From thought to action

Muscle movement is a necessity to express behavior initiated in the cortex of the brain. The overall picture of descending pathways seems nowadays pretty clear. The central motor system is arranged as a hierarchy of control: the neocortex takes care of the planning together with the basal ganglia of the forebrain. After a quick meeting, they come up with a strategy. The strategy is sent onward to the tactics department (motor cortex and cerebellum), which flip through the files of previous success and decide the best set of actions to execute. They in turn send their plans to the level of execution (which is just one step above the proletarian level aka “the muscle”). The two executives, the brain stem and spinal cord, activate the motor neuron and interneuron pools, altering motivational speeches and threats of co-operation negotiations. In all, the whole show is run like the R&D department of Nokia, except with a better success rate and an inclination for improvement.

Looking at the big picture, we seem to be missing one important part of the hierarchy: the investors. If the neocortex is coming up with the business strategy, who is it trying to please? Which part of the brain constructs the necessity to want something in the first place? Could the lower company levels just cast off the investors and start working solely for the common benefit? Or would it lead to a conflict of interests, causing the organism to dash around aimlessly like a beheaded chicken?