Ever wonder how our brain tells our body exactly what to do? We don’t manually tell our legs to move when we need to walk, so how does it all happen?
First, here’s the parts of your brain and what they do:
As a whole, the brain is a culmination of nerve cells and tissues that are connected to the spinal cord. Our nerves connect the brain to the other parts in our body through the spinal cord, which in turn impacts how we develop our personality, how we move, and how our body functions. While the brain is made up of many parts, there are four main areas:
This is the largest portion of the brain and accounts for two-thirds of the brain’s total weight. It’s divided into two halves: the left and the right hemisphere, which control opposite sides of the body. Ever heard the term “right-brained?” The right-brain functions are primarily centered around creativity, imagination, and intuition, whereas left-brain functions are involved in analytic thought, logic, language, and reasoning.
Each hemisphere of the cerebrum is made up of four lobes: the frontal (motor performance), parietal (sensory skills), occipital (visual processing), and temporal (short and long-term memory retention).
The Cerebellum is largely associated with the brain’s role in physical movement. This includes when we walk, drive, or throw things, as well as including our sight and vision.
This part of the brain contains the epithalamus, thalamus, hypothalamus, and ventral thalamus and the third ventricle. This encompasses a variety of functions including sensory nerve impulses and processing, body temperature regulation, hormone regulation, and autonomic control.
The Brain Stem
The brains stem is critical to the many life support mechanisms in our body, including our heart rate, blood pressure, digestion, breathing, and sleeping.
The Brain and the Nervous System
The brain is intricately tied to the overall function of our nervous system, made up of the brain and the spinal cord. The functioning of the nervous system depends largely on neurons, many of which — known as sensory neurons — are responsible for sending information from our eyes, nose, tongue, skin, and ears to the brain. Communications between neurons create pathways in the brain which impact intelligence, learning, and memory. Nerve cells that exist within the spinal cord, called motor neurons, are responsible for connecting the brain to muscles.
How the Brain Impacts Movement
The connections between the brain and the nervous system are key to how our body knows when, why, and where to move. Movement is initiated within the outer layer of the brain, when messages are transmitted to a complex part of our brains called the Basal Ganglia, which is a group of complex structures that exist within the cerebral hemisphere. Then, these messages are transformed into “instructions” for body movement, which are then to be executed by the body.
The cerebral cortex, located within the cerebrum, contains neurons that are responsible for the commands associated with coordinated movements — such as picking up an object. They are transmitted to motor neurons, which are then carried out as a collection of specific commands associated with each muscle movement.
Ultimately, how we move is largely due to nerve impulses that travel to and from the brain along the spinal cord. This is how our brain regulates much of our body’s unconscious movements and processes, such as breathing, as well as our larger conscious body movements.
Interested in learning more specifics about the science behind how our body moves? This piece from Forbes breaks it all down.