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  • Baniel's Brainstorm

    A few weeks ago I heard a story on The Moth Podcast that led to my purchasing a book on Audible.com that I subsequently quoted to my Army captain son while discussing something he wanted to write about torture on his blog. The quote was from a 19th century prison physician and it is as if he’s speaking to the highest political figures in the U.S. – 150 years in the future.

    Thus is my life; attendance to the words of remote and perhaps obscure writers, careful attention to the meaning of my own culture’s behavior and regular contemplation concerning its relation to my life. All of this is connected by highly sophisticated technical hardware I never imagined in my youth.

    Anat Baniel has written a book, and I want to both review and discuss it here. Of course, she lives in the midst of this same complex and scarcely understandable world and it appears that she shares my passion for what it may mean to her work with humans searching for help, relief, improvement and, perhaps, a new perspective on life. Baniel uses the work of her mentor, Moshe Feldenkrais, to explain how variations in use and attention can have profound effects on thought, action, pain and functioning in general. The movements she describes are easily accomplished but, as she warns,
    “Don’t let yourself be seduced by their simplicity.”
    I’ve said much the same about manual care as I’ve come to practice it.

    As I read the book, I also remember saying closely related things and I’ve found that we share a number of resources and references; similar philosophies of care must also follow, and they do.

    But Baniel has accomplished something I’ve yet to do, she’s written something for the general public that can be readily understood and applied. This appears easy enough, but there’s nothing simple about it, and I would know.

    More soon.
    Last edited by Barrett Dorko; 10-05-2009, 09:30 PM.
    Barrett L. Dorko

  • #2
    Hi Barrett,

    I took a look around the Anat Baniel website and watched the video ABM Back/Neck Exercise #1. It looked very much like what you demonstrated in your Cleveland course. I am interested in the discussion you are raising. The website is well laid out, slick and doesn't reveal much information. One of the problems I have is the obvious need to pay to play. I also notice the marketing at a multitude of conditions. Finally the children's anecdotes and autism stories. An ethical and effacious method shouldn't need children, kittens and puppies to sell itself. The neurological principles are sound then there should be no need to sugar coat them to market them.

    You used the Feldenkrais movements and explained for the attendees, to listen or not, about the neuroligical basis for the results experienced. You demonstrated and explained the elicitation of ideomotoric movement and what characteristics would result from that movement and why they were present. You promote novel stimuli to the nervous system to change pain. You continue to be available to people and answer questions regarding Simple Contact free of charge. You practically put your self infront of speeding manual therapy trains to get Simple Contact in the mainstream. The only thing you haven't done is exactly what the above has done. I think you have a winner with the Comic Book idea. As usual I hope I am on the right track with this.

    On a side note:
    I was curious how sensory motor re-organization might help ADD and found a quick search on sensory motor and cognitive mechanisms and re-organization is rich in interesting papers. Space motion sickness: The sensory motor controls and cardiovascular correlation Mentioned in the former article a syndrome: postural deficiency syndrome (PDS)
    Trauma impacts on core regulatory sensory motor and cognitive mechanisms revealed: Neurophysiological Rehabilitation and Skills Optimization Strategies as Applied in Autism Related Sensory-Motor Disorders. So I answered my own questions. Sensory-motor re-organization is important. How to get it done is the trick.

    Karen

    Comment


    • #3
      Karen,

      I cannot argue with your assertions though there is one thing I will take issue with briefly.

      You say:

      An ethical and efficacious method shouldn't need children, kittens and puppies to sell itself. The neurological principles are sound then there should be no need to sugar coat them to market them.
      I think the operative word here is “should.” You're right, it shouldn’t, but it does. If there’s evidence that my own profession is significantly different than the general public I’d like to see it. This simply has not been my experience. I know that sounds harsh.

