Because this story is so intriguing and rich with theoretical possibilities, I will indulge in speculating out loud.
When I draw on the blackboard my model for the mind of a dog, I feature the bi-focal “vision” that I consider a prerequisite for movement. In any state of attention there is the obvious external focal gaze, the individual’s eyes looking at the stimulus and importing its data into the brain, but there is also a subliminal beam of attention focused on the body’s center-of-gravity so that the individual can move coherently in response to being stimulated. There can’t be one without the other and the subliminal beam is far more fragile that the external gaze as it is easily lost when dealing with obstacles or when under forces of acceleration. Hence inner vision is more important to coherent movement than the external gaze even though the latter gets all our “attention.”
When covering open ground it’s easy to hold these two beams of attention in tandem (except for babies or puppies in the toddling phase of locomotion which should remind us that it’s not so easy) and thus the body is able to move in a smooth wave function. One could liken anatomy to a computer, nerve impulses to the muscles are inputs to an arrangement of bones serving as a mechanical processor. Once energized, the levers of the anatomy print out a wave pattern through the body’s movements. The nerve impulses are simple binary on/off signals that the anatomy forces the brain to fine tune and convert into a smooth wave. The brain isn’t free to move the body at random, it must produce a wave in order to feel good about what it’s doing and it uses feedback from the mechanical computer to work out such movements. No matter the input, the answer is always a wave.
The specifics of how the brain fine tunes turns out to be a daunting mystery for brain researchers. (See Wolpert below)
In various neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s, there’s a breakdown in the capacity to fine tune and so motor impulses are basically firing in an on/off unmoderated manner. In other words, the brain can’t produce a wave. The wave is critical to movement because it’s easy to hold the split beam of attention in tandem and fine tune modulations (such as when encountering difficult terrain or obstacles) into mere inflections of the wave rather than these interrupting the flow. (Extreme skiers flying down mountain slopes are fascinating to watch precisely because they incorporate death defying mountain crags and drop offs into their pattern of movement. They are converting the impossible into a wave. The wave keeps them safe.)
I don’t claim any authority on brain function and welcome elucidation if I’m getting it wrong, but I do feel we can draw certain conclusions from a logical examination of the simplest of facts. Anatomy evolved before nerves, and anatomy evolved in response to a center-of-gravity in order to achieve its specific style of symmetry. Therefore this split beam of focal attention, a point within the body that the body is perfectly configured about, and a point beyond the body that it must become perfectly configured about if it is to remain standing and maintain forward motion, is the basis for how the Central Nervous System evolved as well. Therefore the split/beam is the architecture around which any brain structure evolved or state of mind arises and so therefore, the mechanisms of the split beam exist far below the cognitive interface with the mechanics of movement.
“In fact, the basic patterns of muscle activation that produce coordinated walking can be generated not only in four-footed animals, but also in humans, within the spinal cord itself. These spinal mechanisms, which evolved in primitive vertebrates, are being studied to determine the degree to which spinal circuitry can be used to recover basic postural and locomotor function after severe paralysis. The most complex movements that we perform, including voluntary ones that require conscious planning, involve control of these basic spinal mechanisms by the brain.”
When the nervous system evolved to be centralized, it would have had to centralize around the bi-focal state of attention as otherwise coherent movement is impossible and I believe this can function in two directions, from a top down (projection of force) as when I think about tapping a key on the keypad and my fingers move automatically, or a bubble-up (collection of force) as when I talk on the phone while typing down a stream of consciousness coming in and which I will lose if I d
I believe that when the body and brain moves as a syncopated wave with the projection and collection phase of locomotion being perfectly equal (which means effecting a wave), and then masters the various obstacles and impediments that rather than interrupting now merely inflect the equanimity between projection and collection, the memory of that wave is embedded as a physical memory in the body that can then later be accessed by the subliminal beam of attention and is then able to be performed without conscious awareness. One doesn’t have to devote any mental energy to the body mechanics other than manifesting the will to move. (In fact the movement of others can initiate the bubble-up and even the will to move becomes involuntary. This I believe is the basis of collective and social behavior. In other words, anatomy encodes for a systems’ logic, the template of the body impressed upon the mind as in “I can’t move well unless You move well. The system’s logic is relative positions of p-cogs and respective momenta. This systems’ form of movement bubbles up.) The wave as physical memory within the body interfaces with the brain and directs its autonomic processes involved with movement. I would therefore theorize that Parkinson’s sufferers due to damage lose contact with this split beam when trying to move in normal everyday circumstances. But once made vividly aware of their p-cog, such as when the gentleman got on his bike, (in other instance the same results are reported in dance) then the physical memory of the wave is activated on the deeper architectural level of the mind, the systems’ level far below the cognitive interface and he is able to move effortlessly. The bubble up mechanism takes over. This can also be likened to the phenomenon in the “Kings Speech” when the king was able to sing effortlessly but tripped all over the words when spoken. The wave memory of singing enabled the bubble-up circuitry that his higher nerve processes couldn’t access due to childhood trauma.
This is why I advocate balance challenges for fearful and aggressive dogs so that they can get out of the external focal fixation and the subsequent fixation on having to project force, and create a new physical memory by weighting collection over projection by learning to hold onto their subliminal beam of attention. This then converts nerve impulses, which are simple on/off firings, into a smooth wave function through the calculus that is embodied in the body, the physical anatomy as repository of the systems’ logic, a wave function, that not only makes coherent movement possible, but social behavior as well. A social nature doesn’t trickle down from high level cognition, it bubbles up from an inner vision.
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“I would therefore theorize that Parkinson’s sufferers due to damage lose contact with this split beam when trying to move in normal everyday circumstances. But once made vividly aware of their p-cog, such as when the gentleman got on his bike, (in other instance the same results are reported in dance) then the physical memory of the wave is activated on the deeper architectural level of the mind, the systems’ level far below the cognitive interface and he is able to move effortlessly. The bubble up mechanism takes over.”
Fascinating! This was my vague sense of it, but your articulation pulls it into sharp focus. So aging bodies, under the influence of ungrounded Big-Brain thrust, can become covered in tension, backs bowed, but then also can lose the fundamental sense of the wave necessary for motion originating from a good feeling in the physical center. So is the jagged, quavering movement of parkinson’s an expression of movement originating instead from the Big-Brain style electric reactionary seeking for balance?
Yes. From my point of view, when the Big Brain runs the show, with balance being its fundamental mandate, then the individual operates on a load/overload binary framework and feels depleted after the discharge. This is akin to how a neuron itself operates, load/overload and then arc an impulse across the synaptic gap, the neuron left being depleted and having to recharge in order to fire again. But when the brain is grounded in the body to form the mind, then there is a steady state wave flow principle organizing behavior, this is the systems logic, and behavior leaves the individual feeling energized as opposed to enervated. There is a hunger for flow as opposed to a need for balance.
Honestly I think this is an excellent basis for understanding the multiplicity and epidemic of modern Chronic Fatigue syndromes – if movement is about depletion/recharge and satisfies a need for balance from a Big Brain point of view, then we are constantly looking for rest and the nearest chair or something to lean on to stabilize ourselves. But if movement itself is an energizing force, then we will constantly look for opportunities to move well.
That’s an interesting application. We could note that when we feel synchronized with others, we tap into a source of energy (which I believe is already on/board in the form of stress) that’s only released when in a state of syncopation (thus inducing the feeling of weightlessness) and hence the sense of moving effortlessly.
This would explain why service work (helping others) can elevate mood and fight depression, or why people talk about “keeping busy” (movement, engaging with others, etc.) as a way to avoid anxiety.