Practitioners of mindfulness claim that a calm body leads to a calm mind. Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis has published new research suggesting that the concept of “mind-body unity” is more than just a theory.
The study reveals a close connection between the areas of the brain that regulate movement and those that handle involuntary bodily functions like blood pressure and heart rate. These results demonstrate a direct anatomical connection between the body and the mind.
The study, which was published on April 19 in the journal Nature, may shed light on some perplexing phenomena, such as the desire to pace back and forth in response to anxiety, the potential relief of depression through stimulation of the vagus nerve (which regulates internal organ functions like digestion and heart rate), and the increased optimism reported by those who engage in regular physical activity.
According to the study: “These results, together with previous studies demonstrating stimulation-evoked complex actions and connectivity to internal organs such as the adrenal medulla, suggest that M1 is punctuated by a system for whole-body action planning, the somato-cognitive action network (SCAN).
“In M1, two parallel systems intertwine, forming an integrate–isolate pattern: effector-specific regions (foot, hand and mouth) for isolating fine motor control and the SCAN for integrating goals, physiology and body movement.”