voluntary and involuntary movements



We explain what voluntary and involuntary movements are, the characteristics of each one and various examples.

Voluntary movements in general have a specific purpose and are learned.

What are voluntary and involuntary movements?

The human body, like that of others living beings endowed with a nervous system, is capable of different forms of movement, such as voluntary movements and involuntary or reflex movements. As its name implies, the former depend on our will and are subject to our control, while the latter are external to the will and occur on their own.

Since they depend on the nervous system, these movements are also known as nervous acts, and each one depends on a different organ of the body: in volunteers the brain is mainly involved, while the involuntary ones are carried out by the spinal cord, that is, they occur without brain involvement.

Both types of movements are essential for the survival and adaptation of the organism. However, each responds to different stimuli and specific conditions.

Voluntary movements are those that allow living beings to make decisions, carry out concrete actions and plan, that is, actively look after their well-being. While the reflexes respond to a much more primitive and primary level of self-preservation, that is, they embody the tendency of the body itself to protect itself.

We can characterize each type of movement separately:

Voluntary movements. As we said, they are those in which conscience intervenes, so that we can decide whether to do them or not, in what way and for how long. In general, they have a specific purpose and are learned, that is, their realization depends on practice, and we cannot do them while unconscious or asleep. These movements occur according to the following scheme:

  • Our senses pick up on a stimulus from the environment and the nervous system transmits the information to the brain.
  • Information is processed and a response is made in the frontal lobe of the brain.
  • The response is transmitted through the nervous system to the spinal cord, and from there to the muscles necessary for movement.

Involuntary movements They are those in which consciousness does not intervene, but occur "automatically", which is why they are also called reflex movements. Many, for that reason, occur in sleeping or comatose individuals. They are usually quick, involuntary, and generally depend on the intensity of the stimulus that causes them.

However, many of them can be tamed or controlled to some degree. Carrying out this movement involves the following stages:

  • An external stimulus is produced, which is captured by the senses and transmitted by the nervous system.
  • The information from the stimulus reaches the spinal cord and triggers an automatic response, which bypasses the brain.
  • The answer is immediately carried to the muscles that will have to execute it by the nervous system.

Examples of voluntary movements

It is not difficult to find examples of voluntary movements. It serves anything we do with an express purpose and through learned patterns, such as:

  • Dance
  • Brush the hair
  • Shave the beard
  • Play football
  • Weightlifting
  • Driving a screw or driving a nail
  • Speak
  • To eat
  • Write
  • Pour yourself a glass of water
  • Sweep a room
  • Make love
  • Drive a car
  • Play a musical instrument

Examples of involuntary movements

Involuntary movements are also called reflexes.

Perhaps many of them go unnoticed every day, how automatic they are, but it should not be difficult to recognize involuntary movements such as:

  • Salivate
  • Speed ​​up the heartbeat
  • Withdrawing the hand before a painful stimulus (a prick, a burn)
  • The sucking movement of infants
  • The knee reflex that doctors check us
  • Protect your head from a blow with your hands
  • The gag reflex when something is obstructing the throat
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