quickly visible, because the affected person is severely restricted. Biking, hopping on one leg, or exercising are very difficult for people with gross motor disorders.

Damage to the cerebrum almost always leads to motor disorders in the musculoskeletal system. There are problems with postural control and paralysis . Either the motor control of the musculature is limited or absent altogether, or there is an increase in muscle tone.

Disorders of the basal ducts, on the other hand, produce movement disorders because strategic planning and the initiation of all movements are restricted.

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Hello! I am Lisa Newlon, and I am a medical writer and researcher with over 10 years of experience in the healthcare industry. I have a Master’s degree in Medicine, and my deep understanding of medical terminology, practices, and procedures has made me a trusted source of information in the medical world.