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Explaining the Alexander Technique to clinicians and scientists: a very useful presentation

In late 2017, I attended an inspiring presentation (organised by HITE at UCL in London) given by Alison Loram and Ian Loram–“Mechanisms of sensorimotor control relevant to the Alexander Technique”. Particularly interesting to me was the scientific focus on the importance of the neck as a key factor in sensing and controlling motor response in the body.

Below is an abstract  of the presentation: “Explaining the Alexander Technique to clinicians and scientists: Psycho-physical re-education – an introduction to cognitive-motor system-level causes of performance-related problems”. The abstract is online, along with a download of the presentation.

This presentation considers the scientific basis of the Alexander Technique, and presents results of experimental research into Alexander teaching methodology. The Alexander Technique, is an educational process with a scientific basis. The efficacy of the Technique is explained by a general mechanism which underlies many problems. Injury and dysfunction, with specific musculoskeletal and cognitive symptoms, can arise from misconception, the rules of neuromuscular function, lack of awareness and reinforcement (wind-up) of symptoms. Within a perception-selection-action feedback loop, misconception and lack of awareness of the consequences of maladaptive selection, ensures that these consequences are subject to destructive (positive) feedback, until the system “breaks” at the individual’s weakest point. This presentation provides system-level process diagrams to define the concepts of “use” and “misuse” in terms of a perception-selection-action feedback loop. “Use” is the concurrent processes of sensory analysis, response selection, motor generation and movement biomechanics acting simultaneously, and adapting through time according to their input. “Misuse” is the suboptimal processes of sensory analysis, response selection, motor generation and movement biomechanics amplified by misconception of the resulting feedback. The Alexander Technique brings about change by external, educational input into perception, and inhibition of automated responses. Practice is based on understanding the importance of the neck in regulating sensory-motor control. Problems within the domain of the Technique are associated with a pattern of movement and muscle tension that can be observed. Students are taught to observe that pattern and to use their observations as a training signal to regulate their thought and activity, and to prevent problems from occurring. [emphasis mine]

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