Saturday, December 18, 2010

Happy Hippocampal Neurons, To You!

This is your happy, merry brain, after dance. Or really any kind of movement.

There is a nice web page dedicated to a simple explanation of how important movement is to the brain's ability to function. Here is a short bit from that page:

When acetylcholine is released at a neuromuscular junction, it crosses the tiny space (synapse) that separates the nerve from the muscle. It then binds to acetylcholine receptor molecules on the muscle fiber's surface. This initiates a chain of events that lead to muscle contraction.

Scientists have shown that muscle fiber contains a scaffold made of special proteins that hold these acetylcholine receptors in place. Research led by Jeff W. Lichtman, M.D., Ph.D., at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, indicates that a loss of nerve signals – due to inactivity – actually disassembles this scaffold and causes a loss of acetylcholine receptors. When the muscle becomes active again, however, the scaffold tightens its grip and catches any receptors that come by.

"So muscle activity is a cue to keep a synapse stable, and synaptic inactivity is a cue to disassemble a synapse," says Lichtman, a professor of neurobiology. "So if you lose activity, you lose receptors. But if you regain activity, you get those receptors back."

And while we are a body-obsessed culture, we are also inclined to believe that "making it" means we have the ability to do nothing. Thomas Hanna writes of this in his fantastic 1928 book called SOMATICS. He writes, "A body in a bathing suit by a swimming pool, lying motionless on a chaise lounge, is the American image of 'having made it.' We should not forget, however, that this is also the image of a dead body.'"

He goes on to say that we gain important momentum for these synapses in childhood. Learning to walk, then run, then jump, (and not to mention skipping and laughing and twisting and rolling around on the ground, just for the heck of it) - that these are critical functions to mental and physical wellness. When we stop using these functions, we lose them. Hanna says, "If certain actions are no longer part of our behavioral inventory, our brain crosses them off. In a word, it forgets. The practical, everyday awareness of how these actions feel and how they are performed fades away and Sensory Motor Amnesia is the result."

So think about it. What are you doing today to keep your scaffolding intact? I am pretty sure that we all want a sharp mind and a whole bunch of joy as we age. Right?

Condition yourself for wellness. The body is so darn amazing and if we just invest a little time in understanding the science of it, I think we can change the world, one happy body at a time.

1 comment:

  1. I have actually wanted to see research on this. Thanks. THe above link is just to a friend of mine. It just maes me feel happy knowing that the body can do this.