This entry covers recent research which is predominantly seeking to understand the mechanisms of the Alexander Technique, defining what constitutes good use and misuse.
‘Prolonged weight-shift and altered spinal coordination during sit-to-stand in practitioners of the Alexander Technique’ by T. W. Cacciatore, et al.
This study compared coordination of 15 teachers of the Alexander Technique to 14 healthy control subjects during rising from a chair, with the instruction ‘as smoothly as possible, without using momentum’. The movement patterns, the kinematics, were analysed from video (the subjects had markers on significant body points). The Alexander Technique teachers were able to achieve a smoother, more continuous movement than the control subjects, consistent with previous claims that the Alexander Technique teaches more efficient movement.
‘Increased dynamic regulation of postural tone through Alexander Technique training’ by T. W. Cacciatore, et al.
This study quantified postural tone by measuring resistance in the hips, trunk, and neck to very slow twisting during standing. Comparing teachers of the Alexander Technique (who undergo 1600 hours of training over three years) to age-matched control subjects, resistance was 50% lower while phase advance was greater. Similar changes (to a lesser degree) occurred in subjects with lower back pain after undergoing ten weekly lessons in the Alexander Technique. These results suggest that the Alexander Technique enhances dynamic modulation of postural tone.
‘Neuromechanical interference of posture on movement: evidence from Alexander technique teachers rising from a chair’ by T. W. Cacciatore, et al.
The sit-to-stand movement of ten Alexander Technique teachers and ten subjects with no experience of AT were measured. The subjects were asked to stand up at four different speeds, with the feet in three different positions. The study 1. provides strong evidence that untrained adults cannot mimic AT teachers’ smooth sit-to-stand coordination, 2. provides a plausible mechanism whereby leg and trunk stiffness explain the abrupt coordination of untrained adults just before lift-off, 3. suggests that the AT affects movement coordination through postural stiffness, and 4. provides basic evidence that the postural system can interfere with movement coordination.
‘Proactive selective inhibition targeted at the neck muscles: This proximal constraint facilitates learning and regulates global control’ by Ian D. Loram, et al.
studied violinists performing unskilled and skilled manual tasks, while providing ultrasound feedback of the neck muscles with instruction to minimise neck muscle change during task performance. ‘Analysis of ultrasound, kinematic, electromyographic and electrodermal recordings showed that proactive inhibition targeted at neck muscles had an indirect global effect reducing the cost of movement, reducing complex involuntary, task-irrelevant movement patterns and improving balance.’ It concluded that ‘voluntary regulation of the neck muscles has a global regulatory benefit. Specifically, proactive-selective inhibition of the neck muscles inhibits unnecessary anticipatory, transient and sustained out-put, improves global balance and reduces cost.’
This paper was presented at a seminar which was reported in two articles:
- ‘Scientific evidence for the primary control’ by Christine Rapley reports on a seminar presented by Ian Loram, Alison Loram, Brain Bate and Pink Burnicle, on their paper ‘Proactive selective inhibition targeted at the neck muscles: This proximal constraint facilitates learning and regulates global control’.
- ‘A welcome investigation’ by Peter Ribeaux concludes that the paper ‘Proactive selective inhibition targeted at the neck muscles: This proximal constraint facilitates learning and regulates global control’ confirms three hypotheses: 1. Neck muscle movement can be regulated voluntarily while maintaining task performance. 2. There is a causal relationship between voluntary regulation of neck muscles and global control of movement. 3. Proactive-selective inhibition targeted at the neck muscles reduces the cost of movement.
‘Neck posture is influenced by anticipation of stepping’ by Rajal G. Cohen, et al.
Habitual head forward posture was measured in 45 young adults standing quietly and when they anticipated walking to place a tray: also in conditions requiring that they bend low or balance an object on the tray. The neck angle relative to torso increased when participants anticipated movement, particularly for more difficult movements. Inhibitory control was measured using a Go/No-Go task, Stroop task, and Mindful Attention Awareness Scale. False alarms on the Go/No-Go task correlated with a more extended head relative to the neck and with shortening of the neck when anticipating movement. It was concluded that maintaining neutral posture may require inhibition of an impulse to put the head forward of the body when anticipating target-directed movement.