Clinical Neuroscience

[Phylo- and ontogenetic aspects of erect posture and walking in developmental neurology]

BERÉNYI Marianne, KATONA Ferenc, CARMEN Sanchez, MANDUJANO Mario

JULY 20, 2011

Clinical Neuroscience - 2011;64(07-08)

[The group or profile of elementary neuromotor patterns is different from the primitive reflex group which is now called the “primitive reflex profile.” All these elementary neuromotor patterns are characterized by a high degree of organization, persistence, and stereotypy. In many regards, these patterns are predecessors or precursors of from them the specific human motor patterns which appear spontaneously later as crawling, creeping, sitting, and walking with erect posture. On the basis of our experiences it can be stated that the elementary neuromotor patterns can be activated in all neonates and young infants as congenital motor functions. With regards to their main properties and functional forms, the normal patterns can be divided into two main groups: (1) One group is characterized by lifting of the head and complex chains of movements which are directed to the verticalization of the body; (2) The other group is characterized by complex movements directed to locomotion and change of body position. The neuromotor patterns can be activated by placing the human infant in specific body positions that trigger the vestibulospinal and the reticulospinal systems, the archicerebellum and the basal gangliae. Most of these systems display early myelinisation and are functioning very soon. Many of the elementary neuromotor patterns reflect the most important - spontaneously developing - forms of human movements such as sitting upright in space and head elevation crawling and walking. The majority of the human neuromotor patterns are human specific. When the infant is put in an activating position, crawling, sitting up, and walking begin and last as long as the activating position is maintained. Each elementary neuromotor pattern is a repeated, continuous train of complex movements in response to a special activating position. The brainstem is not sufficient to organize these complex movements, the integrity of the basal ganglia is also necessary. Elementary sensorimotor patterns during human ontogenesis reflect phylogenetic develpoment of species specific human functions. During ontogenesis spontaneous motor development gradually arises from these early specific sensorimotor predecessors.. The regular use of the elementary neuromotor patterns for diagnostic puposes has several distinct advantages. The neuromotor patterns have a natural stereotypy in normal infants and, therefore, deflections from this regular pattern may be detected easily, thus, the activation of the elementary neuromotor pattern is a more suitable method for identifying defects in the motor activity of the neonate or young infant than the assessment of the primitive reflexes. The “stiumulus positions,” which activate specific movements according to how the human neonate or young infant is positioned, do not activate such motor patterns in neonate or young primates including apes. The characteristic locomotor pattern in these adult primates, including the apes, is swinging and involves brachiation with an extreme prehensility. This species specific motor activity is reflected in the orangutan and gibbon neonates by an early extensive grasp. However, according to our investigations, no crawling, creeping, elementary walk, or sitting up can be activated in them. Neonates grasp the hair of the mother, a vital function for the survival of the young. In contemporary nonhuman primates including apes, the neonate brain is more mature. Thus, pronounced differences can be observed between early motor ontogenesis in the human and all other primates. The earliest human movements are complex performances rather than simple reflexes. The distinction between primitive reflexes and elementary neuromotor patterns is essential. Primitive reflexes are controlled by the brainstem. All can be activated in primates. These reflexes have short durations and contrary to elementary sensorimotor patterns occur only once in response to one stimulus, e.g., one head drop elicits one abduction-adduction of the upper extremities correlated to adduction and flexion of the lower extremities to a lesser degree with the Moro reflex. Elementary neuromotor patterns are much more complex and most of them including elementary walk may be elicited as early as the 19th-20th gestational week, though less perfectly than later.]

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