Movement Inputs for Your Brain

by Dave Authement

brainYour Central Nervous System (CNS) is what controls EVERYTHING in your body. I guess that makes it somewhat important, so let’s discuss a few things about it!

Latest estimates state that there are up to 120 billion neurons in the human brain. Each of those neurons connects to and works with between 10,000 and 80,000 other neurons. Multiply 120 billion x 80,000 and you end up with 9,600,000,000,000,000 (9.6 quadrillion) potential connections. To put this in perspective, the Milky Way galaxy has about 200 million stars. Pretty impressive huh? That’s….a lot. Don’t worry, we’re not going to go that deeply into the complexities of your nervous system.

All we really need to know at this time is that your nervous system only cares about one thing: your survival right now. It doesn’t care that you want to play tennis with your friends, or go shopping at the mall, or see an art exhibit, or any other example you can think of. It only cares about your survival right this very moment.

So….what does this mean for us? Well, neurology 101 says that our brains are constantly receiving inputs, deciding what to do about them, and then creating an output. This is output is you/me feeling good or bad about life, moving well or poorly through life, and all sorts of other states such as excess adrenaline and cortisol production, thyroid issues, etc etc. By improving the inputs that the brain receives, we can make instantaneous improvements to these outputs.

At Kinesphere our primary focus is your health, and so we help improve your nervous system’s health via improving your movement skills!

tmp15F75In a nutshell the visual, vestibular (inner ear, at left), and proprioceptive systems are working together to create good movement. By improving the inputs these three systems are sending to the brain we are clarifying a variety of the brain’s “maps” of our body; this improved clarity means that the CNS feels more capable of moving and therefore safer. I want my eyes to be able to detect the big scary bear before it gets close to me so that I can quickly leave the scene and not die!

Unfortunately, a majority of people have poor inputs coming through most, if not all of these systems. We barely move our heads and eyes as we’re primarily looking forward at computers, TVs, and phones. This leads to poor vestibular and visual skills and inputs. Messages from the eyes and inner ears control the reflexive tone of your spinal musculature and back of your legs to keep you from falling over, so unclear inputs will cause your CNS to stiffen things up. It doesn’t want you to move too quickly and potentially fall over or hurt yourself.

Same with all of the sitting that we do; this leads to a serious lack of joint movements. Reduced joint movements means little mechanoreceptor activity (information about our body’s movement) to the brain which leads to a poor motor/proprioceptive map. That’s scary to your CNS. It doesn’t know what positions and speeds and loads are safe to move into. So, it’s probably going to make you stiff so that you don’t do anything too quickly or with too much load. Ever ’throw out your back’ because you happened to sneeze while your body was slightly twisted/turned to the side or at some other position than perfectly straight? Yeah…those sudden changes in joint position from that powerful sneeze were scary and super threatening so your CNS created an output of pain so that you’ll never do it again!

So, we’ve covered this stuff before in a previous blog I’ve written . . . why are we briefly rehashing it? Well, movement is the input that we at Kinesphere are helping you with. Improving the inputs to the visual, vestibular, and proprioceptive systems starts improving overall brain functioning. And as we talked about above, your CNS controls EVERYTHING in your body.

Let’s look at some autonomics . . . how’s your blood pressure? Last time you had it checked, did your doctor check both sides? Probably not . . . which is unfortunate but not surprising. Did you know that your blood pressure, while not ideal, could be vastly different from one side to the other? Whaaaat?!! How’s that you say? It all comes down to movement.

reticularFor example, let’s say that for whatever reason you rarely move the left side of your body. This will lead to some deficits in the activity of your right cerebral cortex, specifically your PMRF (pontomedullary reticular formation) and MRF (mesencephalic reticular formation). These reticular formations help regulate the sympathetic nervous system on the ipsilateral (same) side (PMRF) and bilaterally (MRF). But these structures don’t just regulate your blood pressure – they also, via the hypothalamus, affect the production of pituitary gland hormones! So a lack of movement in your left side will ultimately affect your pituitary gland function (as would a lack of movement on the right side)!

How important is this? Very! Hormones secreted from the pituitary gland help control the following body processes:

    highlighted-pituitary-gland

  • Growth
  • Blood pressure
  • Some aspects of pregnancy and childbirth including stimulation of uterine contractions during childbirth
  • Breast milk production
  • Sex organ functions in both males and females
  • Thyroid gland function
  • The conversion of food into energy (metabolism)
  • Water and osmolarity regulation in the body
  • Water balance via the control of reabsorption of water by the kidneys
  • Temperature regulation
  • Pain relief
  • Sleeping patterns (pineal gland)

See anything on that list you might be having problems with? Let’s just zoom in on the thyroid. This gland controls the all-important function of metabolism which as a society we care about for how sexy our abs look . . . but hey oh wait, there’s even more important things….

The thyroid’s hormones regulate vital body functions, including:

    thyroid

  • Breathing
  • Heart rate
  • Central and peripheral nervous systems
  • Body weight
  • Muscle strength
  • Menstrual cycles
  • Body temperature
  • Cholesterol levels

Damn, that’s a lot of things from just one gland . . . one gland that is told how to act from a different gland (pituitary), which in turn is told to act by the hypothalamus, which is told to act by the reticular formations which are told how to act by the inputs they’re receiving from the body . . . whew it just keeps going and going. Our system works on constant feedback loops that go in both directions to regulate things as best as possible. AND that’s with us grossly simplifying these entire processes!!

Please keep in mind that for time and simplification we didn’t even talk about other brain activation issues like a poorly firing cerebellum from all of that lack of movement, and many other important parts of the brain. With that said, I hope this gets you thinking about how your movement skills (or lack thereof) are a great reflection of your overall brain health/activation, and how these skills therefore affect various important processes in your body.

If you’d like to know a little bit more I’d encourage you to sign up for the small workshop we’re hosting on Tuesday the 13th of October from 6:30pm-8pm.

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