Why Are Bipolar Attacks Accompanied by Stages of Locomotor Disturbance?

Could it be “Emergent Properties”? See https://sciencing.com/emergent-properties-8232868.html for more information.

Paula and I have been puzzling over the stereotypic locomotor changes which occur during depressive insanity and in quiet delirium. Why does this occur? and why the shift to hyperlocomotor activity in manic [or delirium without fever, as it used to be called. This MUST be important. So we would like to explore how the body moves under normal conditions;

How does your body move? Does the brain send it messages?

Muscles move on commands from the brain. Single nerve cells in the spinal cord, called motor neurons, are the only way the brain connects to muscles. When a motor neuron inside the spinal cord fires, an impulse goes out from it to the muscles on a long, very thin extension of that single cell called an axon. When the impulse travels down the axon to the muscle, a chemical is released at its ending. Muscles are made of long fibers connected to each other longways by a ratchet mechanism, the kind of mechanism that allows the two parts of an extension ladder to slide past each other and then lock in a certain position. When the chemical impulse from the motor neuron hits the muscle, it causes to muscle fibers to rachet past each other, overlapping each other more, so that the muscle gets shorter and fatter. When the impulses from the nerves stop, the muscle fibers slide back to their original positions.

Each motor neuron connects to just one muscle, say the bicep on the front of your upper arm that lifts your forearm, or to the triceps, the one on the back that extends your forearm. But when you move, you never think, “I’d like to contract my bicep two inches and relax my tricep two inches” — instead you think, “I’d like to put this cake in my mouth!” How does the brain translate from the general idea to lift something to your mouth to specific commands to muscles? It does it in stages. In the cerebral cortex, the commands in the neurons there represent coordinated movements – like pick up the cake, hit the ball, salute. The cortex then connects to a sort of console in the spinal cord that overlays the motor neurons. This console lays out arm position in space, up-down, left-right. Each desired arm position then is read out as a collection of specific commands to each motor neuron and muscle. explanation is from Dr Barbara Finlay W.R. Kenan Professor of Psychology; also Neurobiology & Behavior, Cornell University. https://www.ccmr.cornell.edu/faqs/how-does-your-body-move-does-the-brain-send-it-messages/

Paula remembers the problem she had during her depressive episode was in expressing thoughts and commands to herself. She also lost her knowledge how to do familiar things, like her job, like conducting a conversation, like whether to say yes or no to a request. It was surreal. She was bewildered all day long as she tried to go about her daily routines and did not know what they were. Her mind was a blank. She could see, she could move, she could hear, but she had no idea what to do. She no longer understood how to get herself to a doctor and she knew that the doctor would not think to carefully examine her for a physical condition. And she knew it was a serious physical condition. And she was able to wonder why she knew nothing all of a sudden ; all day long she worried that her mind was empty. All day long she worried about the sensation of anguish and fear that accompanied the blankness of her mind.

Her friends talked to her and she blankly stared at them. She had no idea what to say back.

Here is an example of a typical situation with others while she was ill;

Joan : Hi Paula, what is on your agenda for today?

Paula: Looking frightened…Hi ….I don’t know?

Joan: Looks at her as if she’s crazy. What about your meeting with Mike?

Paula: silence, leaves distractedly.

Joan thinks to herself….Oh oh, I think Paula is mad at me. Maybe I shouldn’t have asked about Mike.

And so on and so on all day long…………….

Paula wanted to curl up and disappear; she was aware in the moment that she was not responding in her normal way and was extremely embarrassed that it was so publicly obvious. She tried to hide in her office most of the day. Her mind was blank- it did not occur to her to take a sick day. How would she explain? Was an empty mind an illness? Who ever heard of having a blank mind? What was she to do? …. and she continued puzzling over her absurd situation all day long.

An empty mind cannot give directives to muscle, it seems, or even to itself. She tried a lot; she was thinking at all times; internally she was thinking ” I have to tell someone about this” and then would fret about what “this” is and what to say and then she’d forget and start to pace instead from her unpleasant sensation of anguish….and then again she’d think ” I need to see a doctor and then worried about how to do that….she’d forgotten what steps are needed to see a doctor…..she didn’t remember if she had a doctor….and got lost in that train of thought for a while…till…the next thought appeared and disappeared………….It felt like a nightmare…she was trapped by her inability to think about anything except her inability to think…..and could think of nothing to say except “something is wrong” or I don’t know” when asked what was wrong.


One of The basic function of the brain is to produce behaviours, which are, first and foremost, movements. Several different regions of the cerebral cortex are involved in controlling the body’s movements. 

These regions are organized into a hierarchy like the crew of a ship. On an ancient galley, for example, the captain determined the destination for a voyage by assessing the various factors that might make such a trip worthwhile. Then his lieutenants calculated the direction that the ship had to travel to reach that destination, based on weather conditions. Finally, the lieutenants transmitted their orders to the crew manning the oars, who used their muscles to move the ship in the desired direction.

