In Our Time: Neuroscience

From BBC Radio 4’s weekly show “In Our Time” presented by Melvyn Bragg:


Find out more about this subject by using our research page

In the mid-19th century a doctor had a patient who had suffered a stroke. The patient was unable to speak save for one word. The word was ‘Tan’ which became his name. When Tan died, the doctor discovered damage to the left side of his brain and concluded that the ability to speak was housed there.

This is how neuroscience used to work – by examining the dead or investigating the damaged – but now things have changed. Imaging machines and other technologies enable us to see the active brain in everyday life, to observe the activation of its cells and the mass firing of its neuron batteries.

But what picture of the brain has emerged, how has our understanding of it changed and what are the implications for understanding that most mysterious and significant of all phenomena – the human mind?


Martin Conway, Professor of Psychology at the University of Leeds

Gemma Calvert, Professor of Applied Neuroimaging at WMG, University of Warwick

David Papineau, Professor of Philosophy of Science at King’s College London”

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5 Simple Criteria for Reading the Body

More notes and thoughts from the Tom Myers "Body Reading 101" seminar.

1. Primary Rotation

Assess the most substantial rotation in the thoraco-lumbar spine.


A Vocabulary for Anatomical Assessment

More notes and thoughts from the Tom Myers "Body Reading 101" seminar.


As a convention, position and direction of a structure are referred to from the top and from the front. For example, a posterior tilt of the pelvis always means that the top of the pelvis is tilting towards the back of the body. If you are looking from the front, the top of the pelvis will be tilting away from you, from the back it will be tilting towards you, but the language expressing the position does not change. Read More...

5 Stages of Creating Change in the Body

More notes and thoughts from the Tom Myers "Body Reading 101" seminar.

These 5 stages work equally well if you are applying them to yourself or to a student/client. In some ways, this process is easier when working with someone else, as you will have greater perspective than when working on yourself.

1. Skeletal Geometry

Assess the position of the body. Determine the imbalances and holding patterns that need to be worked with. If working on yourself, use a combination of internal and external self-assessment, being aware of your poses from the inside as well as analyzing yourself in a mirror. Read More...

5 Steps to Successful Bodywork

I'm in the middle of a wonderful workshop on body reading with Tom Myers. He gave us his 5-step approach to any form of bodywork, be it on a client, or on yourself:

1. Energy

How much energy does you or your client have? Match the energy of the solution to the energy of client. If the approach requires a lot of effort and vitality to maintain beyond the session and you or the client doesn't have it, the effects won't last for long. 108 suns salutations every day are not going to do you much good if you don't do them. If all you can realistically manage is something simple or restorative, then that should be the approach taken.

Five Essential Anatomy Books

If you are going to get serious about your yoga practice, it is important to begin to develop your understanding of the body from more than an experiential perspective. It's not necessary to go out and get a degree in gross anatomy and to learn the names of each muscle, each ligament and bone. An understanding of the major muscles involved in a given action will help you visualize the effect you are trying to achieve. Here are five extremely useful resources.


The Quadriceps

The muscle group known as the quadriceps--or "quads"--is made up of four different muscles that run along the front of the thigh bone. ("Quadriceps" means, literally, "four heads.") All four muscles act on the knee to extend the joint, straightening the leg.

rectus femoreis, vastus intermedius, vastus me, vastus lateralis, thigh, knee

Rectus Femoris

Origin: The anterior superior iliac spine (hip bone) and part of the ilium (the largest pelvic bone) near the acetabulum (the hip socket).

Insertion: The patellar (kneecap) tendon, which attaches the kneecap to the tibia (the shin bone).

Action: Extends the knee, straightening the leg. When the pelvis is fixed it also flexes the hip.

Vastus Intermedius

Origin: The upper two thirds of the front of the femur (the thigh bone).

Insertion: The outer edge of the patella.

Action: Extends the knee, straightening the leg.

Vastus Medialis

Origin: Along the inner edge of the linea aspera (a line that runs down the back of the femur). The muscle wraps around from back to front where it meets vastus intermedius to attach to its insertion.

Insertion: The lower medial (inner) edge of the patella.

Action: Extends the knee, straightening the leg. When the knee is bent it contributes to turning the tibia medially (inward).

Vastus Lateralis

Origin: Similarly to vastus medialis, it attacjes along the outer edge of the linea aspera at the back of the femur and wraps around to the front to meet vastus intermedius.

