Saturday, August 25, 2007

About Balance

I was thinking the other day that it's odd that so many people with various neurological conditions have problems with simple things like walking, but can still do "complex" things like solving differential equations.

But as I thought about it more, I realized that walking is in many respects harder for the brain than is any intellectual activity, no matter how sophisticated we regard the latter. If my brain has a small time delay in responding to sensory input, it doesn't affect in any significant way purely intellectual tasks. But walking or even standing still requires co-ordinated commands from the brain to the body (especially the feet and legs of course). The timing has to be precise. If you are standing, and start to fall over, your brain doesn't have the luxury of pondering what to do. It has to step into action quickly, before you end up on the floor.

So I conclude balance is actually really hard. The amazing thing is not that I can't do it very well, but that you all can! More on balance in the next post...

3 comments:

Corin said...

It's amazing to think of all of the "simple" tasks our brains have to process every day isn't it?

I'm impressed that you're being so adventurous so soon after surgery! Keep up the good work! (but be careful!)

Copper's Wife said...

We have a friend at church who is recovering from brain cancer. A different type than yours, but a brain cancer all the same. It has been amazing to watch as she works through "reprogramming" her brain(for want of a better term) to bring her life back to the pre-cancer norm. I'm sure, with your determination and pluck, that you'll have things figured out quickly.

Donald said...

Yes, an amazingly large proportion of the brain is devoted to carrying out movements after they are initiated by the higher command centers of the brain. Some of these are just "subroutines" to smooth out trajectories between the start and finish of a motor command, but much if not most of these subroutines incorporate massive pipelines of real-time feedback, especially visual and balance information, the latter from the vestibular sensory system of the inner ear.

But perhaps what sums it up best is the definition of walking as "arrested falling", apparently first coined by Schopenhauer. It's clearly not an accident that only humans, with presumably the most evolved brains, have been able to get away with being bipeds most of the time...