Rare is the time when an idea dies or has to be updated and the new version serves better its original purpose!
That is my view of new findings reported in the academic journal Nature and reviewed in Scientific American just a few days ago (links at the bottom of this email).
Remember the homunculus?
The motor homunculus or "little man" is a representation of physical movements in the motor cortex of your brain.
It is like a map of your body's movement. It shows how different parts of your body are represented and connected in the brain. You can think of it like a map of your body's "roads," or pathways, connecting the brain to your muscles and joints.
The homunculus supports a core belief* that many have of Moshe's movement sessions: That when doing "Feldenkrais" one is not simply doing "muscular" movements but changing patterns in the brain. Feldenkrais believed that his sessions expanded and differentiated areas in the motor cortex leading to a more complete motor image
(*I say "belief" because there is not to my knowledge any research directly showing that Feldenkrais sessions change neuronal activation in the motor cortex. I certainly believe in the idea, but the research simply has not been done. We need a research group or lab to get interested and to do it.)
But here is the thing - the traditional view of the homunculus has been radically updated and it supports the theory of why Feldenkrais can have a variety of effects that are not simply about movement but also about emotions, abstract thinking, planning, and self-development.
The researchers in the study found three different areas within the motor cortex that are not directly related to moving the body. They are essentially a separate neuronal network within the motor cortex.
According to the researchers these areas:
"might be important for merging motor command signals from the homunculus with neural activity for more abstract planning"
"..we found that they are responsible for a range of tasks, including planning, regulating internal organs and even becoming active when someone is just thinking about making some movement—in essence, forming a link between mind and body."
How cool is that??
The positive impact of Feldenkrais makes more theoretical sense when one considers that the areas related to movement are directly connected WITHIN the motor cortex to areas related to planning, abstract thinking and the like.
For the record, remember that I am not a neuroscientist and I do not play one on YouTube! (At least, not yet).
I will consult with a friend of mine who is a practicing professor and neuroscientist researcher and do some more detailed thinking and writing about this in a future email or blog post.
But for now, I thought it was worth linking to if anyone is interested.
Here is the link to the Scientific American article:
Our Team Overturned the 90-Year-Old Metaphor of a ‘Little Man’ in the Brain Who Controls Movement.
And the research article from Nature: A somato-cognitive action network alternates with effector regions in motor cortex.