Movement is a fundamental part of life and begins even before birth, being present from about 7 weeks of gestation in the fetus. Motor control is the study of how the nervous system is organised so that the hundred or so joints and several hundred individual muscles of the body become coordinated.
Central to motor control is how the many thousands of channels of sensory information from the body and the environment are processed and utilised by the brain. While some movements– such as breathing and reflexive blinking – are genetically endowed, most movements must be learned. Motor learning is the study of how movements are acquired or improved as a result of practice or experience.
A motor skill is series of movements that combine to produce a smooth, efficient action. Skills are not confined to the high-level movements of performance art (playing music, singing) and sport (football, athletics), but include everyday movements like walking, talking and using a knife and fork. Central to the study of motor learning, therefore, is the process of skill acquisition.