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The Neurology of Bending

Bending is something that I'm sure all of us have fantasized about doing at some point in our lives. I know I have. One aspect that grabbed me recently was that the idea of bending brings the idea of chi (or qi, depending on how you spell it) into physical form. It makes chi, a spiritual idea, into a bodily function like bloodflow or heartbeat, incorporating it physically and permanently into human anatomy.

It was actually Amon who made me rethink my ideas on the bodily mechanics of bending. This happened in The Revelation when he took Zolt's bending away. That was the only time someone lost their bending while using it. Zolt went from shooting lightning, to shooting fire, to shooting less fire, to nothing. Like many of you, I had no clue what Amon did to remove Zolt's bending, and even now the details are still a little fuzzy. But it made me think about how bending works. I equated the removal of Zolt's bending to the turning of a dial, like on a stereo or oven. Something that controls the level of something else. Amon took it from high, to medium, to low, to off. At first I really did think it was something spiritual, or some kind of hypnosis or something. For a while I just left it at that.

It wasn't until Amon was revealed to be bloodbender and that he used it to remove peoples' bending that I began thinking about it again. I reasoned that since he has to touch the person's head to remove their bending, he must be doing something to the blood in their brain. There is a section of the brain that controls every aspect of the body and mind. Emotions, pain, pleasure, motorskills, conscious and unconscious movements, even spirituality. So I figured, why wouldn't that apply to bending? Bending is an inherited trait, dominant in a lot of DNA. But it can be recessive. Aang and Katara's non-bender son Bumi is a perfect example of that. Both parents were benders, two of their kids turned out to be benders just like one of their parents and one didn't. It's a brain trait.

Given that Korra could airbend after falling victim to Amon, I am going to treat each element separately for this next part. Like I mentioned earlier, a different part of the brain controls a different part of the mind and body. So, logically speaking, there would be a part of the brain that controls bending, one for each element. Let's call them the:

  • Caeli Flexuram (air)
  • Aqua Tendentes (water)
  • Terra Flexuram (earth)
  • Ignis Tendentes (fire)

Each of these sections of the brain as a trait would be exclusive to their respective nation. The bender in question would "activate" this part of their brain during their normal development and like any skill, could only be improved with practice. A baby isn't automatically going to be a star athlete just because they have a gene for athleticism. They need to activate and cultivate that trait in order for it to "activate" and be relevant in their life. The same thing applies to bending in this case, only slightly more automatic. They can also explain how an Avatar is partial to one element more than another. One might develop differently or more quickly and overtake another. So, when Amon bloodbent Zolt's bending away, he in theory was physically doing something to the bloodflow in his brain around the part that controls bending, or in this case, the ignis tendentes. Or in Korra's case, all but her caeli flexuram. How it became permanent and unhealable is still beyond me.

So, that's my mostly-baked view on the neurology and genetics of bending. I'd love to hear what you have to say about it. This is my first blog on here, so please don't be too rough if you can help it.

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