BRAIN MAPPING AND THE BOWEN TECHNIQUE
Alexia Monroe, speaking at the 2000 Bowtech Conference in Queensland, Australia, gave a report on the findings of neuroscience that may help explain Bowen’s unique effectiveness. Alexia wrote for Bowen Hands the following synopsis:
I became inspired to explore brain mapping and its connection to the Bowen Technique through V.S. Ramachandran’s book, Phantoms in the Brain. Dr. Ramachandran explores the fascinating research into different centers in the brain responsible for our “body image”.
The research began in the 1940’s, during brain surgery performed by Dr. Wilder Penfield. Brain surgery is often done on fully conscious patients, because the brain contains no pain receptors. Patients would spontaneously tell Penfield what they felt or remembered when different centers were touched, and he noticed that there was a consistency to these patterns. He formalized his experiments, and throughout the 40’s and 50’s, produced the first “brain maps” detailing sensations, emotions and memory in each area of the brain.
It is now understood that these brain maps are universal. Every square centimeter of skin surface has a corresponding nerve locus in the brain, and there are networks of maps throughout the brain’s lobes. There are 30 maps for vision, alone. Interestingly, the maps do not reflect the proportions or order of our body’s form. For example, the areas in the brain corresponding to our hands and face are huge in comparison to other areas of our bodies. And in terms of order, the receptors for the foot are located directly next to those for pelvis, not the leg (a reason beyond the obvious for Bowen’s direction to address the pelvis for foot problems?). Receptors for the hand are located directly next to those for the face, not the arm.
Ramachandran did groundbreaking research into amputees’ phantom limb pain, and through his experiments, developed more “maps”. He found that there was a detailed, sensory replication of a man’s missing left hand on both his left face and shoulder. That is, when he stroked tiny areas of skin on the face, the man would report, “that is my left index finger”, “That is my left thumb”, until a full picture of the missing hand could be drawn. The stroking of skin located another replica of the hand on the man’s shoulder. The research indicates that, in an absence of stimulation from the amputated limb, the brain sends new neurons into adjoining areas, thus overlapping receptor sites.
Apparently we are
born with a fully functioning holographic pattern of our bodies, which is the
blueprint that directed our formation as an embryo.
Over the course of our lives, our sensory input, including injury or trauma, is etched over that blueprint, creating new pathways in the brain. When the brain directs a body part to move, but it does not respond, as in the case of amputation or injury, “...a kind of ‘learned paralysis’ is stamped into the brain’s circuitry”. Could it be that our Bowen movements, which stimulate the brain through the body’s internal nervous system (the proprioceptors), effect the ‘resetting’ we speak of by actually reawakening the brain’s original, holographic blueprint?
Sensory information follows a path from the sense organs to the limbic system, which is our emotional center. The information is passed to the thalamus and hypothalamus, which distribute information to the autonomic nervous system (including blood pressure), the pituitary (controlling the hormonal system), and the parietal lobes (where the “body image” is stored). Bowen’s minimum 2 minutes’ wait between moves allows the sensory information to be processed and these systems to respond. Neuroscience supports the reasoning behind longer waits if the area has been traumatized or limited, in a “learned paralysis”, for a longer period of time.
At the conference, I attempted to demonstrate on the stage, with Elaine and Anne Schubert gamely helping me, part of Ramachandran’s experiments on body image. His results showed that our brain’s “body image” is highly flexible, operating on an assumption of probabilities. As Ramachandran says, “Your own body is a phantom, one that your brain has temporarily constructed purely for convenience”. It can be convinced that the stroking of one’s own hand, hidden from view, in synchrony with a table surface within one’s view, can only mean that the table is part of one’s body. If the table is suddenly whacked after this “melding of body image” has occurred, a galvanic skin response monitor would register trauma in the brain far greater than usual.
Evidently human beings routinely extend our “body image” into our surroundings, to encompass our cars, our homes, and our loved ones. The study of immune system disorders reveals a common history of car accidents or other physical or emotional trauma, either recent or long term, before the onset of symptoms. No wonder our immune systems break down after a car accident, or a burglary, or a loved one’s trauma -- to our brains, it is an attack on our own bodies! This understanding of body image can be used to positive effect, as well. It offers support to Bowen Therapy’s ability to heal through surrogates, or to aid the healing of an individual by working on the entire family group.
One of the most mysterious reports of Ramachandran’s was on epilepsy. Evidently, epileptics whose seizures center in the limbic system commonly exhibit an unusually profound, personal feeling for God. During the seizures, they “feel they are gazing directly into God’s eyes”. Among those whose epilepsy centers in the temporal lobes, many report feeling spiritually “awakened”, and that this feeling remains with them even between seizures. Dr. Ramachandran writes, “Many a patient has told me of ‘a divine light that illuminates all things’... No one knows why this happens, but it’s as though the repeated electrical bursts inside the patient’s brain... permanently ‘facilitate’ certain pathways or may even open new channels...”
He asks, “Could it be that human beings have actually evolved specialized neural circuitry for the sole purpose of mediating religious experience?”. He goes on to explore possible Darwinian reasons why we may have evolved the circuitry, as he observes that organisms only have traits if they serve evolutionary reasons. He notes that they may lie dormant, but be reawakened when needed. I found myself thinking, “So we are hard-wired for God...”
We have all seen how Bowen can align all aspects of physical health. Many of us have noticed in our clients and ourselves a mental, emotional, and spiritual re-balancing, too. Neuroscience is an area of study in its infancy, compared to many. And my understanding of it is very elementary. Yet what I have learned indicates to me that Bowen Therapy truly may “turn on the Light in the brain”.