COMPANION

Science

Cat turning, Magnus, Startle pattern

F. M. Alexander F. M. Alexander made many grand claims for his technique, but he did not advance the argument that it was scientific. Alexander wrote, however, that his technique did not contradict contemporary science: The physiological side of my technique has been the subject of friendly discussion between medical men and physiologists, and I am not aware of any physiological findings having been advanced which are at variance with any of its procedures.[1] Alexander, however, did consider his work met the standards of operational verification, meaning stating the process, the...
The ability of a falling cat to turn in the air, from whatever starting position, to land on its feet has been used in the Alexander Technique by some teachers to illustrate 1) the righting reflex existing in most mammals and some other animals, and, in some cases 2) the ‘head leads and the body follows’ principle. (The righting reflex corrects the orientation of the body when it is taken out of its normal upright position.[1] See Rudolf Magnus’ reseach. Today the reason for the cat turning in the air is referred to as the ‘air righting reflex’.) The...
Christopher Stevens wrote on the science of the Alexander Technique and related science. This entry only covers Stevens’ own research into aspects of the Technique. Stevens’ own research broadly covered the following topics: sit-to-stand movements; postural sway; height and shoulder width changes; and stress related increase in blood pressure. Below is a summary of the studies. 1. A study examined the influence of the leg position upon sit-to-stand, using photography and a force platform to record the difference between starting with the legs at a 90 degrees angle and having...
David Garlick’s research papers ‘Observations on the use of respiratory muscles in posture’ by David Garlick, et al. The breathing measured using a bellows pneumograph system for measuring the frequency and size of respiratory movements and the relative contributions of the rib cage, abdominal-diaphragm to tidal breathing. 51 subjects participated, of which 9 were involved in Alexander Technique, and 11 in the Feldenkrais method. Preliminary findings include that respiratory muscles, in their role of raising intra-abdominal pressure, are used to assist in maintaining...
Frank P. Jones measured predominantly changes in posture and movement (mainly sit-to-stand) with or without the application of the Alexander Technique, using multiple image photography with markers on various parts of the subject’s body in the form of small lamps or of reflective tape illuminated by flashes. There were clear differences between ‘habitual’ and ‘guided’, i.e. the subject being guided in the movement by an Alexander teacher. Studies were carried out between 1951 and 1972. Jones included a summary of his research in his Freedom to Change.[1]...
George Ellett Coghill (1872–1941) was a US professor of anatomy and researcher into the development of reflexes of movement in vertebrates. Coghill wrote an appreciation for The Universal Constant in Living, and Alexander and his supporters used Coghill’s discoveries as a scientific support for the Alexander Technique. Life Coghill started his biology studies in 1897, became assistant professor of biology in 1900, and took a Ph.D. in 1902. He then worked at several universities but it was during his teaching at the University of Kansas (1913–25) that he carried out a...
Research papers by Rajal Cohen ‘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...
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...
This covers research into specific beneficial effects of learning and practising the Technique. The first section contains references to the research papers; the second section contains references to reports of research papers. As not all research papers are published (or can be located) the second section contains references to papers which are not listed in the first section. Section I: Research papers Back pain ‘Randomised controlled trial of Alexander technique lessons, exercise, and massage (ATEAM) for chronic and recurrent back pain’ by Paul Little, et al. A...
Rudolf Magnus (1873–1927), German Professor of Pharmacology and researcher on the physiology of posture. Magnus’ experiments, carried out on the guinea-pig, rabbit, cat, dog and monkey, investigated in particular: 1) reflex standing; 2) normal distribution of tone; 3) attitude; and 4) righting function. These studies were carried out on decerebrated animals. His findings were summarized in his book, Körperstellung (1924).[1] It was published in English in 1987.[2] The term ‘central control’ was used in England to refer to Magnus’ discovery of the location...
‘Science inspired’ writings are those which set out to understand the practice and/or the teaching of the Alexander Technique, or aspects of these, with reference to scientific knowledge or theories. Excluded here is anatomy and physiology related to postural and movement mechanisms – See The use of anatomy and physiology. Neuroscience ‘How does Alexander teaching work? - Intention, empathy and the mirror neurons’ by Grant Dillon is attempting to explain how inhibition and direction is communicated to the pupil with reference to some physiology of...
The literature on possible physiological and other mechanisms involved in the workings of the Alexander Technique over the years. Andrew Murdoch ‘The function of the sub-occipital muscles’ by Dr. A. Murdoch argues that influence of the head determines every attitude of the body, especially on the influence of the sub-occipital muscles on head balance. It quotes from Modern Problems in Neurology (1928) by Dr B. Kinnear Wilson which states that ‘with each displacement of the head a given attitude of the whole body is determined, and it follows that for each voluntary...
The startle pattern, also known as startle reaction or startle response, is a sudden and brief  and largely unconscious reaction to being startled, such as a loud noise. The startle pattern has its origin in the startle reflex which is a brain stem reaction. It exists in humans, all apes and monkeys, and many other animals.[1] Because of its existence in insects, worms, fishes and other like animals it has also been called the ‘escape response’ where it has been associated with avoiding predators or threatening objects.[2] It is assumed to involve avoidance or evasion, but...
The science of the Alexander Technique is divided into the following entries Scientific explanations of the Alexander Technique Research into the benefits of the Alexander Technique Research into mechanisms of the Alexander Technique Alexander’s scientific method Science inspired – articles inspired by science and research R. Magnus’s research – regarding a ‘central control’, righting reflexes and postural reflexes. G. Coghill’s research – regarding the concept of a total pattern organising the organism-as-a-whole before any...
Research papers by Tim Cacciatore ‘Improvement in automatic postural coordination following Alexander Technique lessons in a person with low back pain’ by T. W. Cacciatore, et al. This case report describes the use of the Alexander Technique with a client with a 25-year history of low back pain. After lessons, her postural responses and balance improved and her pain decreased. The introduction includes a thorough explanation of the Alexander Technique from a scientific perspective.[1] ‘Prolonged weight-shift and altered spinal coordination during sit-to-stand in...
Wilfred Barlow wrote a number of papers, starting in 1946 with a study which showed that people, when sitting down, pulled their heads back and down relative to the spine. He went to do a number of ‘before’ and ‘after’ Alexander Technique lessons studies until 1959. An investigation into kinaesthesia ‘An investigation into kinaesthesia’ by Wilfred Barlow reports on a study which was carried out on two groups of Army cadets, between the ages of 17 and 22. By marking the occipital protuberance and the 7th cervical spinous process any ‘O–C...