The Brain Evolved to Affect Movement


It is no secret that the greater the extent that young children ‘play’ in a diverse educational environment, the greater their dexterity of mind and body. If a young child is deprived of this sensory experience, then the psychological and physical growth of that child is adversely affected. This suggests that positive sensory stimulation experienced in the environment, generates a healthy and robust inner psychological world, that is fully adapted to ‘survive’ in the evolutionary environment. This will obviously produce different stratagems for survival that are distinct and relevant for different historical epochs. A child during the Stone Age, for example, had to use play as a means of learning a range of survival behaviours in a potentially dangerous environment. A child from an affluent middle class background living in the 21st century, by way of comparison, has to develop learning strategies within ‘safe’ playing environments. Although generally speaking, the child in the latter example is not in danger, the blatant (and fear-orientated) need to survive, is replaced with the enjoyable requirement to learn ‘new’ tasks, for which the child receives positive reinforcement from both parents and teachers. According to neuroscientist Daniel Wolpert, the brain has evolved simply to move the body through the evolutionary environment in a manner that efficiently enhances the chances of survival of the entire living organism. This suggests that the agencies of ‘thinking’ and ‘feeling’ are not the primary reasons the brain evolved, but are by-products designed to augment and facilitate ever greater and more useful movement strategies in the external world. Viewing the brain as being primarily a ‘thinking’ device, is then understood to be an inverted interpretation of reality. From a strictly evolutionary perspective, the brain moved the body first, before the mind was developed that was able to generate ‘thought’ about the movement. The confusion arises when the thinking process is fully developed and functional, and appears to exist in parallel to movement (as if the two systems are not inherently connected). The average human – until receiving a modern education – is unaware that movement preceded thought, and so mistakes the true order of evolutionary events. Within modern human societies, where many of the day to day survival needs for the population have been more or less removed, physical movement strategies to evade dangerous animals and traverse difficult environments are not obviously needed as much, and so thought appears to be more prominent, giving the false impression that its function is primary. Of course, as movement is good for the health of the brain, many people voluntarily take-up various exercise regimes to replicate the exertion of past times, with some people joining the military as a means to produce a self-fulfilling sense of ‘danger’, ‘urgency’ and ‘survival’ against the odds.


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