Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Amelia from Catonsville , MD. Amelia Wonders, “how do you control moving?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Amelia!
What are you doing right now? Chances are you're sitting in front of a computer reading the Wonder of the Day. Are we right? Wow! We're good guessers, aren't we?
As soon as you finish reading this particular paragraph, we want you to do us a favor. Get up and move around for a few seconds. If you're at school, you might stand up and stretch or walk around your desk. If you happen to be at home, you can go outside or stroll around the house. OK…on your mark…get set…go!
Now that you're back, you're probably WONDERing why we had you move around for a bit. We asked you to move around, so that you'd have an immediate reference point for today's discussion about movement!
When you got up to move, did you have to think very hard about it? Did you have to mentally tell your body to move? Or did you just get up and move without really thinking about exactly how it is that you're able to move? Isn't the human body incredible? You just performed a whole series of complex, coordinated movements and you probably barely gave it any conscious thought. When you think about it, that's an incredible feat.
So how is it that we're able to move so freely and effortlessly without a conscious, concentrated effort? Your brain works in conjunction with your muscles, which in turn work with your skeletal bones to produce a wide variety of movements.
Any kind of movement begins with a need or desire to move. That need or desire may be conscious, if you're deliberately thinking about moving, but most of the time it doesn't even register in our conscious minds. Instead, the brain simply takes control, plans, and initiates the movement.
The brain sends signals via the nervous system, including the spinal cord and nerves, to the muscles. The muscles then contract to create movement. Your muscles work in conjunction with tendons and joints, which help your muscles move your skeletal bones to accomplish movement.
While the movement is taking place, a wide variety of receptors in our skin, muscles, and bones provide feedback regarding the speed, direction, and force of the movement. All this sensory feedback gets transmitted via nerves and the spinal cord back to the brain, allowing the brain to adjust the movement accordingly.
Is something in the way? The brain can direct your movement around the object. Did you step on something sharp? The brain can stop movement, so that you can tend to your aching foot.
All of this happens instantaneously with little or no conscious thought. Despite requiring little conscious thought, the muscles you control when you move are known as voluntary muscles, since you can control them when you think about moving.
Many of the muscles in your body are called involuntary muscles, because they work without any thought whatsoever from you. For example, your heart and lung muscles are mostly involuntary. That's a good thing! Can you imagine the effort it would take if you had to think constantly about making your heart beat and your lungs breathe?