Where is Juggling and Foosball on the Homunculus?

I saw an interesting article published in Nature about the homunculus being outdated because of a new brain MRI study indicating that there’s a mind-body connection between the motor cortex and neural networks controlling planning and thought. There’s a mouthful for you.

It makes me wonder about a few things. For example, can I improve my juggling skills simply by thinking about it? Actually, I spend quite a bit of time both practicing juggling and thinking about it.

Sena has recently started thinking about and practicing juggling. And I made a little video about the cascade practice in an effort to help her get unstuck from the 3-ball toss and catch at the 1-2-3 and catch stage. It’s a slow-motion video of me demonstrating the 1-2-3-4 and catch stage. It’s intended to help her visualize how to let go of that pesky ball in her non-dominant hand after the third toss.

The implications of the new brain study for helping patients recover from the effects of stroke are fascinating.

It reminded me of the game foosball. What do you mean you never heard of foosball? It’s a table football game which was enormously popular in the 1970s. You could probably find one in any bar, along with pong, a sort of electronic table tennis game that was also popular in the ‘70s.

The foosball table was usually located at the back of the bar, across the mandatory squishy carpet and kitty corner from the bathroom.

You could never get on the foosball table at one of the local bars in my hometown. It was always monopolized by a gang of local tough guys who would slam the ball so hard into the goal slot you’d swear it would burst through the end of the table.

In a way, it was a good thing foosball occupied those guys. It distracted them from what they liked to do most of the time, which was to bash anyone who got in their way. I think foosball might have cut down on the number of bar fights in small towns.

There was this guy I used to work with who told me stories about bar fights, some of which he enthusiastically got involved in—when he was younger, of course. Somebody named Stumpy (or maybe Stubby?) was a friend of his who had a wooden leg and never missed a chance to mix it up despite his prosthesis. When a fight broke out in a bar, Stumpy would just back into a corner, brace the wooden leg against a wall and whale away at anyone dumb enough to throw a punch at him.

But when foosball tables got installed, the tough guys tended to take out their aggression by slamming balls. You could always spot a foosball gang. They braced themselves, one leg back and one knee sort of braced against the table. They could twirl the little men with great skill and could fake, pass, and finally kick the ball like a rocket into the goal. It was often sort of a grim spectacle. They didn’t look like they were enjoying themselves so much as making believe they were tearing people apart limb from limb.

I’m not sure where the foosball neural network is in the brain, but I’m pretty sure it’s on the hands of the homunculus in the motor cortex.

That’s also probably where the juggling network is.

Author: James Amos

I'm a retired consult-liaison psychiatrist. I navigated the path in a phased retirement program through the hospital where I was employed. I was fully retired as of June 30, 2020. This blog chronicles my journey.

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