Similarly, in the human brain, planning for any given movement is done mainly in the forward portion of the frontal lobe. This part of the cortex receives information about the individual’s current position from several other parts. Then, like the ship’s captain, it issues its commands, to Area 6. Area 6 acts like the ship’s lieutenants. It decides which set of muscles to contract to achieve the required movement, then issues the corresponding orders to the “rowers”—the primary motor cortex, also known as Area 4. This area in turn activates specific muscles or groups of muscles via the motor neurons in the spinal cord.

Even for a movement as simple as picking up a glass of water, one can scarcely imagine trying to consciously specify the sequence, force, amplitude, and speed of the contractions of every muscle concerned. And yet, if we are healthy, we all make such movements all the time without even thinking of them. 

The decision to pick up a glass of water is accompanied by increased electrical activity in the frontal region of the cortex. The neurons in the frontal cortex then send impulses down their axons to activate the motor cortex itself. Using the information supplied by the visual cortex, the motor cortex plans the ideal path for the hand to follow to reach the glass. The motor cortex then calls on other parts of the brain, such as the central grey nuclei and the cerebellum, which help to initiate and co-ordinate the activation of the muscles in sequence.

The axons of the neurons of the primary motor cortex descend all the way into the spinal cord, where they make the final relay of information to the motor neurons of the spinal cord. These neurons are connected directly to the muscles and cause them to contract. Finally, by contracting and by thus pulling on the bones of the arm and hand, the muscles execute the movement that enables the glass to be picked up.

In addition, to ensure that all of these movements are fast, precise, and co-ordinated, the nervous system must constantly receive sensory information from the outside world and use this information to adjust and correct the hand’s trajectory. The nervous system achieves these adjustments chiefly by means of the cerebellum, which receives information about the positions in space of the joints and the body from the proprioceptors.
from The Brain at McGill; https://thebrain.mcgill.ca/flash/d/d_06/d_06_cr/d_06_cr_mou/d_06_cr_mou.html#4

Here is some more on the brain;

parts of the brain

Main parts of the brain

The brain has three main parts:

  • Cerebrum
  • Cerebellum
  • Brain stem

The cerebrum

The cerebrum, the large, outer part of the brain, controls reading, thinking, learning, speech, emotions and planned muscle movements like walking. It also controls vision, hearing and other senses.

The cerebrum is divided two cerebral hemispheres (halves): left and right. The right half controls the left side of the body. The left half controls the right side of the body.

Each hemisphere has four sections, called lobes: frontalparietaltemporal and occipital. Each lobe controls specific functions. For example, the frontal lobe controls personality, decision-making and reasoning, while the temporal lobe controls, memory, speech, and sense of smell.

The cerebellum

The cerebellum, in the back of the brain, controls balance, coordination and fine muscle control (e.g., walking). It also functions to maintain posture and equilibrium.

The brain stem

The brain stem, at the bottom of the brain, connects the cerebrum with the spinal cord. It includes the midbrain, the pons, and the medulla. It controls fundamental body functions such as breathing, eye movements, blood pressure, heartbeat, and swallowing. How the Brain Works, https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/neurology_neurosurgery/centers_clinics/brain_tumor/about-brain-tumors/how-the-brain-works.html


Updated October 09, 2018By Edward Mercer, https://sciencing.com/emergent-properties-8232868.html

An old saying tells us that “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts”. A fancier way of saying this is with the term emergent properties, a term used in science, systems theory, philosophy, urban studies and even art. “Emergent properties” refer to those properties that are entirely unexpected and include emergent phenomena in materials and emergent behavior in living creatures. They arise from the collaborative functioning of a system, but do not belong to any one part of that system. In other words, emergent properties are properties of a group of items, whether insects, atoms or buildings, that you would not find in any of the individual items. Examples of emergent properties include cities, the brain, ant colonies and complex chemical systems.

Even after reading all about the brain and how it sends messages to move about and solve problems, we are not sure where in the brain is its content , memory, intention, self awareness, intelligence, reasoning, will, thoughts…...the best science can come with is that these are emergent properties of the brain perhaps using complex chemical systems.

And as you know from our past posts, stable complex chemical systems require stable appropriate partial pressure of carbon dioxide and stable thermodynamics, both of which were disturbed in Paula and in Dr Kraepelin’s patients.

I bet electric impulses are an emergent properties too and maybe abnormal pH and abnormal body temperature affects electrical signals between neurons and make for confused minds.

We still have not discussed why too slow breathing sometimes is accompanied by too slow or decreased locomotor activity. [or why too fast, chaotic breathing is accompanies by too fast, too chaotic, too much locomotor activity-in response to a stimulus.

We will continue this discussion in the next post

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