      As I read it’s clear that Baniel walks a tightrope of sorts between strict scientific knowledge of how her method may work and her intuition regarding human functioning. As one might expect, this is difficult and it leads to critical analysis. As yet, my problems with some of her statements involve opinion and not fact. For instance, she says:

      The human brain is geared for efficiency, for getting its work done as simply, directly, reliably and quickly as possible.
      This claim is very much at odds with what I’ve read. A thread devoted to an alternate idea, Kluge: Manual Care and the Mind, was begun about a year ago. It generated 20 replies and over 1200 views, none of them, I guess, by Baniel or her students.

      I’ve more to say about the book itself but this morning I wanted to make it clear that I’ve written the Baniel group twice now and I guess we’ll see if anyone there wants to participate in this discussion. All the excuses for not doing so have been listed several times in other threads. I have also promised to pass out if Anat Baniel herself shows up.

      Surely that must motivate somebody.
      Last edited by Barrett Dorko; 11-05-2009, 01:16 PM.
      Barrett L. Dorko

      Comment


      • #4
        The human brain is geared for efficiency, for getting its work done as simply, directly, reliably and quickly as possible.
        I think that is true. We're talking brain, right? not mind.. minds love to spin endless outward construction, see patterns where none exist, all that.

        My understanding is that the brain, however, doesn't like to waste energy, is always looking for ways to make pathways more efficient, seeking shortcuts so it can avoid effort, not waste that 20% of all the available oxygen and glucose it already sucks up, just in overseeing metabolic maintenance/business as usual. It prunes itself severely right after birth. It continues to neuroplasticize (find new places to synapse itself together, be more efficient) throughout life. It grows new neurons, but at a slow rate that I don't think makes up for die-off. It takes good care of its neurons so that most of them live an entire human lifespan.

        Back in to add a little bit more: As far as I know, this tendency of the brain to become more and more efficient applies in particular to the motor system. Habitual ways of doing things set in, efficiency takes over, the actual movement is assigned to ever "lower" levels of the CNS until you get zombie behaviour. An example of this might be sleep-walking. It's a complex action that takes a baby a long time to learn, but at an older age can be done in one's sleep, no attentional cortex involvement at all. Driving a car while talking on the phone. There are lots of examples.
        Last edited by Diane; 11-05-2009, 06:14 PM.
        Diane
        www.dermoneuromodulation.com
        SensibleSolutionsPhysiotherapy
        HumanAntiGravitySuit blog
        Neurotonics PT Teamblog
        Canadian Physiotherapy Pain Science Division (Archived newsletters, paincasts)
        Canadian Physiotherapy Association Pain Science Division Facebook page
        @PainPhysiosCan
        WCPT PhysiotherapyPainNetwork on Facebook
        @WCPTPTPN
        Neuroscience and Pain Science for Manual PTs Facebook page

        @dfjpt
        SomaSimple on Facebook
        @somasimple

        "Rene Descartes was very very smart, but as it turned out, he was wrong." ~Lorimer Moseley

        “Comment is free, but the facts are sacred.” ~Charles Prestwich Scott, nephew of founder and editor (1872-1929) of The Guardian , in a 1921 Centenary editorial

        “If you make people think they're thinking, they'll love you, but if you really make them think, they'll hate you." ~Don Marquis

        "In times of change, learners inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists" ~Roland Barth

        "Doubt is not a pleasant mental state, but certainty is a ridiculous one."~Voltaire

        Comment


        • #5
          As usual Diane, you've forced me to stop and think about what I just did/said/wrote.

          Coincidentally, this stopping to feel stuff is a very large part of Baniel's message and I agree that it is essential for growth. I am simultaneously listening to an Audible.com reading of Proust Was a Neuroscientist and it seems, so far, to be an excellent companion to Baniel's text.

          I feel certain she's read it (that's a compliment) and now that she's registered on this site I'm waiting for her to comment on the beginning of this discussion.

          In the meantime, I'm going to go lie down.
          Barrett L. Dorko

          Comment


          • #6
            Marketing is necessary, as I contend, and I know it’s easy to find unpalatable, but Baniel’s gentle scholarship is enough to keep me reading. Here’s one basic idea: it is through attention and variation that we are better able to use our bodies and minds with efficiency and comfort, and Baniel makes this point repeatedly through story.

