Sensory System, Brain and Movement: Proprioception is our 6th sense- The aging process
According to the latest study about our sensory system “Nerve Cells are key to making sense of our senses” Science daily reports: “The human brain is bombarded with a cacophony of information from the eyes, ears, nose, mouth and skin. Now a team of scientists at the University of Rochester, Washington University in St. Louis, and Baylor College of Medicine has unraveled how the brain manages to process those complex, rapidly changing, and often conflicting sensory signals to make sense of our world” click here to read more This is a phenomenal study reporting about the importance of individual neurons and how neurons weigh in what sensorial decision is more important to take an action. However there is an omission that we tend to forget: Sensory system is related to movement. Movement is crucial when comes to the sensory system. The Brain is processing information from our joints as well informing our brain where are we in space in what is called Proprioception.
Few years ago there was a movie called “Sixth Sense” with Bruce Willis remember? It was about a kid who was able to see ghosts and the movie told us that if we saw ghosts we may have a sixth sense well the movie is wrong since I don’t see ghosts and I have a 6th sense and so do you! However science is telling us that we dont have five senses but six and it is not to see dead people like the move proclaimed. Lets review some basics of this great system called The Sensory System that should be the title of the next Hollywood movie!
A sensory system is a part of the nervous system responsible for integrating and processing sensory information. A sensory system consists of sensory mechano receptors, neural pathways, and parts of the brain involved in sensory perception especially the ones to do with movement or our perception of space.
In my book Super Body, Super Brain I explain extensively how Proprioception can be trained, improved and strengthten
Proprioception is defined as “perception of ones body and position of the body”. Highly Specialized nerve endings are present throughout the soft tissues of the musculoskeletal system which interact with the central nervous system and coordinate our body movements, our postural alignment, and our balance. Proprioceptive sensory organs are found in two distinct groups which are located in either muscles and tendons: muscle spindles and golgi tendon organ. These specialized proprioceptive centers provide information regarding the status and function of the musculoskeletal system with a constant flow of information to the spinal cord, the cerebellum, and the brain.
Why are the neurons called Purkinje in the Cerebellum so different? Are they better or worse? According to Dr John H. Martin Ph.D who has studied the Development of the motor systems of the brain and spinal cord and currently he is a Professor at City College in New York ”I think they are different in several ways. Let me tell you about two. First, they take in an enormous amount of information. Think of a big tree with lots of branches and leaves. This is like aPurkinje cell; the branches and leaves are receiving information from other parts of the nervous system. They have more “branches and leaves” than other nerve cells. Second, they are different in another way; they inhibit the firing of other neurons. Most neurons that receive so much information excite other neurons; Purkinje cells inhibit. We don’t know why this is the case “
Why is proprioception important for brain activity? In general terms How does our brain process information from our proprioceptors?
Proprioception provides critical information about the position of our body; not just our posture but the position of our limbs. It is like having GPS in our fingers, toes, hip, knees, etc.
It is not something we normally think about. It is not like listening to sounds. Because it is so basic, even subconscious, we don’t have to think about it from moment to moment. The information is present for our motor and sensory systems to use, all the time. It is important because it is the only way to tell the brain our position.
Proprioception is processed in two different ways. One way is best for movement control. That information makes its way quickly to different parts of the motor systems, primarily to the motor parts of the cerebral cortex and to the cerebellum. The other way for processing proprioceptive information is sending to sensory areas of the brain, like the somatic sensory areas of the cortex. We think that the motor areas process the information in “real time,” as it is needed to control movement. The sensory areas may be important in generating a body image, our notion of our size and where our limbs our; our body space.