When we learn about the body, if we do in school, it’s not always that we learn about the nervous system.
We can think of our nervous system as our communication system between the brain and the body. Like an old fashioned telephone exchange. The nerves communicate with electrical signal, which can travel up to 250mph. That’s pretty amazing in itself.
The central nervous system (CNS) is the central trunk of the tree. It refers to the brain, spinal cord, together with the retinas of the eyes.
The peripheral nervous system (PNS) is the branch system. It takes the ever decreasing size of nerve from the central trunk of the CNS out to the ends of the body. It looks a little like tree roots in the living body, it’s quite extraordinary.
The communication is two way: from the command centre (the brain) out, and from the sensory organs back in. Some emergency controls exist at the spinal cord level. And others in the non-cognitive parts of the brain.
When’s the last time you did something instinctively before you knew why? Those events where you move out of the way before a car hits you, but before you know it’s a car? That’s the safety system jumping in – if you were to think about it, you’d be too late. Those miliseconds of time can save our life.
It’s our nervous system that allows us to learn.
Everything we do that isn’t a reflex is learnt. For the most part, we simply don’t remember the process. With the children I teach the violin – it’s only a few years before they don’t remember the beginning steps. Those weeks of trying to hold the violin up, working out what to do with the bow, trying to co-ordinate the two!
It’s what allows us to keep learning, until the day we die. One of my Feldenkrais students asked me if she was too old to improve what she was doing. And yes, it’s harder than when we were pre-21, when we learnt by osmosis. As adults our learning has to be more explicit, but we can learn throuh our whole life. The great Spanish cellist Pablo Casals, when asked why he practised in his 70s, replied “I still think I am making progress”!
He also said of age: “…age is a relative matter. If you continue to work and to absorb the beauty in the world about you, you find that age does not necessarily mean getting old.” Perhaps you’ll have an opinion about that? Please feel free to comment! I like to hear your points of view.
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