Q. Is chiropractic theory lacking by not including biological computation?


Commentaries are provided to either 1) clarify an article or an issue contained within that article or 2) to editorialize on topics of concern to the profession.

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A problem continues for some in understanding what I am trying to say in this article; that, if reference to A.K. and S.O.T. is implicated, that other variables enter into the equation; that cues to body function by demonstration of muscle testing and leg length checks, cranial rhythms, etc. will change depending upon the concepts held in the mind of the practitioner, etc. Furthermore, that none of the above appear to demonstrate "repeatability" or "replicability" is a weak spot for the techniques that rely upon these types of testing as a linear response.

What is not considered by the chiropractic profession is that the theory of the subluxation complex is based upon reductionist observations. These follow a linear schema in which replicability must, by definition, follow as a 'cause and effect' relationship.

What has not been considered (and something science is finding more relavent) is that biological computation is a real phenomenon. The chiropractor on the other hand, has not been able to look beyond his subluxation complex to understand the contextual nature of 'innate' as a nonlinear, computational function of the linear hardware; that communication with the environment is provided through sensory phenomenon that may be quantified through probability analysis (i.e., computational). Replicability, in my experience, can be demonstrated and consistent responses to treatment protocol is the norm rather than randomization in the treatment and its response.

That biological computation is lacking in the chiropractic subluxation theory is apparent since definitions are confined to linear observations of single level lesions. The inability to embrace nonlinear, multiple level lesion patterns in the definitions has prevented an understanding that the subluxation may not be the critical focus to understand manipulation; rather, searching for biological computation patterns enables insight into reflex communication patterns normally hidden from the observer as an innate response to altered sensory phenomenon.

Finding algorithmic patterns through biological computation may be more important than retaining focus on the single level subluxation complex. It is only through this computational approach of a dynamic system that the profession might find the theory could be become testable and/or falsifiable through probability analysis (computation).


editor's review: concepts
Original Article Source: Nature

Biological computation: Amazing algorithms

A recent article in Nature 416,  683 (2002) by Mark J. Schnitzer examines the role of biological computation. The suggestion is that "natural selection has created many species in which individual survival rests on computations performed by the organism's own physiology."

The idea that a physical system can perform a "computation" is not so strange to the biologist. For the biologist, it's how physical variables can be transformed by physical processes. It becomes "algorithmic manipulation of the mathematical variables." The physical system performs a computation in the broadest sense "by realizing a solution to the dynamic equations that govern its physical behavior."

Perhaps that's still difficult to understand from a perspective that views the bio-organisms interaction with its environment as more complex than just a sensory response that follows the wiring system. An example is the bats ability to locate prey by emitting ultrasonic pulses. By detecting the echoes as "small Doppler shifts in the frequency of the returning pulses, the bat's nervous system can discern acoustic 'texture' and so distinguish prey from inanimate objects." In essence, it becomes a translation of acoustic variables into computational, mathematical algorithms that guide the bat. That these "computations are carried out using biological molecules and cells" is noteworthy for the casual observer; for, it suggests that other 'systems' in the body (like 'touch') might also be using this 'computational' networking with the brain to guide the body through the environment; that movement and coordination of a bio-organism is implicit to the body even though reducible components trace only the wiring system schematic.

This should mean something for the chiropractor: that a more profound function is occurring in the body than the explanations for subluxation can define; that movement and coordination of muscle is somehow intimately linked to sensory information. The idea that a subluxation may exist to restrict the nerve and muscle to move may not be sufficient to explain a healing response. That manipulation appears to restore function (primarily by observation of muscle range of motion, etc.) may not be sufficient as explanation in the subluxation theory ...if a computational function also exists. The simple matter is that movement of the body may exist as a spontaneous function through interaction of central pattern generators where rhythmic movement is part of the normal. What is not understood is that sensory information under a 'computational,' information system influences the direction that movement will take and that a coordination between the muscle and the nervous system is dependent upon a synchronization of the nervous system to the brain.

The implication might be that touch and sensory phenomenon derived from touch could contribute to the bodies ability to direct its movement; that, in a sense, the 'intent' of the body to respond to a sensory contact is part of the ability to direct itself ... through that movement. In other words, it is a computational response to the stimulus rather than an absolute all-or-none response through a wiring system; it is a directional movement determined by probability in the computational possibilities the brain has to offer. For the far-sighted, it could suggest that touch (whether by self or by someone else to the body) is capable of encompassing variables from extraneous sensory input. It might even suggest that memory could enter into the equation as either part of the background noise or part of computational input associated with a singular, spatial topographical reference.

The implications for "healing?" It could be possible, as speculation, that the unlocking of associated spatial contacts through touch somehow 'reconfigures' or 'defrags' the software of the brain in such a way that its 'direction'  (of muscle, movement, etc.) is reestablished. In principle, if direction is again restored, then the original programming will resume; that the body fulfills its biological pre-configuration to follow its final destiny: that of an adult organism assuming a role of perfection in the creation.

