Scientists Identify Mind-Body Nexus In Human Brain

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: Researchers said on Wednesday they have discovered that parts of the brain region called the motor cortex that govern body movement are connected with a network involved in thinking, planning, mental arousal, pain, and control of internal organs, as well as functions such as blood pressure and heart rate. They identified a previously unknown system within the motor cortex manifested in multiple nodes that are located in between areas of the brain already known to be responsible for movement of specific body parts — hands, feet and face — and are engaged when many different body movements are performed together.

The researchers called this system the somato-cognitive action network, or SCAN, and documented its connections to brain regions known to help set goals and plan actions. This network also was found to correspond with brain regions that, as shown in studies involving monkeys, are connected to internal organs including the stomach and adrenal glands, allowing these organs to change activity levels in anticipation of performing a certain action. That may explain physical responses like sweating or increased heart rate caused by merely pondering a difficult future task, they said. “Basically, we now have shown that the human motor system is not unitary. Instead, we believe there are two separate systems that control movement,” said radiology professor Evan Gordon of the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, lead author of the study.

“One is for isolated movement of your hands, feet and face. This system is important, for example, for writing or speaking -movements that need to involve only the one body part. A second system, the SCAN, is more important for integrated, whole body movements, and is more connected to high-level planning regions of your brain,” Gordon said.

“Modern neuroscience does not include any kind of mind-body dualism. It’s not compatible with being a serious neuroscientist nowadays. I’m not a philosopher, but one succinct statement I like is saying, ‘The mind is what the brain does.’ The sum of the bio-computational functions of the brain makes up ‘the mind,'” said study senior author Nico Dosenbach, a neurology professor at Washington University School of Medicine. “Since this system, the SCAN, seems to integrate abstract plans-thoughts-motivations with actual movements and physiology, it provides additional neuroanatomical explanation for why ‘the body’ and ‘the mind’ aren’t separate or separable.”

The findings have been published in the journal Nature.

Source: Scientists Identify Mind-Body Nexus In Human Brain – Slashdot

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