The complex issue of translating the planning of arm movements into muscle forces is discussed in relation to the recent discovery of structures in the spinal cord. These structures contain circuitry that, when activated, produce precisely balanced contractions in groups of muscles. These synergistic contractions generate forces that direct the limb toward an equilibrium point in space. Remarkably, the force outputs, produced by activating different spinal-cord structures, sum vectorially. This vectorial combination of motor outputs might be a mechanism for producing a vast repertoire of motor behaviors in a simple manner.
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