Sea squirts, brains, moving and Z-health.

Posted by & filed under Exercise and Training, Health and Fitness.

The previous blog told the life of the sea squirt: it’s born a primitive animal, swims about until it finds a good rock to attach itself too; it settles there and digests its brain and spinal cord, becoming a plant, which has no need of a brain since it doesn’t need to move about.

The point being that it can be tempting to move about minimally – from bed to kitchen to work to the coffee machine to lunch to work to home to kitchen to bed.  And that’s pretty much it.

As humans we are the top of the chain.  We are the supreme animal on the planet because of our brains.  We should be an awfully long way from the baby sea squirt.

All veterbrates have a brain, but ours is the most evolved.  All veterbrates, including us, have a brain stem.  This is where the automatic stuff happens, like seeing, breathing, hearing, balance, gait – how we walk – and posture.  The brainstem is the oldest part of the brain

All veterbrates have a cerebellum.  Its principal job is to co-ordinate movement.  The cerebellum is a bit newer than the brainstem.

Finally we have the cortex or the cerebrum, which is highly developed in us, Homo Sapiens.  It is our magnificent cortex that makes us the top dog of the food chain.

Unfortunately, that cortex depends upon the older parts of the brain working well in order for it to function optimally. So moving about in a way that is a bit more stressy than just strolling along a flat surface, meaning that we have to engage our eyes, our balance, co-ordinate our muscles, increase the depth of breathing and so on, really improves our thinking ability – as well as reduce levels of stress.

A point worth remembering when super busy with apparently no time to exercise.  For our brain to function well, it does need input that results from moving with purpose. To get that project finished on time, the brain will get great benefit from getting away from the workstation and either pumping iron, pumping the legs or even pumping the yoga mat.  And it doesn’t have to take ages!  If it’s that bad, a quick blast up and down stairs is better than nothing. Or buy a skipping rope…..

So why is it common for people not to move beyond the absolutely necessary?  The answer usually lies in these older parts of the brain: for instance eye dominance.  We all have a dominant eye, but only too often one is far more dominant than the other.  With 2 eyes, each eye sends signals into the brain about what they see.  If one eye is extremely dominant, its signal gets to the brain before the other eye’s, so the brain gets its visual information with an echo, if you like.  This is very confusing for the brain, so it starts to suppress the information from the non-dominant eye, relying solely on the vision from the dominant eye.  This does not mean that the non-dominant eye is blind, it’s just that it’s tranmissions are being ignored.  And in time, the vision does degenerate in that eye.

Meanwhilst, the brain is relying on the dominant eye, so starts to turn the head to bring that eye to the centre to increase its peripheral vision.  So if the dominant eye is the right eye, the head will turn slightly to the left, which has a knock on effect down the rest of the spine, leading to scoliosis and other spinal issues.  Also the inner ears detect the left turn, but that information is ignored by the brain in favour of the fuller field of vision from the right eye – the prime sense is vision.  So now the brain is dealing with vision from only one eye, so our peripheral vision and depth of vision is compromised, raising danger levels; apparently the head is turned to the left, but the vision says it is straight, adding a further layer of confusion and danger; the spine starts to twist in response to the turned neck, messing up the biomechanics and thereby movement, gait and posture are increasingly compromised.  We develop back ache/sore knees/collapsed feet and so on.

The following youtube clip contains a demo of what happens when only one eye is working.

And then we wonder why we are doing the amount of movement of a baby sea squirt.  And when we do decide to get our lardy arses into gear, we injure ourselves.

The thing to remember is our brain is only interested in ‘Is this safe?’  It is not interested in rehabilitation or high physical performance.  It needs you to survive and that’s it.  So if running hurts, we find an excuse to avoid it.

Of course, it isn’t just eye dominance that drives lack of movement and injury.  Another prime driver is head trauma; whiplash, birthing problems, headstands going wrong, falling off horses, bikes, head on rugby tackles and so on – anything that results in a severe bang on the bonce.  If it raised a bruise on the skin, we also raised a bruise on the brain.  If we were concussed and lost consciouness, even briefly, we really did some brain damage.

No more walking!

Poorly rehabilitated injury of any sort also messes things up: most of us have sprained an ankle at some point, which resulted in limping and feeling either sorry for ourselves or foolish – depending upon how we fell off the kerb.  So we limp along for a bit, then things apparently get better.  But in order to make us limp and so protect the injured ankle, the brain changed the movement maps of our ankle to force us to avoid it for as much as possible.  Unless we restore that map to its former clarity, the map remains foggy, and so we micro-limp for the rest of our lives, which will mess up the biomechanics of the leg and the hip, and so the back and way up into the opposite arm and shoulder.

This is the stuff of Z health which aims to restore movement maps, rebalance the ears, improve eyes and so on.  Whatever it takes to rehabilitate the older brains so our gleaming frontal cortex can do its best, and a nice side line is that we love moving and can’t get enough of it.

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