NERVOUS SYSTEM BASICS
In this article I thought I would go over some elemental basics about how the nervous system works since the two main bodies of tools I use, Muscle Activation Techniques and Z-Health, both work with the nervous system to improve performance. In a very simplified view there are 3 basic things the nervous system does:
1. Takes in information from the body and the environment ("Input"); 2. Integrates, interprets, makes decisions, and creates an output solution plan based on the input;
3. Transmits the output solution to the muscles and organs that carry out the plan so we can impact the world based on the decisions made.
You can see it is a loop system. What this means is that the quality of the output, the quality of what one is able to manifest in the world, is very dependent upon the quality of the inputs received and how those are interpreted.
What are the different ways we receive input? We can get it through our eyes, our inner ears, and other sense organs. It also comes through the muscles, tendons, ligaments, and skin and all our body sensors for temperature, pressure, vibration, etc. However, if this input is of poor quality or quantity it will interfere with the quality of the interpretation and decision-making. Garbage in = Garbage out. The capacity to make predictions by the brain of what is going to happen is diminished and in return the output and performance is also diminished. Alternatively, the brain can generate pain to keep the body from exerting too much.
Another glitch that can occur is at the integration/interpretation step of the loop. If an area of the brain has been under stimulated, that real estate in the brain starts to shrink. This process is part of neuroplasticity or adaptability of the brain. This is why it is so important to stimulate the various sensory inputs in a variety of ways to â€œfeedâ€ the brain with activation. The workshop I am doing on June 20th addresses this very need for our 'top of the hierarchy' of sensory inputs, Vision.
The last part of the loop is output. If the output is movement, which is how we mainly impact the world, the structures (muscles, tendons, ligaments, bones) have to have the capacity to perform what is being required of them. This is where Muscle Activation Techniques and physical training come into play to make sure the muscles have the ability to contract on demand and the tissues have the integrity to tolerate the forces. Part of the sensory input to the brain is the current status of these structures. If deficiencies are detected the brain will limit the output/performance or may even generate pain to limit output.
To summarize, input, interpretation and decision-making, and output are the most basic functions of our nervous system. Each of these components needs to be attended to in order to get the optimal performance from the body and are often a key to alleviating pain.