We revisit the concept of synergy based on the recently translated classical book by Nikolai Bernstein (On the construction of movements, Medgiz, Moscow 1947; Latash, Bernstein’s Construction of Movements, Routledge, Abingdon 2020b) and progress in understanding the physics and neurophysiology of biological action. Two aspects of synergies are described: organizing elements into stable groups (modes) and ensuring dynamical stability of salient performance variables. The ability of the central nervous system to attenuate synergies in preparation for a quick action—anticipatory synergy adjustments—is emphasized. Recent studies have demonstrated synergies at the level of hypothetical control variables associated with spatial referent coordinates for effectors. Overall, the concept of synergies fits naturally the hierarchical scheme of control with referent coordinates with an important role played by back-coupling loops within the central nervous system and from peripheral sensory endings. Further, we review studies showing non-trivial changes in synergies with development, aging, fatigue, practice, and a variety of neurological disorders. Two aspects of impaired synergic control—impaired stability and impaired agility—are introduced. The recent generalization of the concept of synergies for non-motor domains, including perception, is discussed. We end the review with a list of unresolved and troubling issues.
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