MIR / News & Events / Study Unlocks the Mind-Body Connection, Updates Long-Established Brain Model
April 19, 2023
Study Unlocks the Mind-Body Connection, Updates Long-Established Brain Model
The mind-body connection has long theorized that our mental, emotional and physical health are inextricably intertwined. A new study from Mallinckrodt Institute of Radiology (MIR) researchers, now available in Nature, has identified a literal linkage of body and mind in the structure of the brain.
First author Evan M. Gordon, PhD, and senior author Nico Dosenbach, MD, PhD — both principal investigators in MIR’s Neuroimaging Labs Research Center — and colleagues set out to use functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to verify the famous motor homunculus brain map created by Wilder Penfield, MD, in the 1930s. What they found is a link between the body and the mind that is embedded in the structure of the brain and expressed in people’s physiology, movements, behavior and thinking. They call this connection the Somato-Cognitive Action Network (SCAN).
“People who meditate say that by calming your body with, say, breathing exercises, you also calm your mind,” said Gordon in a School of Medicine news release. “Those sorts of practices can be really helpful for people with anxiety, for example, but so far, there hasn’t been much scientific evidence for how it works. But now we’ve found a connection. We’ve found the place where the highly active, goal-oriented ‘go, go, go’ part of your mind connects to the parts of the brain that control breathing and heart rate. If you calm one down, it absolutely should have feedback effects on the other.”
The research team studied fMRI brain scans from seven adult volunteers and built individualized brain maps for each participant, which were validated by using three large, publicly available fMRI datasets, which together contain brain scans from about 50,000 people.