In analyses of the motor system, two hierarchies are often posited: The first—the action hierarchy—is a decomposition of an action into subactions and sub-subactions. The second—the control hierarchy—is a postulated hierarchy in the neural control processes that are supposed to bring about the action. A general assumption in cognitive neuroscience is that these two hierarchies are internally consistent and provide complementary descriptions of neuronal control processes. In this article, we suggest that neither offers a complete explanation and that they cannot be reconciled in a logical or conceptually coherent way. Furthermore, neither pays proper attention to the dynamics and temporal aspects of neural control processes. We will explore an alternative hierarchical organization in which causality is inherent in the dynamics over time. Specifically, high levels of the hierarchy encode more stable (goal-related) representations, whereas lower levels represent more transient (actions and motor acts) kinematics. If employed properly, a hierarchy based on this latter principle of temporal extension is not subject to the problems that plague the traditional accounts.

You do not currently have access to this content.