            There have been several threads here during the past year about story’s power, necessity and limitation. Look here for an explanation and more links. Personally, I struggle with stories as both a teacher and writer but I cannot deny that they draw me in, true or not.

            Fortunately, Baniel also satisfies my need for data and objectivity with hard science. Here’s an example: While writing about the effect a single movement done repeatedly done in the same fashion without alteration in speed, effort or attention may have, she mentions Hebbian plasticity. Google it, and you’ll find that her point is made on a level that should satisfy even the science-minded fans here at Soma Simple, and that’s no small thing.

            Much more to come.
            Barrett L. Dorko

            Comment


            • #7
              While writing about the effect a single movement done repeatedly done in the same fashion without alteration in speed, effort or attention may have, she mentions Hebbian plasticity. Google it, and you’ll find that her point is made on a level that should satisfy even the science-minded fans here at Soma Simple, and that’s no small thing.
              I remember that - neurons that fire together wire together.. something like that.
              I'm wanting to read that book myself more.
              Diane
              www.dermoneuromodulation.com
              SensibleSolutionsPhysiotherapy
              HumanAntiGravitySuit blog
              Neurotonics PT Teamblog
              Canadian Physiotherapy Pain Science Division (Archived newsletters, paincasts)
              Canadian Physiotherapy Association Pain Science Division Facebook page
              @PainPhysiosCan
              WCPT PhysiotherapyPainNetwork on Facebook
              @WCPTPTPN
              Neuroscience and Pain Science for Manual PTs Facebook page

              @dfjpt
              SomaSimple on Facebook
              @somasimple

              "Rene Descartes was very very smart, but as it turned out, he was wrong." ~Lorimer Moseley

              “Comment is free, but the facts are sacred.” ~Charles Prestwich Scott, nephew of founder and editor (1872-1929) of The Guardian , in a 1921 Centenary editorial

              “If you make people think they're thinking, they'll love you, but if you really make them think, they'll hate you." ~Don Marquis

              "In times of change, learners inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists" ~Roland Barth

              "Doubt is not a pleasant mental state, but certainty is a ridiculous one."~Voltaire

              Comment


              • #8
                Baniel identifies Nine Essentials for Vitality. If you want to know them all, I’d suggest you get your own book.

                The one that struck me immediately was Subtlety. The chapter devoted to it also states Experience the Power of Gentleness. In the notes section at the back of the book she expands upon a mention of Paul Bach-y-Rita, a physician and researcher I communicated with years ago and wrote of specifically in A Sense of Things. In the notes you’ll also find an explanation of the Webner-Fechner law, something I always include in my workshop.

                It is the perception – the capture – of subtle alterations in things like use, movement, effort, texture and temperature that often separates the ectodermal perspective from the mesodermal. At least, I think so.

                Is this a legitimate way to describe Baniel’s approach?
                Barrett L. Dorko

                Comment


                • #9
                  It is the perception – the capture – of subtle alterations in things like use, movement, effort, texture and temperature
                  Yes, I believe this is good language for the experience of her work. It so deliciously engages the nervous system to explore and create new movement pathways. It makes sense to the body.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Baniel on pain

                    A major focus of this board is pain; its definition, presence, antecedents, study and management, among a few other things. Pain is what drives a large percentage of our patients into our offices and, ironically, what drives many therapists crazy with frustration and aggravation, both as caregivers and sufferers. As I recall, Feldenkrais himself didn’t speak of pain very much. He passed away in ’84 and the neuroscience associated with its study was in its infancy.

                    Predictably, Baniel’s book doesn’t have the word “pain” listed in the index and she says very little about it specifically. I see that Ramachandran and Doidge (see Suppose this were true for more about his thinking) are in the bibliography but Melzack and Wall are absent. I may be missing something though.

