Radiology professor Evan Gordon, the lead author of the study published in the journal Nature, from the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, has said that they have found the mind-body nexus in the human brain.
The relationship between the human mind and body has been a subject that has challenged great thinkers for millennia, including the philosophers Aristotle and Descartes. The answer, however, appears to reside in the very structure of the brain.
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.
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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.
The motor cortex is a part of the brain’s outermost layer, the cerebral cortex.
“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 published in the journal Nature.
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