Insertion: The lower lateral (outer) edge of the patella.

Action: Extends the knee, straightening the leg. When the knee is bent it contributes to turning the tibia laterally (outward).

(The origin of a muscle is the end that it contracts towards, the insertion is the end that it contracts away from.)


"Anatomy of Movement," Blandine Calais-Germain, 1993, Eastland Press, Seattle.
"Lower Extremity Muscle Atlas," Michael L. Richardson M.D., 1997, University of Washington,


Bones of the Knee

femur, tibia, patella


Bones of the Hip and Pelvis

pelvis, femur, sitting bone


Repost: The Foot

I've had some thoughts about the feet, as a result of a recent workshop, so I thought I would repost this piece from last year about the anatomy of the foot in preparation for a couple of posts to come.

Firm Foundations

The foot is an extremely complex structure of bones, joints, muscles and connective tissue. Imbalances in its functioning can have an impact all the way up the frame, affecting posture, bearing and well-being in everyday life as well as in your yoga practice. Examining the basic elements of that structure will give us some insight into how the foot supports us in stillness and in movement.

The Bones of the Foot

From above

Bones of Foot (top)

Inner foot

Bones of Foot (inside)

Outer foot

Distribution of Weight

The bones of the foot have evolved to support the weight of the body in much the same way that the arch of a bridge supports the entire structure. (1)

Forces acting on the foot

bone support in foot

Forces acting on a bridge keystone

Keystone Action in Bridge

Three Arches

There are three different arch shapes in the foot that contribute to supporting and balancing the weight of the body. The medial arch is the one we generally think of, as in a high or a low arch. There is also a lateral arch, which is much smaller, and a transverse arch across the foot.

Two parts of the foot

The inner foot, ending in the first three toes, makes up the structure of the medial arch. This bears the most weight. The outer foot bears the least weight and acts as balance. (2)

The tripod of the foot

Supporting the Arches

The bony arch structures are supported by thick layers of connective tissue and muscle that descend from the lower leg and wrap around the ankle bones.

Medial arch

The supporting muscles are:

    Abductor hallucis: Supports the talus and calcaneus. Creates the strung bow action of the arch;
    Tibialis posterior: ligament supports talus and navicular;
    Flexor hallucis longus: supports talus and calcaneus;
    Peroneus longus (not shown): wraps under foot from outer leg and attaches to head of 1st metatarsal (big toe mound), assisting strung bow action of arch.

Ligamentous support of the arches

The metatarsal heads and calcaneus are drawn together by the support of ligaments and the tone of muscles to create added lift in the bones of the foot, rebounding the downward pull of gravity up through the ankles and legs.

Lateral arch

The supporting muscles are:

    Peroneus longus: Supports calcaneus and cuboid;
    Peroneus brevis: assists strung bow action of arch;
    Abductor digiti minimi: assists strung bow action of arch.

Transverse arch

The supporting muscles are:

    Adductor hallucis: the transverse head attaches to the metatarsal/phalangeal joints crosswise, drawing them in and creating lift;
    Peroneus longus: ligament crosses from lateral to medial side of foot, attaching underneath to the head of the first metatarsal and drawing the two sides together to create lift;
    Tibialis posterior: attaches to undersides of navicular, cuboid, lateral cuneiform and metatarsals 2-4, creating lift from below.


1. Mabel E. Todd, 1937. "The Thinking Body: A Study of the Balancing Forces of Dynamic Man." Princeton: Princeton Book Company.

2. Ida P. Rolf, 1977. "Rolfing: The Integration of Human Structures." New York: Harper and Row.

Mirror Neurons and Personality

From WNYC's Leonard Lopate Show:

Mirror Neurons and Personality

Dr. Vittorio Gallese, Professor of Human Physiology at the School of Medicine of the University of Parma, explains how mirror neurons affect empathy, and help shape personality.


The Pre-Frontal Cortex of the Brain

From WNYC's Leonard Lopate Show:

What Makes Us Tick?
In The Genius Engine, science writer Kathleen Stein explores the pre-frontal cortex—a region of the brain that controls many of the traits that make humans unique, from memory to decision-making to emotional processing.


The Lower Leg and Ankle

The Mobile Base

dorsiflexion of the foot
The foot and ankle have a few basic movements for us to consider:

    • inversion;
    • eversion;
    • supination;
    • pronation;
    • dorsiflexion;
    • plantar flexion;
    • adduction;
    • abduction.