A brain cannot think without motor function

Extract adapted from
The brain’s way of healing: Stories of remarkable recoveries and discoveries
By Norman Doidge MD Scribe Books

Wrote Feldenkrais,

My fundamental contention is that the unity of mind and body is an objective reality, that these entities are not related to each other in one fashion or another, but are an inseparable whole. To put this more clearly: I contend that a brain could not think without motor functions.”

Even thinking of making a movement triggers the movement, even if very subtly. When he got a pupil to simply imagine a movement, he noticed that the tonus in the relevant muscles increased. Imagining counting would trigger subtle movements in the throat’s vocal apparatus. Some people can barely speak if their hands are confined. Every emotion affects facial muscles and posture.

Anger shows in clenched fists and teeth; fear, in tightened flexors and abdominal muscles and in holding the breath; joy, in a lightening of the limbs and buoyancy. People may believe they can have a pure thought, but in a deeply relaxed state, Feldenkrais pointed out, they will observe that every thought leads to a change in their muscles.

Everytime the brain is used, four components are triggered: motor movement, thought, sensation, and feeling. Under normal circumstances, we don’t experience one without the other three. (2)

(2) One of the hottest current theories in neuroscience, the motor theory of thought proposed by the neuroscientist Rodolfo Llinas, was anticipated by Feldenkrais. Llinas points out that nervous systems are not essential for life but are forcomplex movement. Plants don’t need nervous systems because plants are not mobile. The link between movement and the nervous system, and the brain, becomes particularly clear in the simple sea squirt, called Ascidiacea. In early life, in its larval form, it moves around, like a tadpole, and has a primitive brain like group of300 nerve cells that receives sensory information from a primitive vestibular apparatus and a patch of skin. It eventually finds a stationary place in which to feed, and ceases to move for the rest of its life. No longer needing to move, it no longer needs a brain, and so it digests its own brain and primitive spinal cord, as well as its tail with its musculature. R. R. Llinas, 1 of the Vortex: From Neurons to Self (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2001), p. IS.


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