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Space and time in the context of equilibrium-point theory

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Abstract

Advances to the equilibrium-point (EP) theory and solutions to several classical problems of action and perception are suggested and discussed. Among them are (1) the posture–movement problem of how movements away from a stable posture can be made without evoking resistance of posture-stabilizing mechanisms resulting from intrinsic muscle and reflex properties; (2) the problem of kinesthesia or why our sense of limb position is fairly accurate despite ambiguous positional information delivered by proprioceptive and cutaneous signals; (3) the redundancy problems in the control of multiple muscles and degrees of freedom. Central to the EP hypothesis is the notion that there are specific neural structures that represent spatial frames of reference (FRs) selected by the brain in a task-specific way from a set of available FRs. The brain is also able to translate or/and rotate the selected FRs by modifying their major attributes—the origin, metrics, and orientation—and thus substantially influence, in a feed-forward manner, action and perception. The brain does not directly solve redundancy problems: it only limits the amount of redundancy by predetermining where, in spatial coordinates, a task-specific action should emerge and allows all motor elements, including the environment, to interact to deliver a unique action, thus solving the redundancy problem (natural selection of action). The EP theory predicts the existence of specific neurons associated with the control of different attributes of FRs and explains the role of mirror neurons in the inferior frontal gyrus and place cells in the hippocampus. WIREs Cogni Sci 2011 2 287–304 DOI: 10.1002/wcs.108

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