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With all the modern advances in science, neurology, and imaging technology, major inroads have been made in the study of the human nervous system and the complex workings of different regions of the brain. Scientists are beginning to understand the myriad ways in which behavior and neurons are interrelated. Psychopharmacology is by no means a new thing, and if there is any flaw in the use of drugs to induce biochemical changes in the brain, which in turn influences behavior, mental function, and mental health, it is not an exact science. Although researchers are familiar with the hundreds of neurotransmitters and have a general idea of how they regulate behavior and mood, no one really understands the exact mechanism by which various drugs work on the brain.
The brain through the lens of a physicist and a chemist
The brain is essentially a network of neurons located inside the skull. The neural connections made between them are carried out by chemical messengers called neurotransmitters, of which serotonin is one. Although it can be said that behavior influences the chemicals that are released in the brain, the converse is also true, that the chemical makeup of the brain most certainly influences behavior.
A physicist may see things differently.
Technologies are now being developed (though still in their infancy) by which one may manipulate the electronic circuitry of the brain in order to induce changes in brain function. These technologies are based on a different paradigm, one which is based on a less-tangible aspect of the brain, as the subtle interactions between the brain’s hundreds of billions of neurons are far more elusive than the familiar grid of easily-traceable electrical signals underlying many of the processes taking place between neurons.
In an age where countless ways to use the latest technological gadgets are attempted to affect perhaps the most complex organ in existence, little attention has been given to the innate ability in the organism and the use of its most basic capacities to change itself. If humans are so advanced in evolutionary terms, more credit should be given to our ability to not only be aware of our inner processes, that ability should also translate into the ability to transform, even reorganize the very structure of our bodies and nervous systems.
The brain through the lens of somatics and physiology
“I believe that the unity of mind and body is an objective reality. They are not just parts somehow related to each other, but an inseparable whole while functioning. A brain without a body could not think… No matter how closely we look, it is difficult to find a mental act that can take place without the support of some physical function.”
This solution – which I’m hinting at – looks at the basic human capacity for movement as a tool that can be used to heal broken neurological functions, regenerate physical capacities after injury, and even improve psychological well being as a result of a deliberate way to retrain the body’s inborn and defining characteristic: the body is made to move, and movement is the basis for life. However, no one is formally trained about how to use our neuro-muscular systems to achieve the maximum comfort, ease, and efficiency. Following injury, too little emphasis is given to re-educating the body in basic movement strategies.
“Movement is life. Life is a process. Improve the quality of the process and you improve the quality of life itself.”
There is nothing new about the Feldenkrais method, as it dates back nearly 60 years. Although he was known as a nuclear physicist, his most groundbreaking work is not in the realm of physics, but the science of somatics, and this was a discovery prompted by a personal emergency rather than a career choice.
Moshe Feldenkrais (1903 – 1984) was a nuclear physicist by profession, and during World War II he played a leading role in the development of sonar for the Allied war effort. He is more known for something completely outside the realm of physics, at least nuclear physics.
“The Feldenkrais Method is based on the principles of physics and biomechanics, an empirical understanding of human physiology and the connection between mind and body.”
~Dr. Andrew Weil
Feldenkrais is built on the premise that widening and refining the cerebral control of the muscle range can be accomplished simply by the human faculty of movement, that’s all.
Slow repetition is believed to be necessary to impart a new habit and allow it to begin to feel normal.
The evidence for the Feldenkrais method is encouraging but, due to the paucity and low quality of studies, by no means compelling, at least according to many researchers. There is little reason however to find this to be conclusive in anyway, because scant attention has been placed on non-pharmacological or non-clinical methods such as Awareness Through Movement.
Kevin Naruse writes the Science and Technology column for Painted Brain News. You can also visit his blog at http://kevinnaruse.com