The relationship between voluntary movements and reflex operations of any acquired habits and patterning is one of the most intricate puzzles of our sensorimotor system. The range of choices of patterns we can establish is enormous, but the more times we choose a specific motion the more automatic and obligatory its particular operations and limitations become. (Think of the Colorado River etching its pathway through to the sea.)
Much of our behaviour is not predetermined, but we can easily and unconsciously become conditioned by prior experience. Along the way we can unwittingly become entrapped by the very skills we do best; unconscious learnt responses that we repeat most. The balancing act between developing reliable skills or not, and breaking through any inherent limitations is essential to continued growth and development.
The gamma sensorimotor system regulates primitive or subconscious movement. Because the neural centres that monitor these regulations are concentrated in the spinal cord and the brain stem, the details of their operations are generally unconscious. And yet this orchestration of our muscular tonus and movement occupies the vast majority of the central nervous system functions. Roger Sperry, the Nobel prize winning neurologist, has estimated that 90% of the CNS’s metabolic energy is devoted to this primary job of stabilizing and coordinating our pieces and parts in gravity. (Of course, gravity will win in the end).
Particular repertoires of postures, gestures and behaviours have been developed in order to simplify this job of managing gravity, or may have had to adapt because of injuries. These become the scaffolding which all other learned actions must accommodate. Untangling the accumulated layers of ad hoc compensation considered deleterious is one of the purposes of somatic therapies and is the prerequisite for all free and expressive movement. (Personal communication of Deane Juhan 2005)
There are two parallel systems of skeletal muscle control in the body, the pyramidal and extra-pyrimidal systems. The pryrimidal system involves conscious, voluntary muscular actions. It is open to learning and is very liberal. On the other hand the extra-pyrimidal system is the underlying and unconscious control system. It is reliable, almost pre-learnt, habitual and conservative.
To understand this last system think of the times you may have come to the realization that you have no recollection of driving the last ten minutes along the freeway. There was no danger in this. Anything untoward will have pulled you from gamma to conscious. This is the same way that we have a peripheral vision test at the DMV. It tests our ability to switch from primitive or automatic to conscious and fully present.
The reason I write this is to lay a foundation in order to explore ways to break down and reinvent any counter-productive habits of posture and subsequent movement. Posture, as we all know, is the beginning of all movement. I will follow up with a blogs that talk about engrams and communication system that we clinicians can utilize to make change and then an outline of various methods that can help expedite remedial change in bodily form and subsequent function.