Issues in Spinal Cord Plasticity For The Manipulative Sciences



Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College

Convenor: Dr. Howard Vernon, DC, FCCS(C)

June 8, 1991, Toronto


Spinal cord plasticity is the currently used term to describe changes which occur in the functional characteristics of spinal cord neuronal pools sufficient to alter behavioural mechanisms which are subserved by these neuronal pools. These changes can occur at all levels -- single neuron, mono-synaptic reflex, poly-synaptic circuits, as well as in the peripheral afferents, dorsal root ganglion, dorsal root entry zone, dorsal horn and vertral horn cells.

Functional changes involve changes in behavioural characteristics as well as in the neurochemical mechanisms which subserve such mechanisms.

Historically, chiropractic scientists have held to a "neurobiological view" of the workings of human health. While Palmer spoke presciently, but ambiguously about "tone", one of the great contributions to this view arose out of the osteopathic research of Irwin Korr and his colleagues. The now-famous "facilitated state" concept is a primary example (perhaps a founding example) of spinal cord plasticity.

As such, the new terms "plasticity" should be highly relevant to modern-day chiropractors, and interest in it should be just as high as it was in earlier days for Korr's work. The fact is that, just as there has been modernization of Palmer's work, neuroscience has advanced well beyond Korr's work, and we as researchers and as general practitioners need to keep abreast of these developments. In fact, it has been a common experience that our unique chiropractic perspective when applied to basic science methods in this area, yields some distinct, important and clinically applicable research directions. As such, we should be proud of our past scientific perspectives, but we should be diligent in applying them now, to secure our place in their future shaping.

To be honest, chiropractors have had very little to do with what is viewed as the "chiropractic scientific perspective". We have borrowed mightily from others and we have created a patchwork of theories and ideas. Despite this, several "chiropractic" investigations are underway, and several researchers who are either chiropractors or are employed by chiropractic colleges are involved in this field currently.

On June 8, 1991, eight such experts met at the Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College under the sponsorship of the Chiropractic Foundation for Spinal Research, and presented original reports of theoretical work, methodological models and results of experiments. In the afternoon, three very lively round tables were formed on 1) Pain, 2) Autonomic Effects and 3) Motor Effects. Audience participation was solicited, and excellent discussions ensued. These resulted in a clearer focus on the issues directly relevant to chiropractic clinical science and a clearer agenda for future investigations. Finally, a new comradarie was developed between the experts which can only bode well for future developments in chiropractic neuroscience.

The Canadian Chiropractic Association.


By Howard Vernon

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