                    What Baniel does say is this:

                    Pain in general is one of the most common ways that lack of variation shows up in our life…pain is a request for a change.
                    Then along with more writing and a story she offers specific movements (complete with pictures) to illustrate what she means by that in palpable terms. I think this is an honest effort and will satisfy many looking for a technique and a philosophical approach they can understand and impart. Personally, this has been my greatest challenge as a teacher and colleague. Mostly, I’ve failed.

                    Maybe Baniel’s book will push me in the right direction, and, if she reads this thread, she will be drawn toward the models we admire.

                    Maybe.
                    Barrett L. Dorko

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Philosophy and Pain

                      I wanted to add this to the insight about pain in the book: Philosopher John Searle felt that pain was the result of "plans thwarted and hopes dashed."

                      It follows that when we choose a new way of doing things that we might very well hit upon the original plan and thus no longer thwart it, if you see what I mean. The disparity between body image and body schema – spoken of in detail in this thread (see post #9) – might be resolved to the brain’s satisfaction with many of the movements Baniel recommends, thus the relief of pain suggested.
                      Barrett L. Dorko

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        The Power of Waiting

                        I learned to juggle after reading a book titled Body Learning by Michael Gelb whom I’d met at a Trager workshop. Gelb was an Alexander teacher and Feldenkrais spent some time with Alexander prior to writing his first book, Body and Mature Behavior.

                        Reading Gelb’s text I learned to wait after dropping the juggling props. I felt the drop fully before retrieving it; I felt what I’d done, and then and only then could I change what I had done and see myself progress toward a new pattern of movement.

                        Waiting. This is a difficult but valuable thing, especially when trying to alter patterns of use as they inevitably emerge from the brain. Baniel understands this, as did Alexander, Gelb, Feldenkrais and now, Jonah Leher, the author of the book about Proust and neuroscience I linked to post #5. The connections grow right through this article in a recent issue of The New Yorker.

                        Baniel’s book, Lehrer’s, this site - maybe it will add up one day.
                        Barrett L. Dorko

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Last night I focused entirely on the “notes” section of Baniel’s book which follows the text and precedes the index. Again and again I saw references to Gerald Edelman, a Nobel Prize winning biologist who has contributed substantially to our understanding of how the brain is altered with attentive movement.

                          In an essay I wrote in ‘92 (Charcot's Lament) and then put in my own book I said:

                          Epigenesis is a form of learning that actually evolves within us as we grow. Edelman calls this process “neuronal group selection” or “neural Darwinism.” It is characterized by a selection of neuronal networks that form in direct response to environmental pressure. What we eventually recognize and understand depends upon what we’ve experienced repetitively and within a certain context.
                          Baniel restates all of this with story and examples of movement of course, but we’re talking about the same Edelman and the same processes discovered and verified by his lab. I just wrote about them a long time ago, and, clearly, the idea didn’t stick.

                          I feel I’ve exhausted the ways in which Baniel’s practice coincides with the memes here on Soma Simple. What I’d like to do next is explore the ways in which we might disagree or add new ones to her work.

                          Who knows? She might even chime in.
                          Barrett L. Dorko

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            I had only heard of Edleman before in reference to neural Darwinism. I certainly did not know he had worked on neuroplasticity. It makes sense that they might occupy the same stretch of territory in his own thinking, I suppose. (I have yet to read anything by him.)

                            About "epignesis" ... Seth Grant has yet to be refuted regarding his work which has uncovered the notion that synaptic plasticity (and the dense protein complexes at the synapses) are drivers of nervous system evolution. Seems to me that novel stimuli and getting in the habit of noticing them, and responding to them physically while noticing them, could only help in the long run to make our personal nervous system stronger and smarter and happier.

