Friday, March 14, 2008

Something in Swiss water?

I am starting to wonder what it is about Switzerland. In the past few months, three separate science projects jumped out at me, all Swiss and all brainy:


These are described in the blog post Virtual Body Experience. The third was by Bigna Lenggenhager:
"Swiss scientist Bigna Lenggenhager induced virtual body illusions in her subjects, then had them move themselves out of position, then back into positions where they thought they had previously been, but which were in fact where their "virtual" bodies had been.

Her paper “Video Ergo Sum: Manipulating Bodily Self-Consciousness” was also published in the August 24, 2007, issue of Science."
Here is a related video.


This is a Swiss project headed by Henry Markram, in which an artificial "brain" is being painstakingly built. Jonah Lehrer writes,
"In the basement of a university in Lausanne, Switzerland sit four black boxes, each about the size of a refrigerator, and filled with 2,000 IBM microchips stacked in repeating rows. Together they form the processing core of a machine that can handle 22.8 trillion operations per second. It contains no moving parts and is eerily silent. When the computer is turned on, the only thing you can hear is the continuous sigh of the massive air conditioner. This is Blue Brain."
So far the project has managed to accurately simulate a single cortical column from a two-week old rat brain, only... but is still an amazing achievement. Here are media links.


A systematic review in press for Manual Therapy:
Paradigm shift in manual therapy? Evidence for a central nervous system component in the response to passive cervical joint mobilisation

Annina Schmid, Florian Brunner, Anthony Wright and Lucas M. Bachmannd
a Uniklinik Balgrist, Department of Physiotherapy, Forchstrasse 340, 8008 Zurich, Switzerland
b Uniklinik Balgrist, Department of Rheumatology, Forchstrasse 340, 8008 Zurich, Switzerland
c School of Physiotherapy, Curtin University of Technology, Perth, Australia
d Horten Center for patient-oriented research, University of Zurich, Switzerland
Received 28 February 2007; revised 30 November 2007; accepted 18 December 2007. Available online3 March 2008.


Segmental neurological modulation, neural hysteresis and biomechanical effects have been proposed as mechanisms underpinning the effects of manual therapy. An increasing number of studies hypothesise activation of the central nervous system resulting in a non-segmental hypoalgesic effect with concurrent activation of other neural pathways as a potential mechanism of action. Whether this model is consistent with the current literature is unknown.

This systematic review aims to assess the consistency of evidence supporting an involvement of supraspinal systems in mediating the effects of passive cervical joint mobilisation.

We searched randomised trials in three electronic databases from inception to November 2007, without language restriction, and checked reference lists of included studies. We assessed study validity and extracted salient features in duplicate.

Fifteen studies met our inclusion criteria. The overall quality was high. We found consistency for concurrent hypoalgesia, sympathetic nervous system excitation and changes in motor function. Pooling of data suggested that joint mobilisation improved outcomes by approximately 20% relative to controls. This specific pattern suggests that descending pathways might play a key role in manual therapy induced hypoalgesia.

Our review supports the existence of an alternative neurophysiological model, in which passive joint mobilisation stimulates areas within the central nervous system.

Keywords: Treatment outcome; Cervical pain; Neck; Manipulation spinal; Joint mobilisation techniques; Physical therapy (speciality)"

Whatever the Swiss have going on there, I hope it doesn't lose any momentum, especially in view of the fact that it would appear brain consideration is making it all the way into Swiss PT culture, and out into the world of manual therapy. (Big smile)

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