Striatum

Underneath your cortex, within your brain, lies an area called the striatum. Sub-divided into ventral and dorsal, the two sub parts play different roles. For now, let us focus on the dorsal striatum. The d.s. helps you develop automated motor function or trained responses. Your hands reaching out to smack someone you are upset with for example. Ok, I jest. Hopefully, that is not what you you have trained your brain for. There are several useful actions that you are able to train yourself to do. Learning to swim for example. In the beginning you are all at sea. Gradually you find your legs. Soon you are swimming with the sharks and don’t even stop to think about it. That is your striatum at work for you.

Automating motor skills is extremely useful. It allows your body to respond to physical events without thinking too much about it. Much to the possible dismay that Rene Descartes may feel, thinking is not always a good thing. In fact, many times, the ability to not think is extremely useful. Imagine you are walking a tightrope across two buildings, hundred floors high. If you relied on the thinking part of your brain, frankly, you would not step out of the ledge in the first place. It is your automated motor skills instead that get your across. Years of training, perhaps.

What was fascinating for me was the application of your d.s. to create calm. To use my analogy of the person walking across buildings; being calm is essential. Can you therefore train your body for automated responses in your regular life. Being a surgeon, politician, or policeman perhaps? Can you develop automated responses that rely less on the thinking part of your brain. Instead, you train yourself to deal with the stresses of your own circumstances? Science seems to think so.