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michelle's picture

Letting Our Nervous System Do Its Thang

Before taking this class, I was a strong advocate of taking responsibility for one’s actions. I believed humans were ultimately in control of their behavior (excluding patients who are mentally ill due to chemical imbalances, etc). Now, I’m starting to think differently, especially after learning about corollary discharge signals and central pattern generators. Our perceptions of our inputs are now jaded by corollary discharge signals and our movements can be performed without conscious thinking due to central pattern generators. I’m starting to think that after taking this course, I’m going to ultimately come to the conclusion that our own conscious thinking has very little to do with our behavior.

I also started wondering how these corollary discharge signals and central pattern generators are important in terms of evolution and life. I remember watching this discovery channel episode about the brain, where there was this study done to test participants ability to walk over hurdles (somewhat like an easy obstacle course) while listening to random words. At the end of the obstacle course, they were asked to recite the words said to them. Older patients remembered few to no words while younger patients remembered most of the words. The scientist concluded that older patients needed more of their brain to concentrate on walking and therefore could not concentrate on remembering the words. Younger patients were better at multitasking. That’s scary to think that as people age, their central pattern generators don’t function as well, and therefore repetitive tasks like walking require conscious thinking in order to perform.

This study exemplified how essential it is to be able to perform more than one task at a time as well as how important it is for our corollary discharge signals to monitor our inputs. Without such devices, we wouldn’t be able to sip coffee while reading, read while on the elliptical, see an unshaken world, etc. The benefits definitely outweigh the trivial costs of motion sickness.

After reading the post on autogenic feedback training, I began to think how dangerous such device could be. Maybe we are not in control of such autonomous nervous system functions for a reason. Maybe our nervous system knows what’s best for us. Tampering with the way our body is supposed to function always seems wrong to me because the body is so perfectly designed for a reason. That’s why I hate taking drugs (even Advil), because I believe that most of the time, our bodies are perfectly capable of dealing with its own problems. And most of the problems we face with our bodies are due to us not taking care of our bodies. I don’t’ know…. Just some thoughts.

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