THE NEUROSCIENCE BEHIND BASEWORKS

Most exercise methods focus on targeting muscles, which are the end effectors in the 3-step process of movement production (1-Plan, 2-Program, 3-Execute), leaving the Steps 1 and 2 to the subconscious brain systems, limiting the possibility of learning and relearning.

Baseworks method formulates the movement task goals in a way that makes the Step 1 more conscious, allowing for more effective modification of motor programs at Step 2, leading to more effective learning and relearning.

Baseworks considers the neurophysiological mechanisms of motor learning and through its original applications works to increase sensory and spatial awareness, develop better control and more detailed repertoire of basic motor programs, strategically stimulating neuroplasticity. It also teaches intensity modification techniques that change one’s perception of stress, self, and interpersonal interactions. Its applications in attention allocation also have been reported to improve spatial cognition and short-term memory.

Table of Contents

If you are interested in any form of collaboration, or if you would like to point out an inconsistency or suggest a better way to articulate any information in this page, please feel free to contact us.

Stages in producing purposeful movement

(1) Plan

  • WHAT TO DO – identify the goal and come up with a plan how to achieve the goal
  • Brain regions supporting the circuits: Cortical areas – Prefrontal Cortex, Supplementary Motor area, Premotor Cortex
  • Degree of conscious accessibilityConscious access, but relies on preconceptions and memory from past experience 

(2) Program

  • HOW TO DO – the nervous system is computing how to perform the movement
  • Brain regions supporting the circuits: Basal ganglia, Posterior Parietal Cortex, Primary Motor Cortex
  • Degree of conscious accessibilityUnconscious

(3) Execute

  • DO – the muscles contract and relax according to the Program, specified at Step 2 to produce the actual movement
  • Brain regions supporting the circuits: Primary Motor Cortex, Cerebellum, Spinal motor circuits
  • Degree of conscious accessibilityUnconscious

Approach to teaching “movement”: Baseworks vs most exercise methods

Most exercise methods:

  1. Conceptualize themselves as targeting muscles, which are the end effectors in this 3-step process of movement production and are largely operated from “muscle memory” which is largely unconscious.

  2. Erroneously pre-assume 100% understanding of the movement goal both by the student and the teacher.

  3. Do not consider the mechanisms of creating, accessing, modifying, and executing of the motor programs.

  4. Do not consider the degree of sensory input available for conscious access.

  5. Prioritize the importance of external feedback (basically, to compensate for learning losses due to the reasons in the points above)

Baseworks method:

  1. Conceptualizes itself as targeting the only really conscious step in movement production – movement planning.

  2. Explicitly defines movement goals to avoid any ambiguity based on preconceptions and prior experiences.

  3. Considers the mechanisms of creating, accessing, modifying, and executing of the motor programs (basal-ganglia-related circuits) and targets them with various applications.

  4. Increases the degree of sensory input available for conscious access with its various applications.

  5. Prioritizes the importance of internal sensory feedback (associated with somatosensory and parietal cortices) and targets proprioceptive and spatial awareness with its various applications.

...as a result...

Most exercise methods:

  1. Unless one already has an established athletic background (trained from young age), or has a very specific mindset and resources to be able to put a lot of energy to figure things out,
  2. for an adult, without a competent personal trainer/coach,
  3. it is very difficult to get into and significantly progress in movement practices.
  4. Most often, people end up using their daily movement vocabulary trying to achieve poorly formulated exercise goals.
  5. Movement practices are experienced as difficult, and exercise as boring.
  6. Maintaining good posture and enjoying physical activity becomes difficult,
  7. Negatively impacting health and the quality of life

Baseworks method:

  1. A person from any athletic background,
  2. even without a competent personal trainer,
  3. can learn to understand their unique body step-by-step,
  4. Movement goals are clearly defined from the start, making it obvious that the person cannot simply apply their daily movement vocabulary.
  5. The person develop body awareness and control necessary to effortlessly maintain good posture and learn new movement skills,
  6. Movement (both athletic and daily tasks) and simply being and space becomes intrinsically rewarding and enjoyable,
  7. Leading to improved health, wellbeing, quality of life

