Thursday, December 4, 2008

NeuroLogica Blog- Reflexology in UK Schools

NeuroLogica Blog- Reflexology in UK Schools

This web site directly attacks our writing. It is a Yale professor of Neurology. He calls our work bunk so I feel obliged to respond.

First issue

Reflexology is based upon the belief that the body is divided into zones, and these zones are mapped on the hands and feet. The reflexology research website explains:

Reflexology is the physical act of applying pressure to the feet and hand with specific thumb, finger and hand techniques without the use of oil or lotion. it is based on a system of zones and reflex areas that reflect an image of the body on the feet and hands with a premise that such work effects a physical change to the body.

This is an archaic homonculus or mapping-based system - the idea that one part of the body maps to the entire body. Iridology is another example - proponents believe that the flecks in the iris relate directly to specific organs or parts of the body.

This is a standard tactic by skeptics. I call it guilt by association. Iridology uses a similar system therefore... But here is the problem with the professor's remarks. There are homunculi in the brain that do mirror the entire body. I have no idea why the existing homunculi are "archaic" according to the professor.

Now what we have projected is that this information sharing system exists outside the brain. In fact the body relays and shares information about the condition of each body part in order response in an integrated manner to demands placed upon the body. Information sharing gives us the ability to adapt appropriately taking into account all body parts.

Second issue

Reflexologists claim that by massaging the foot they can affect remote parts of the body by influencing “energy”, detoxifying, blood flow, or through nerve impulses.

Is the professor saying that pressure to the feet does not produce a nerve impulse?

Has the professor failed to do his research and looked at the doppler sonogram studies which show increased blood flow to the kidneys and the digestive system in response to pressure to the feet?

And we have never used the terms of massaging and influencing energy to describe our work.

Third issue

Again, reflexology research enlightens us:

"Pressure sensors in the feet and hands are a part of the body’s reflexive response that makes possible the “fight or flight” reaction to danger. Feet ready to flee and hands ready to fight communicate with the body’s internal organs to make possible either eventuality. The sudden adrenal surge that enables a person to lift a car is an example of this reaction. Reflexology taps into this reflex network, providing an exercise of pressure sensors and thus the internal organs to which they are inextricably tied."

The problem, as anyone even vaguely familiar with human anatomy knows, is that this is all bunk. Pressure of the feet does not provoke a sympathetic “fight or flight” response, there is no direct physiological connection between specific locations on the feet and specific organs or body party, nor is there any reflex network tied to pressure sensors in the feet. This is simply made up - it’s fiction. It is not part of any text of anatomy or physiology. As a side note, there are pressure sensors on the hands and feet, the purpose of which is to feel pressure. But these specialized sensory nerve endings exist throughout the body - it’s how you feel pressure. Again - this is not part of any imaginary reflex network.

The professor is parsing words carefully here. When he says, " Pressure of the feet does not provoke a sympathetic “fight or flight” response..." he is putting words in our mouths. We flat out did not say that. But pressure to the feet does provoke a sympathetic response from the body and that message must be integrated with all the other sensory messages to make a proper response to an threat. Therefore pressure to the feet is a part of our overall survival response. It must be taken into account to make adequate response to threats and it is a key set of messages as it is tied into our locomotive system which provides a means of confrontation or a means of escape.

There is nowhere in our writing where we even imply that there is a direct connection between areas in the feet and the internal organs. This must all be mediated by the brain and by referral forwarded onto the internal organs. But neural networks do exist. Feedback and feedforward systems do respond to changes under foot. Adaptation does take place reflexively. And while there are generalized touch systems there are also highly evolved precise localization systems.

Fourth issue

And of course there is no credible scientific evidence for any specific effects claimed for reflexology. It therefore fails on both theoretical and evidentiary grounds.

Again the good professor hasn't done his homework. There are plenty of studies. They are not obscure research. These studies are catalogued on Medline, a peer reviewed database for the National Library of Medicine. Shame on you professor. You didn't look.

As far as reflexology being made up that is the professor's opinion. There are now a series of fMRI studies that seem to contradict the professor's biological prejudice. But time will tell whether the theory of reiteration will hold up to scientific scrutiny. But so far the theory is doing rather well. Bring on more research.

Kevin Kunz

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