Virgil Seutter, D.C.
editor, ChiroZine
Harrison, AR
20 Apr 2002
Seutter, V. "Biological computation: Amazing algorithms" Chiropractic Resource Organization. 20 Apr 2002. ChiroZine ISSN1525-4550
(c) 1997-2002 All rights reserved.

More Reading

Biological computation: Amazing algorithms MARK J. SCHNITZER Natural selection has created many species in which individual survival rests on computations performed by the organism's own physiology. (nature; 20 apr 2002)
[ed. pay per view or as subscriber. Limited as a free article]

medline: Biological computation Schnitzer MJ. Biological computation: Amazing algorithms. Nature. 2002 Apr 18;416(6882):683. No abstract available. PMID: 11961533

More: medline

editor: biological computation includes not only the effect on central pattern generators but whether circadian rhythms might influence the body in a similar manner.
More: Peripheral "Swatch" Watches Are A Powerful Force In Body’s Circadian Rhythms BOSTON, MA –- The daily rhythms of the body—once thought to be strictly governed by a master clock lodged in the brain—appear to be driven to a remarkable degree by tiny timepieces pocketed in organs all over the body. What‘s more, these peripheral timepieces appear to be strikingly idiosyncratic in appearance—more like Swatch watches than classic Timexes. Clocks located in the liver and heart appear to use very different sets of genes to perform essentially the same functions, (sciencedaily; 22 apr 2002)

Heard the one about the virtual fly nose? Bea Perks, BioMedNet News. Two "landmark" studies by unrelated US research groups have reached the same conclusions for how Drosophila brains make sense of smells. The data "provide clear and dramatic evidence of the hard-wiring of olfactory information in higher olfactory centers in the fly brain," Vosshall, associate professor in the Laboratory of Neurogenetics and Behavior at Rockefeller University in New York, told BioMedNet News today. These findings agree with recent data from mouse studies, she adds. "What this suggests is that olfactory systems of both insects and rodents use spatial information to encode odor quality," she said. "These papers are an important first step in a functional proof of this spatial coding hypothesis." (bmn; 25 apr 2002)
[ed. This study is suggesting something similar to what previous articles have suggested about touch and biological computation. It supports the hypothesis that chiropractic, too, is dealing with a "spatial coding" that indirectly invalidates the subluxation theory as less important in understanding manipulation as the idea that multiple level lesions may exist as part of a neuro - coordination of nonlinear, information processing neuro - cognitive function.]

Memory Isn't "Lost," Just Out Of Sync; Researchers Present Theory Of Memory And Memory Loss Little Rock -- Findings published last week in Proceeding of the National Academy of Science (USA) could lead to a better understanding of how our memory changes with age, according to John Hart, Jr., M.D. associate professor in the Reynolds Department of Geriatrics of the UAMS College of Medicine and a co-author of the study. "This new approach to looking at mechanisms of memory via electrical rhythms raises a whole series of questions about how the brain operates and what happens when it doesn't work properly," he explained. (sciencedaily; 13 may 2002) [ed. Science is beginning to unravel the mysteries of the brain. For chiropractic, the critical thinking doesn't seem to go beyond the wiring system and the 'pinched nerve' concept as related to a theoretical subluxation. The above description of memory as possibly 'out of sync' could also apply to spatial synchronization problems in topographical analysis of the body surface and problems in communication as a biological computation problem rather than a sensory wiring system problem. The questions for one may be whether manipulation and/or use of manual instrumentation really moves bone and is, in itself, the mechanism behind manipulation or whether subtle changes in reflex communication might be probable explanations for the effects of manipulation?]

Movement Without Senses Coded Into Neurons An animal's ability to move - like the kicking of a developing baby or the crawling and walking of insects - is intrinsic, not dependent on sensory stimulation, says a University of Toronto neurobiologist. Movements generally have certain rhythmic properties to them and it has been known for some time that central pattern generators - specialized groups of neurons in the nervous system - produce these rhythmic movements, which are essential for all forms of locomotion and reflexes... [however] sensory information plays a crucial role in directional movement and that without such information, animals are unable to adapt to their surroundings, search for food and survive, Suster says. (sciencedaily; 22 mar 2002)

[ed. (revised comment): The suggestion that touch plays some role in the chiropractic protocols has been stated elsewhere. The observation that touch, as sensory information, plays a role in directional movement and adaptation might suggest a role in chiropractic protocols. The chiropractors use of touch in A.K.'s therapy localization or in S.O.T.'s arm fossa test are usually associated with movement disorders linked to altered dynamics of either movement or coordination. The demonstration of touch as an illusion in both muscle testing and leg length examination involves this principle of direction in movement as a coordinated response to touch. The inability for chiropractors to understand the implications in both muscle testing and leg length observations may be in the adherance to the static, osseous indicators of 'subluxation' rather than the dynamics of movement coordination patterns that link to nonlinear, neurocognitive (i.e., neurosensory) mechanisms. (;22 mar 2002)]


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