Brain areas that participate in volitional movement production and their roles

PLANNING

  • When we want to move, the movement goal is formulated in the prefrontal, premotor areas (#1). Movement goal contains the minimally necessary information to achieve . All other details will be filled in by the lower processing structures in a way that requires the least mental and physical effort during the execution.
    When a goal is formulated, it has explicit (consciou) and implicit (unconscious) components:
    • Explicit: “Drink from this cup”
      Implicit: do not drop the cup, do not bump it against the teeth, do not spill the liquid
    • Explicit: “Lift the right arm”
      Implicit: bring the right hand to a point high above the head and allow the right arm, the right shoulder, the upper body to move to accommodate the change of the position of the hand
    • Explicit: “Move the right shoulder back in such a way that the pelvis does not move at all, but the dynamics of the movement resemble the shoulder being pushed by an external force”
      Implicit:
    • Note: deep implicit goals such as “don’t hurt yourself,” “don’t fall in the process,” “keep the head relatively upright because it’s the best condition for the eyes to continue scanning the environment” are also always running in the background.

PROGRAMMING

  • Basal ganglia (#2) create a sequence of actions that need to be performed to achieve the movement goal. Each “action” can itself consist of a pre-learned sequence of actions.

  • Somatosensory cortex (#3) provides conscious information about the current position of the body in space, which is represented in the posterior parietal cortex (#4).

  • Basal ganglia (#2) receive only consciously treated cortical information about senses and position.
    When an action is selected for execution by the basal ganglia (#2), the competing actions involving the same muscles are inhibited.

  • Conscious representation of the body in the somatosensory cortex (#3) is only as detailed as required by daily movement needs (a professional athlete has very different daily movement needs compared to an office worker).

  • Because somatosensory cortex (#3) communicates with the motor cortex (#5) (the output of movements), the ability to consciously sense certain body parts is closely interconnected with the ability to consciously control them.

  • The movements are defined in terms of how certain points of the body are moved within space. Most typical points are – the head, the hands, the feet. Special training is usually needed to be able to effortlessly define movements in reference to other points.

EXECUTION

  • The motor cortex (#5) contains the “movement vocabulary” of well-learned movements. Each “word” in this “movement vocabulary” is held “on a leash”, controlled by the basal ganglia (#2). Basal ganglia (#2) “decide” when and which leash to let go of to “release the movement”.

  • This letting go of a leash sends orders to the motor neurons in the spinal cord (#7), which are directly connected to the muscles (#8). The spinal cord (#7) contains local circuits that allow smoother communication between contracting and relaxing muscles.

  • A copy of the program is sent to the cerebellum (#6), which constantly compares the intended movement with the ongoing actual movement, based on the unconscious direct sensory information from the muscles (#8) and helps smoothen the movement and coordinate proper timing of muscle contractions.

Note about the Conscious / Unconscious distinction:

Although when we move it feels like we are the agents of the movement, most aspects of the movement are programmed by subcortical structures without any conscious awareness and are based on the lifetime of past experiences and pre-existing motor skills. In open-brain surgery electric stimulation experiments, stimulation of the primary motor cortex (#5) feels like the muscles “want to move on their own”, whereas it is the basal ganglia (#2) stimulation that results in movements that feel volitional.

Although we are not claiming that the ultimate source of “I” resides in the basal ganglia, these subcortical structures are much closer to the sense of being in control of the movement than the primary motor cortex.

Baseworks applications, their outcomes and mechanisms

Read about Baseworks Movement Principles here.

Baseworks Applications in the table below are combinations of various Baseworks movement principles.

Baseworks applications Description Benefit Mechanism
Distributed activation (DA) + Micromovements (MM)
  • Using combinations of movement patterns which result in simultaneous isometric contractions in as many muscles as possible at the same time.
  • At the same time, making low-amplitude slow undulating movements with various body parts.

