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Exciting! Mind-Body Linkage Discovered

By Lauren Salani, LCSW, BCB

Philosophers for thousands of years have had their theories on whether the mind and the body operate separately from each other to keep the person safe and alive. One French philosopher, René Descartes (1596-1650) argued that “the natures of mind and body are completely separate from one another and that each could exist by itself.”

Much later, in 1930, Wilder Penfield, MD and his colleagues made a map of the motor areas of the brain. During brain surgeries, they stimulated brain sites that corresponded with the associated body parts. They found that when the areas in the brain that represented the feet, hands, and mouth were stimulated, it elicited movement in those specific body parts. This map has been a staple of neuroscience textbooks to the present day. Still, the problem of mind-body connection remained a matter of debate.

Until April of this year, Evan Gordon, Lead Researcher, at the Washington School of Medicine in St Louis and Senior Author, Nico Dosenbach, MD, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Neurology, published in the Journal Nature, that they have discovered the missing link connecting the mind and the body. Gordon used fMRI to replicate Penfield’s map except he stimulated the motor brain areas in a resting state. All the areas such as legs and arms, twitched upon stimulation as shown by fMRI. But, surprisingly, he noticed that there were areas of brain tissue that did not have a known function. These areas were discovered to be networks involved in thinking, planning, mental arousal, pain, and control of internal organs, as well as functions such as blood pressure and heart rate.

Dr. Dosenbach reports that these newly discovered executive areas embedded within the motor cortex provide explanation for why “the body” and “the mind” aren’t separate or separable. Their research explains why we pace back and forth when we feel anxious, or why we sweat or have an increased heart rate caused by merely thinking about a difficult situation. It also explains why stimulation of the vagus nerve, which regulates digestion and heartrate, may alleviate depression and why people who exercise tend to report a more positive outlook on life.

The ability to recognize and regulate how your body reacts to stress can be a powerful skill to keep yourself calm, up-beat, and well-regulated as you move through life. Most people are more aware of the weather and their to-do lists and then they are of the tension they hold in their bodies, their negative self-talk and their personal stress response. This exciting new-found missing link between mind and body now better explains how people who undergo a course of Biofeedback Therapy can learn how to regulate their own physiology, as well as their state of mind.

Biofeedback Therapy offers the chance for people to learn how to self-regulate their mind-body system which uses this new-found link. A person wanting to reduce muscle tension in their shoulders would have a non-invasive sensor applied to their skin over the muscle group. When they relaxed those muscles, the sensor would feed that information into a computer so it could be viewed on a screen as numbers or pictures. This process takes the guess work and perception problems out of managing muscle tension. An added benefit is, when the muscles relax, the mind can slow. As mentioned above, many body systems can be accessed in this manner. The feedback process helps to reduce anxiety, increase mood, and to change reactions. Knowledge is power to increase well-being.

If you suffer from the symptoms of stress in your mind/body and want to address them, holistically, in a warm caring office, please call Stress Relief Services at 732.542.2638.

Lauren A. Salani, LCSW, BCB,Stress Relief Services, Atlantic Executive Center, 107 Monmouth Road, Suite 104, West Long Branch, NJ 07764, 732.542.2638, website:,,


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