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A person's level of attention affects information processing in the spinal cord

It is well understood that the brain holds many functions, including the processing of information in all vertebrates and most invertebrates. But now, a researcher from the Queen's MRI Facility has found that the spinal cord is capable of processing information as well, and he is working to map this function in order to help bridge spinal cord injuries.

Dr. Patrick Stroman, study leader and director of the Queen's MRI Facility, has spent time mapping the function of the spinal cord, including its information processing capabilities. More specifically, he has studied the regions above and below spinal cord injuries in an effort to better understand both the injury and the appropriate treatment. In doing so, Stroman has developed a technique that could aid in bridging injuries on a spinal cord.

The technique consists of an MRI system taking multiple images of the spinal cord while temperature sensations are performed on the skin. These temperature sensations are varied, and cause certain areas of the spinal cord to react. The MRI then captures these reactions. This could be used to identify the injury that needs to be bridged. 

While performing this technique, Stroman also realized that a persons level of attention affects the spinal cord's information processing. The MRI was able to capture spinal cord activity in those who were alert and those who were distracted by certain tasks. 

"The effect of attention is one of the reasons that when you're playing sports and you get hurt, you often don't become aware of the injury until after the game when your attention and focus changes," said Stroman. "We already knew that a person's level of attention affects information processing in the brain, but this finding has made us aware that level of attention has to be properly controlled in research that aims to accurately map spinal cord function."

This research could improve treatment and technology for spinal cord injuries, and could also be applied to conditions such as fibromyalgia or multiple sclerosis. 

"Basic physiology books describe the spinal cord as a relay system, but it's part of the central nervous system and processes information just like parts of the brain do," added Stroman. 

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By MrBlastman on 3/23/2011 5:05:42 PM , Rating: 5
It makes sense that the spinal cord processes information, as it essentially contains "routers" within it to direct information to appropriate places (though one might argue it is a simple bus as it ships all information straight to the brain but I don't think that is technically true, all the time, depending on the neural junction points).

But, per the latter half, as this article points out, alludes in part to the way Martial Arts masters are able to block out pain while still carrying out their attacks and counters.

It also, might finally unlock the mystery as to why all Ninjas are ultimately powerful and can flip out and kill everyone in a room without even being seen! You have to want to see them, to find them. Only problem is, you might find out you don't want to see them at all, just before you realize it is too late to wish them all away.

Think about that for a minute. Wait, don't. If you do, the ninjas will have to get you. Or your spine. Just ask Sub Zero about that one...

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By Omega215D on 3/23/2011 5:16:28 PM , Rating: 3
Well, the resistance to pain is mostly from years of training through a method of hard "qi"/ Chi. Basically continuous striking until the bone and muscle become hardened all while using breathing methods to channel the energy/ bloodflow to areas needed.

Power in the martial arts is through the twisting motion of the legs, waist, torso then arms with the power transmitted through the spine and it's usually illustrated as a tree with strong roots. It's quite fascinating what the ancient artists knew about the human body back those days.

As one in training I only managed to tone up the legs and somewhat of the torso to increase the pain threshold.

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By ShaolinSoccer on 3/23/2011 5:32:17 PM , Rating: 2
lol MrBlastman, funny post.

It wouldn't surprise me if the spinal cord processes information. Don't most insects and smaller lifeforms do the same? They don't have brains yet their entire nervous system is their brain? Also, if I remember correctly, we learned in elementary school that when you burn your hand, the pain signal only goes to your spinal cord and your spinal cord is what tells your hand to jerk away before your brain realises you got burned.

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By lennylim on 3/23/2011 7:04:48 PM , Rating: 3
A chicken survived for more than a year with head cut off - apparently most of the brain stem is enough to keep it alive and mostly functional.

I don't know how much that has to do with this article, it's just the first thing that popped to mind and interesting in itself.

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By Mitch101 on 3/24/2011 11:08:20 AM , Rating: 2
That popped into my head as well as cockroaches and the preying mantis.

I also have to believe the spinal column has a big role in longevity of life. Obviously not working your dead but on a deeper level that science will eventually discover.

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By Iketh on 3/24/2011 5:12:46 PM , Rating: 2
Scorpion, not Sub Zero

"I want people to see my movies in the best formats possible. For [Paramount] to deny people who have Blu-ray sucks!" -- Movie Director Michael Bay

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