The human body is a complex, intricately connected system. Each part plays a crucial role in maintaining overall health and wellness. While the brain is often considered the command center, responsible for our thoughts, emotions, and decision-making abilities, it cannot function or develop in isolation from the rest of the body. The brain and body are, in fact, one unified entity, with the body feeding the brain and the central nervous system (CNS) using the body for various functions, including thinking. This article will explore the connection between the brain and the body, emphasizing the importance of considering the whole human body when observing, researching, or healing the brain.
The Body Feeds the Brain
The brain requires constant nutrients, oxygen, and energy to function optimally. The body is critical in providing these essentials through various physiological processes. For example, the cardiovascular system, which includes the heart, blood vessels, and blood, transports oxygen and nutrients to the brain via a network of arteries and removes waste products through veins (1).
The digestive system breaks down food into essential nutrients, such as glucose, amino acids, and fatty acids, which are then absorbed into the bloodstream and transported to the brain (2). The brain relies heavily on glucose as its primary energy source. Any glucose supply disruptions can lead to impaired cognitive function (3).
Hormones such as cortisol, insulin, and thyroid hormones directly impact brain function and overall health (4). These hormones help regulate metabolism, energy levels, and stress responses and play a role in neural development and plasticity (5). Furthermore, the endocrine system, which comprises glands that secrete hormones, also plays a vital role in brain function.
The Brain Uses the Body
The brain and the central nervous system (CNS) constantly communicate with the rest of the body. The CNS uses the body to gather information about the environment, execute physical actions, and regulate internal conditions. For instance, the sensory system provides the brain with information about external stimuli like touch, taste, vision, and hearing. The brain processes and interprets this information, allowing us to make sense of our surroundings and respond accordingly (6).
Moreover, the brain uses the body’s muscles to execute physical actions, such as walking, talking, and breathing. The motor cortex in the brain sends signals to the spinal cord, which then relays these signals to the muscles, causing them to contract and generate movement (7).
Research also suggests that the brain may “think” with the body. This concept, known as embodied cognition, proposes that our thoughts and perceptions are influenced by the physical state of our body (8). For example, research has shown that people holding a warm beverage are more likely to perceive a stranger as warm and friendly than those holding a cold drink (9). This highlights that the brain and body are intimately interconnected, working to process information and shape our perceptions of the world.
The Importance of a Holistic Approach
Given the interdependence between the brain and the body, it is crucial to consider the whole human body when observing, researching, or healing the brain. For example, when investigating brain disorders, understanding the underlying physiological processes and possible interactions with other body systems can provide valuable insights and potential therapeutic targets (10).
Similarly, adopting a holistic approach that addresses the brain and the patient’s overall health can lead to better outcomes when treating neurological conditions. This may include incorporating physical therapy, bioenergy therapy, nutrition, exercise, lifestyle changes, and stress management strategies alongside conventional medical treatments (11).
In conclusion, the brain and the body are inseparable entities. The body feeds the brain and the CNS using the body to carry out various functions, including thinking. Recognizing this connection and adopting a holistic approach to understanding and healing the brain can pave the way for more effective treatments and a better understanding of the human body and mind.