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erroneously decoded as 'light'. The famed neurologist
Oliver Sacks has produced a compendium of books
detailing many stories of conditions where the neuro-
logical system 'fools' its owner into seeing, feeling, or
believing that the world is something other than it
appears to the rest of us, including his personal experi-
ence of sensorimotor amnesia so relevant to the manual
or movement therapist, A Leg to Stand On. 70
The circulatory net carries chemical information
around the body in a fluid medium. The myriad
exchanges of actual physical substance (as opposed to
the encoded information carried by the nervous system)
take place through this most ancient of conduits.
Though we must be clear that these two systems work
seamlessly in the living body, the difference between
these two types of information conveyed is easily
explained. If I wish to lift a glass to my mouth, I can con-
ceive of this idea in my brain (perhaps stimulated by
thirst, perhaps by my discomfort on a first date, it matters
not), turn it into a code of dots and dashes, send this code
down through the spine, out through the brachial plexus,
and down to my arm. If some security agency inter-
cepted this message halfway in between the two, the
actual signal would be meaningless - just a series of on-
off switches. At the neuromuscular junction, the message
is decoded into meaning - and the relevant muscles con-
tract according to the coded sequence.
Suppose, however, that in order to carry out the
nervous system's command, that muscle requires more
oxygen. It is simply not possible for me, even if I could
conceive that idea in my brain, to encode some signal
that could be decoded somewhere down the nervous
system as an oxygen molecule. It is instead necessary
that the actual oxygen molecule be captured from the
air by the surfactant bordering the epithelium of the
alveolus, cross through this surface layer, over the inter-
stitial space and connective tissue layer, pass through
the alveolar capillary wall, 'swim' through the plasma
until it finds a red blood cell, pass through the mem-
brane of the red blood cell and hook itself on to a bushy
hemoglobin molecule, ride with the red blood cell out
to the arm, detach itself from the hemoglobin, escape
from the red blood cell through its double-layered mem-
brane, pass with the plasma through the capillary wall,
pass between the fibers and the ground substance in the
interstitial space and squiggle through the membrane of
the cell in question, finally to enter the Krebs cycle in
the service of raising my arm. As complex as this series
of events may seem, it is happening millions and mil-
lions of times every minute in your body.
These systems have social correlates, which may also
serve to illustrate the differing functions of the neural
and circulatory nets. It is increasingly common for us as
a society to encode data into unrecognizable form
and have it decoded at the other end. Although this topic
would be a primitive form of such encoding, phone calls,
DVDs, and the internet provide a better example. My
daughter lives far from me; when I write T love you' on
e-mail, it is turned into a pattern of electrons which bears
no resemblance to the message itself, and would carry no
meaning for anyone else who might intercept it along
the way. At the other end, though, is a machine that
decodes the electrons and turns it back into a message
with meaning that I hope brings a smile. This is quite
similar to how the neural net coordinates both sensory
perception and motor reaction.
If, on the other hand, an e-mail or phone call will
simply not do, and she needs a genuine hug, I must get
into my little 'blood cell' of an automobile, and travel the
'capillaries' of the roadways and 'arteries' of the airways
until I reach the physical proximity that allows a genuine,
non-virtual hug. That is the way the circulatory fluid net
works to provide direct chemical exchange.
The third system, the fascial system, conveys mechani-
cal information - the interplay of tension and compression
- along the fibrous net, the gluey proteoglycans, and even
through the cells themselves. Please note that we are not
talking here of the muscle spindles, Golgi tendon organs,
and other stretch receptors. These proprioceptive sense
organs are how the nervous system informs itself, in its
usual encoded way, about what is going on in the myofas-
cial net. The fibrous system has a far more ancient way of
'talking' to itself: simple pulls and pushes, communicating
along the grain of the fascia and ground substance, from
fiber to fiber and cell to cell, directly (Fig. 1.28). 7 1
This kind of mechanical communication has been
studied less than the neural or circulatory communica-
tion, but it is clearly present. We will return to its par-
ticulars below in the section on tensegrity. For now, we
note that the Anatomy Trains myofascial meridians are
simply some common pathways for this kind of tensile
A tug in the fascial net is communicated across the
entire system like a snag in a sweater, or a pull in the
corner of an empty woven hammock. This communica-
tion happens below our level of awareness for the most
part, but through it we create a shape for ourselves,
registered in the liquid crystal of the connective tissue,
a recognizable pattern of posture and 'acture' (defined
as 'posture in action' - our characteristic patterns of
doing - by Feldenkrais 72 ), which we tend to keep unless
altered for better or worse.
Fig. 1.28 The connective tissue forms a syncytium - a continuity
of cells and the intercellular fibers - in which the cells can exert
tension through the entire network of the ECM. (Reproduced from
Jiang H, Grinnell F. American Society for Cell Biology; 2005.)
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