Innate versus learned movements--a false dichotomy?

Prog Brain Res. 2004;143:3-12. doi: 10.1016/s0079-6123(03)43001-x.


It is argued that the nervous systems of vertebrates are equipped with a "motor infrastructure," which enables them to perform the full extent of the motor repertoire characteristic of their particular species. In the human, it extends from the networks/circuits underlying locomotion and feeding to sound production in speech and arm-hand-finger coordination. Contrary to current opinion, these diverse motor patterns should be labeled as voluntary, because they can be recruited at will. Moreover, most, if not all, of the motor patterns available at birth are subject to maturation and are modified substantially through learning. We thus argue that the all-too-common distinction between learned and innate movements is based on a fundamental misconception about the neural control of the vertebrate motor system.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Learning / physiology*
  • Movement / physiology*
  • Nervous System Physiological Phenomena*
  • Vertebrates / physiology*