A new discovery suggests that a lot of the balancing that our body performs, happens subconsciously.
We can balance our bodies because of the cluster of neurons in our spinal cord that function as a ‘mini-brain’ to integrate sensory information and make the necessary adjustments to our muscles so that we don’t slip and fall.
Scientists map the neural circuitry of the spinal cord that processes the sense of light touch. This circuit allows the body to reflexively make small adjustments to foot position and balance using light touch sensors in the feet. The study, conducted in mice, provides the first detailed blueprint for a spinal circuit that serves as a control center for integrating motor commands from the brain with sensory information from the limbs.
A better understanding of these circuits should eventually aid in developing therapies for spinal cord injury and diseases that affect motor skills and balance, as well as the means to prevent falls for the elderly.