                            1. Blogpost about Seth Grant's work, just after I had heard about it

                            2. Link to Ginger Campbell's BrainScience Podcast Episode #51, interview with Seth Grant, transcript available.

                            About the book in question, it sounds like she cracked the code and has written a book destined to become popular about how people can learn to help themselves, to access neuroplasticity effortlessly, to learn to be in a body better and like it more, without having sacrificed her own intellect or abusing anyone else's in the process.
                            Diane
                            www.dermoneuromodulation.com
                            SensibleSolutionsPhysiotherapy
                            HumanAntiGravitySuit blog
                            Neurotonics PT Teamblog
                            Canadian Physiotherapy Pain Science Division (Archived newsletters, paincasts)
                            Canadian Physiotherapy Association Pain Science Division Facebook page
                            @PainPhysiosCan
                            WCPT PhysiotherapyPainNetwork on Facebook
                            @WCPTPTPN
                            Neuroscience and Pain Science for Manual PTs Facebook page

                            @dfjpt
                            SomaSimple on Facebook
                            @somasimple

                            "Rene Descartes was very very smart, but as it turned out, he was wrong." ~Lorimer Moseley

                            “Comment is free, but the facts are sacred.” ~Charles Prestwich Scott, nephew of founder and editor (1872-1929) of The Guardian , in a 1921 Centenary editorial

                            “If you make people think they're thinking, they'll love you, but if you really make them think, they'll hate you." ~Don Marquis

                            "In times of change, learners inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists" ~Roland Barth

                            "Doubt is not a pleasant mental state, but certainty is a ridiculous one."~Voltaire

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Reading through the posts on this thread, I can’t help but notice significant similarities between these ideas and how I was taught (and teach) t’ai chi. The primary difficulty that I had learning the t’ai chi form was knowing how to attend and what to attend to. Unfortunately, the majority of practitioners I meet usually focus on the movements of the teacher without ever feeling how or why they move the way they do. They become carbon copies of the teacher and slaves to the form.

                              This ends up looking much like what I see being taught in PT clinics and labeled core stabilization or motor control. I have no problems with pursuing better motor control but I question the value of tightly choreographed movements directed by the PT and labeled “motor control”. These exercises also often lack the aspect of waiting that Barrett referred to in post 12, and I can see it strengthen only the PT’s nervous system for controlling and directing others movement.

                              Diane’s comment:
                              Seems to me that novel stimuli and getting in the habit of noticing them, and responding to them physically while noticing them, could only help in the long run to make our personal nervous system stronger and smarter and happier
                              is exactly how I try to practice and teach my t’ai chi form. It is also very hard to do and I feel it requires a particular environment for cultivation, as least while starting.

                              I recently purchased “RAPT Attention and the Focused Life” by Winifred Gallagher after reading a post on Deric Bownd’s Mind blog. I’m through the first 4 chapters and I am generally pleased with the content. Gallagher points out how changes in our culture make it much more challenging to focus of relevant stimuli and make appropriate responses. There is so much information available to us from increasing sources it is easy to become distracted. Combine this with genetic variables on attention and the ability to attend becomes the problem.

                              Whether teaching the t’ai chi form or performing simple contact, it seems to be more important to create an environment that allows someone to slow down and focus on what they feel as they move. However, with so many possible sensations to attend to, I feel it becomes increasingly important to understand the science behind pain and why particular sensations are more relevant than others. Here then enters the characteristics of correction.

                              For patients that come to us for painful problems it would seem important for them to learn what cues signal correction of mechanical deformation if that is their primary problem.
                              Pain in general is one of the most common ways that lack of variation shows up in our life…pain is a request for a change
                              Although I agree with this statement, it seems a little broad and simplistic when applied to some of our chronic pain patients. I feel I have to be careful stating this because complex biomechanical methods also seem to miss the mark on the other end of the spectrum.

                              For me, Understanding more about the pain neuromatrix and the neuroscience behind why we do what we do simplified my approach and gave it an appropriate focus, this helped me and the patient attend to the relevant information and then make appropriate choices for movement.
                              Christopher Bryhan MPT

                              "You are more likely to learn something by finding surprises in your own behavior then by hearing surprising facts about people in general"
                              Daniel Kahneman - Thinking Fast and Slow

                              Comment

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