Even though more and more research is pouring out of the neuroscience world every day the shift in consciousness towards the Health of the Body and the Mind as being inescapably and intrinsically linked remains gradual. Partly because it can be an incredibly complicated subject and partly because until recently it was only available to Doctorate level students.
At the Academy of Applied Movement Neurology we promote a multi-modal approach to the attainment of athleticism and health, making this incredibly powerful information available to non doctorate level health professionals such as high level Personal Trainers and Therapists.
The brain and nervous system drives our state of being and we obviously want that state to be one of health so we focus on movement progressions that drive oxygenated blood flow to specific areas of the brain while simultaneously driving synaptic enhancement between the brainstem and higher order structures.
Some Basic Facts on Brain Area’s and How they Pertain to Movement
The frontal cortex (or frontal lobe) is the brains C.E.O. It serves many diverse functions that can be loosely termed cognition. It has association areas that facilitate attention to incoming stimuli from the environment, identification of relevant features of each stimulus, and planning of appropriate cognitive and motor or movement responses. In particular, the frontal cortex is intimately involved in our behaviour. When it works well our behavioural responses to external and internal stimuli are appropriate.
The frontal cortex also participates with other brain regions in aspects of learning, memory, attention, and motivation. Injury to the frontal cortex or deficits in its function are associated with impairment in planning (executive function), altered initiative, “personality” change, and reduced creativity.
A single word for these traits would be Depression. Several psychiatric diagnoses have been associated with alterations in frontal cortical function, such as schizophrenia, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Among several other areas, the frontal cortex communicates extremely closely with the brainstem and cerebellum.
Research is showing that exercise performed at 50% peak oxygen uptake for 30-45 minutes, 3-4 times per week has literally grown brain volume within the frontal cortex and hippocampus, an area associated with spatial memory and part of the limbic system (emotional brain) by as much as 2% and this was in participants aged 60-80 years old! Other studies show how moderate cardio vascular exercise improves cognitive performance and research friendly rats have been used to demonstrate beautifully how engaging in complex movement tasks builds synaptogenesis between the cerebellum and frontal cortex.
Skill based exercise stimulates the cerebellum and frontal cortex, maintaining an elevated respiration rate at approximately 50% of max builds the frontal lobe and hippocampus.
This is why we focus on complex movements at A.M.N. If you understand the brain and how it’s function affects our overall health, then you start to realise that not all movement is created equal. If your focus is on improving your client’s health rather than on purely delivering aesthetic goals then it’s time to ask a few pointed questions.
Knowing what you now know about the brain and it’s activation, Why would we lie down and push on a lever in a linear movement, or isolate muscles when in reality nothing in the body ever operates in isolation? Most people have very little time to spare towards movement and exercise it’s important as movement coaches that we are guiding people towards the best types of movement to not only optimise health, but to increase athleticism as well.
So many people suffer with depression and anxiety at some point in their lives and they may feel helpless or turn to gross acting medications that have no real specificity within the brain for help. While we are making no claims as to being able to fix behavioural dysfunctions of the brain, the research would suggest that we have a huge amount of power in determining our own state of health if we make certain movement choices. If we incorporate the accuracy and specificity of functional neurological assessments, with our carefully selected movement prescriptions, we have a pretty potent system that is challenging, fun, rewarding and great for the mind and body.
Illuminating the Black Box: Investigating Prefrontal Cortical Hemodynamics During Exercise With Near-Infrared Spectroscopy : Panteleimon Ekkekakis Iowa State University
Physical activity and brain plasticity in late adulthood : Kirk I. Erickson, PhD, Ariel G. Gildengers, MD, and Meryl A. Butters, PhD
Motor learning induces astrocytic hypertrophy in the cerebellar cortex : Kleim JA, et al. Journal Behav Brain Res. 2007 Mar 28;178(2):244-9. Epub 2007 Jan 25.
Synaptogenesis and Fos expression in the motor cortex of the adult rat after motor skill learning : Kleim JA, et al. Journal J Neurosci. 1996 Jul 15;16(14):4529-35.