This week the Purvis Society had the honour of an address by Professor John Rothwell of University College London on the subject of Human Voluntary Movement.

The Professor began by outlining the main areas of his research to give the group a general understanding of the brain and human movement. Explaining that the only reason we have a brain is for movement, and why, therefore, conscious thought is just a by-product, he questioned whether we are really intelligent beings, to more agreement than protest from his audience.

After briefly illustrating the reasons behind this, he further challenged all our misconceptions regarding movement by showing us some fascinating videos of research showing that movement is possible even when brains are disconnected from spinal cords.

To add to this revelation, the Professor demonstrated how studies had proved that activity is registered inside the brain one and a half seconds before we actually move; not milliseconds as we all previously thought. This shows that our brains begin to think about moving before we do. This threw another spanner in the works as we toyed with the idea of free will and whether or not this would lead to the conclusion that we indeed have no control over our movements but that our brain “knows” exactly when we are about to move.

It is safe to say that we all came away from the talk greatly intrigued by the subject of neurology and the concepts of Human Voluntary Movement.