The Brain in the Body

When talking about athletes, it is common to praise their short memories: a great quarterback, for example, will instantly forget an interception so he can go right back out and throw a touchdown pass. We know why this is important in sport, but we don’t know why physiologically this is important. However, Neuroscientists at the University of Pittsburgh have reported finding the neural networks that connect the brain directly to the adrenal medulla, which is near the kidneys and is responsible for “the body’s rapid response in stressful situations.”

The study showed that the areas of the cerebral cortex “that are active when we sense conflict, or are aware that we have made an error, are a source of influence over the adrenal medulla. ‘This observation,’ said Dr. Strick, ‘raises the possibility that activity in these cortical areas when you re-imagine an error, or beat yourself up over a mistake, or think about a traumatic event, results in descending signals that influence the adrenal medulla in just the same way as the actual event.’” So the quarterback has trained himself not to reimagine his errors or even to think about them at all, and in doing so he doesn’t trigger an adrenal response—and that’s a good thing for athletic performance.

Kurzweil’s blog, from which this information is taken, tags it under Mind-Body Connection. To me it demonstrates yet again how outmoded the word mind is: we have brains, they are very much part of our bodies, and so no connection need be shown. Or rather, we know the body is connected; what a mind is remains unclear.

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