Thursday, September 10, 2015

More on the Brain: How Do Our Brains Control Our Bodies?

By Paola Salazar

[“El Jaleo” by John Singer Sargent, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston, MA.]

12-year-old Amanda Kelly asks how it is that one organ (the brain) can control an entire body’s functions and motions. Again, the MIT student group Communicating Science provided an answer for us.

The brain is made up of a vast number of special communication cells called neurons that carry signals around the body. The brain has a sort of special highway of neurons that carry instructions directly to your spine. This is the spinal cord, where motor (for motion) and sensory (for feeling) nerves branch out.

From the spinal cord, the motor signals are sent out to your muscles, where they release tiny signal molecules called neurotransmitters. These neurotransmitters cause your muscles to contract, leading to motion. 

We don't really understand how the spinal cord knows which signals to send to which muscles, though - these kinds of questions remain open for the next generation of scientists, like yourself!

For anyone wanting to read more on what we know about how the brain controls movement, click here

Paola is a Boston-based science journalist with a background in social and life sciences.

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