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    Know Yourself Blog

    In much of North America, wintertime can create both beautiful and challenging conditions for sports. Instead of training at home until warmer weather arrives, some athletes choose to work with the ice, snow, and cold to compete. If you watch any of these amazing athletes in action (like the Winter Olympics coming up in February)—or if you are one yourself—you might wonder: do they have some sort of anatomical superpowers the rest of us don’t have? While we might not go that far, here’s a rundown of some pretty fancy tricks they have up their (insulated) sleeves.
    Do you think you feel everything that touches you all day? Of course you feel your pencil in your hand, the warm water of a shower, a high-five with a friend. But what about your clothes—do you feel them on your body? You probably do  now  because I mentioned it. Most of the day, though, we don’t even think about the sensation of our clothes, even though they’re touching a great deal of our skin. The reason for this is sensory gating,  your brain’s ability  to ignore irrelevant signals.
    When we think about which system of the body fights off sickness and diseases, which one do you think of? If you thought of the immune system, you’re not wrong -however, the immune system is not the only body system in town that’s important for disease prevention and opposition. The lymphatic system plays a crucial role in aiding the immune system to counter and interrogate illnesses.
    Are you afraid of spiders? Many of us are, and when confronted with one, we’ll have one of two responses - the first is fight- to spring into action and show that spider who runs the jungle. The second is flight- to run away in fear. This human response to perceived threats is aptly named the fight-or-flight response, and is the result of an interaction between our brain and endocrine system, an interaction called the - you ready? - hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis*. For brevity’s sake, we call it the HPA axis.
    Say you need to get a bunch of your friends—more than a quintillion of them, in fact—from one place to another to do an important job. Naturally, you’re going to need a creative way to get them there. Would you use a plane, train, or car? Maybe you’d need all of the above! This is exactly what the respiratory system does: it gets oxygen from the air, through the body, and all the way to the tissues to help the cells make energy from the food you eat. Then it needs to send the cells’ waste—carbon dioxide—out of the body. We call this process gas exchange. Fortunately, it gets a hand from your circulatory system and several clever modes of transportation to get the job done.
    Our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors are all deeply connected. So connected, in fact, it’s sometimes hard to tell them apart. For instance, “I feel like I’m not good at math,” and “I feel like she doesn’t like me” are both thoughts, even though they use the word “feel.” Kind of confusing, right? Let’s take a closer look.
    A muscle sprain or strain may sideline you to the couch. But while you’re resting up, do you ever wonder...what are my muscles doing right now? Your body has some clever gadgets to help you heal. While you’re catching up with your favorite show or re-reading a book, your muscles are calling on their own in-house repair team, which is always waiting in reserve to help you out in a pinch (or sprain).
    Everyone knows about the Five Senses - sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell - but not everyone knows about a special ‘sixth sense’ that helps us experience the world. Proprioception is an internal sense that helps our brain learn where our body is and how we move. Proprioceptive nerve endings in our body provide us with information on where our hands, arms and legs are in space without having to look for them! If you close your eyes and raise your arm over your head, your brain knows your arm is over your head, without having to look in a mirror.
    Everyone knows about the Five Senses - sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell - but not everyone knows about a special ‘sixth sense’ that helps us experience the world. Proprioception is an internal sense that helps our brain learn where our body is and how we move. Proprioceptive nerve endings in our body provide us with information on where our hands, arms and legs are in space without having to look for them! If you close your eyes and raise your arm over your head, your brain knows your arm is over your head, without having to look in a mirror.