Increases:

  • Perceived strength
  • Blood circulation
  • Sensations in the muscles
  • Relaxation in the muscles after contraction
  • Control over the muscles
  • Continuous flow of sensory information makes it more available for awareness.
  • Conscious movements overwrite residual muscle tension.
  • Co-activation of many muscles at the same time “hacks” the basal ganglia’s inhibition of competing movements so that motor programs can be more easily modified.
  • “Neurons that fire together wire together”. DA, although a very unnatural way to activate muscles, consciously creates the state when neurons fire together, leaving it to unconscious mechanisms to figure out the firing patterns that are sufficient to produce a certain desired movement.
Fix-Separate-Isolate (FSA) + Gridlines/Symmetry (GS) Principles

The movements are defined in terms of multiple points simultaneously (including many points on the trunk and spine)

  • Easier control over movements.
  • Separating complex actions into simpler building blocks, which makes it easier to recombine them into different more complex action programs.
  • Better spatial awareness.
  • Training to move different reference points within the PPC (#4) space.
  • Combining with DD, GS movement instructions are very easy to understand conceptually.
  • By defining goals through many points, we are forcing the brain to create conscious commands for movement elements which are typically handled by various segmental rotation reflexes and other unconscious movement patterns.
  • Applying DD during FSA+GS movement execution allows to more easily create a new program in the basal ganglia, because it reduces the inhibition.
  • Similar to how infants train to reach to certain points in space through “circular reactions”, by applying FSA+GD,combined with DA+MM, the person trains to “reach” into space with points other than hands, re-mapping the internal representation of space to more easily compute complex movements
Intensity modification

(1) Keeping the breathing/heart rate relatively normal,
(2) Avoiding sensations of compression and pain,
(3) Defining motor goals in a way that considers the range of motion of each joint and performing movement in only one joint at a time.

  • Maintains normal sensitivity.
  • Maintains high focus, training attention.
  • Teaches to understand one’s body’s limitations.
  • Teaches self-acceptance and improves self-esteem.
  • Improves stress resilience.
  • High intensity activity hyperactivates the sympathetic nervous system and the HPA axis, leading to endorphin release, which numbs concious sensations.
  • Breaking down complex movements makes it easier to understand them.
  • The sensation of compression in a joint is a sign of it being at its limit. Learning to notice these sensations helps to avoid joint compression and injury.
Distributed activation (DA) + Gridlines/Symmetry (GS) Principles Many movements require bringing 2 body points as far away from each other as anatomically possible, creating a straight line.

Improves posture, core strength, increases height (typically for about 2 cm), increases lung capacity.

Straight line, conceptually, is very easy to understand. But there are almost no straight lines in natural movement. Defining movements through moving 2 points away from each other is a very simple strategy to achieve great results in terms of reducing compression, extending the spine, etc.

Baseworks strategically supports neuroplasticity

The word “neuroplasticity” is often used very lightly without any clear reference to how training supports neuroplasticity, most often implying that “doing something new” = “more neuroplasticity”.

In Baseworks, we acknowledge the difference between “experience” and “learning experience”.
Based on the Principles of Experience-dependent Neuroplasticity, as described by Kleim & Jones, 2008, we uniquely put emphasis on the principles of Repetition, Salience,Transference, and Interference.

  Principle Description Baseworks application
4 Repetition matters

Induction of plasticity requires sufficient repetition.

With highly detailed and consistent instructions, we ensure that exercised movements are truly consciously repeated, avoiding substituting them with unconscious “fillers” that do not result in learning.
7

Salience matters

The training experience must be sufficiently salient to induce plasticity. We bring awareness to sensory signals and define spatial goals in a way that supports learning and avoids mechanical mindless repetition of everyday well-learned movements.
9

Transference

Plasticity in response to one training experience can enhance the acquisition of similar behaviors We have strategically selected movements for exercising that can be transferred to a wide variety of daily and athletic movements.
10 Interference Plasticity in response to one experience can interfere with the acquisition of other behaviors. We appreciate that people come with preexisting movement vocabulary and we very explicitly highlight when a certain movement must not be performed in a way that one is used to.