Circuitry found linking cerebral cortex to body's stress response


Originally published at:


So it’s all in my head?


Another surprising result was that motor areas in the cerebral cortex, involved in the planning and performance of movement, provide a substantial input to the adrenal medulla. One of these areas is a portion of the primary motor cortex that is concerned with the control of axial body movement and posture. This input to the adrenal medulla may explain why core body exercises are so helpful in modulating responses to stress. Calming practices such as Pilates, yoga, tai chi and even dancing in a small space all require proper skeletal alignment, coordination and flexibility.

I’m suspecting a lot of bOINGbOING screeds condemning alternative medical treatments might need to be revised in the near future.


I don’t recall any Boing Boing posts saying that exercise or meditation weren’t good for mental health or stress relief.


Well, the paper is pretty new, but if the information stands up to deeper research, it seems to me this could end up moving some currently “alternative” practices (such as chiropractery, perhaps, which Corey rails against) into the medical mainstream. Sort of like how vaccination and allergy shots have become mainstream, even though modern immunotherapy is just the refined and researched form of homeopathy.

I only skimmed the paper, but my understanding is that it only demonstrated the existence of connections between physical systems previously thought to be mutually neurally isolated; it did not actually show what function these connections provide. In the absence of a great deal more research, we can’t know yet, but speculation is fun.


Well, in your case . . .


If we had evidence that chiropractic worked but were unsure of its mechanism, then yes, this would be good news for chiropractors. However, the evidence shows that chiropractic is basically a placebo.

As for homeopathy, the idea that giving a person a small amount of something in order to protect them from larger amounts of the same thing has a basis in reality. The idea that diluting a solution to the point where not a single molecule of the active ingredient remains present in the solution makes the effect stronger (which is the conceit behind homeopathy) is ridiculous.


So… you’re risking an overdose if you don’t take any.


I have empirical evidence that chiropractery works, since I needed to have a spinal dislocation remediated, and my doctor sent me to a chiropractor, who fixed the problem by relocating the vertebrae correctly.

To say this effect was a placebo is to say that physics is an illusion, and that moving an object from one place to another is impossible.

Modern immunotherapy bears the same relation to Hahnemann’s homeopathy as modern chemistry bears to alchemy. There are differences in intent and effect, but denying the contributions of forerunners to modern praxis is just silly.

Corey likes to conflate the practices of modern quacks with the noble attempts of our ancestors to find useful treatments for the alleviation of suffering. Hahneman’s similia similibus curentur gives us the process of using repeated exposure to tiny amounts of allergens in order to cure allergies. Super dilution homeopathy, which is what you’ve called “the conceit behind homeopathy”, is the extension of this principle into pure quackery. You can find similar extensions of principle into quackery in every branch of medicine; but in other branches we simply declare practitioners of that extension to be quacks - we don’t declare the whole branch to be invalid.

Arguments of this type devolve into two simple contentions: If any part of XXX works, it’s not really XXX, and if any part of XXX is shown to be invalid, then all of XXX is invalid. It’s a heady mix of No True Scotsman and Excluded Middle fallacies.

And that cycles me back to where I started, which I might not have expressed properly. Further research on these newly discovered neural connections might explain the (previously labeled placebo) effects of alternative medical practices such as acupuncture, or moxibustion, or what_ever_. I wait eagerly to see if this will happen! Similar things have certainly happened many times before.



Let me quote Hahneman for you.

Actual dilutions are almost wholly confined to sapid and coloured objects. A solution of salt or bitter substances becomes always more tasteless the more water is mixed with it, and at length loses almost more taste, though we may shake it as much as we please—and in like manner a solution of a coloured substance becomes, by the admixture of more and more water, at last almost quite colourless, and gains no increase of colour by any imaginable shaking.

These are and continue to be true attenuations or dilutions, but not dynamizations.

Homœopathic dynamizations are real awakenings of the medicinal properties that lie dormant in natural bodies during their crude state, which then become capable of acting in almost a spiritual manner upon our life, that is to say on our percipient (sensible) and excitable (irritable) fibres. These developments of properties (dynamizations) in crude medicinal substances, which were unknown before my time, are accomplished, as I first taught, by the trituration of dry substances in a mortar, but by the succussion of liquid substances, which is nothing less than a trituration of them. These preparations, therefore, cannot have the term ‘dilutions’ applied to them, although every preparation of the sort, in order to potentize it higher, that is to say, in order to awaken and develop still farther the medicinal properties that still lie latent in it, must first be again yet more attenuated, to allow the trituration or succussion to penetrate more deeply into the essential nature of the medicinal substance, and thus to liberate and bring to light the more subtile part of the medicinal power that lies still deeper, which were impossible to be effected by the greatest amount of trituration and succusion of substances in a concentrated state.

We frequently read in homœopathic writings, that some one or other found no effect from this or that high (dilution) dynamization of a medicine in a certain case of the disease, but that a lower one rendered the desired service—whilst others saw more success attending higher ones. But the cause of the great difference in the results is not investigated. What is to prevent the preparer of homœopathic medicines (this should always be the homœopathic practitioner himself; the weapons he uses against diseases, he should himself forge, he should himself whet), what is to prevent him, in order that he may obtain powerful dynamizations, in place of giving a few slovenly shakes (whereby little more than dilutions are produced, which they ought not to be), giving for the preparation of each potency, to every phial which contains one drop of the lower potency to ninety-nine drops of alcohol, ten, twenty, fifty, or even more strong succussions, performed against some hard elastic body.

The perfection of our, the only healing art, and the weal of the patients, appear well to deserve that the physician take the requisite pains to procure for his medicines toe proper, the greatest possible efficacy.

Thus we obtain, even in the fiftieth potency (the new wiseacres have hitherto ridiculed the thirtieth potency, and made use of the lower, little developed, massive medicinal preparations in large doses, whereby, however, they were not able to effect what our system can do), each lower one of which has been dynamized by an equal number of succussions, medicines of the most penetrating efficacy, so that each of the minutest globules impregnated with it, dissolved in much water, can be taken in small portions, and must be so taken in order not to produce too violent effects in sensitive patients, not to mention that such a mode of preparation develops almost all the properties that lie hid in the essential nature of the medicinal substance, which thereby alone can attain any activity.
-Hahneman, Paris, 19th December, 1838

(Bolding is mine, italicization is in the original (page 316-318).

All right, so going through the parts that I’ve bolded:

  1. Hahneman isn’t using any chemical properties of the active ingredient, but rather their “almost spiritual” properties.
  2. He claims that in order to make the substance more potent, it must be diluted (attenuated) further.
  3. That “shaking” a phial will yield only a dilution, but “succussing” it (striking it against “some hard elastic body”) will increase the potency.
  4. Each potency should be 1 drop of the previous potency to 99 drops of alcohol, or 1/100 of the previous potency.
  5. Hahneman claims effects going as far as the fiftieth potency. That is 1/(100^50) or the ratio of one part active ingredients to a googol parts alcohol.

To quote the wikipedia entry for googol:

To give a sense of how big a googol really is, the mass of an electron, just under 10−30 kg, can be compared to the mass of the visible universe, estimated at between 1050 and 1060 kg. It is a ratio in the order of about 1080 to 1090, still much smaller than the value of a googol.

Carl Sagan points out that the total number of elementary particles in the universe is around 1080 (the Eddington number) and that if the whole universe were packed with neutrons so that there would be no empty space anywhere, there would be around 10128.

So, literally, if the whole universe were one homeopathic distillation, there would still not be one electron’s mass worth of the active ingredient in a fiftieth potency dilution (other than those which occur randomly). Homeopathy has been bunk from the beginning, unless you believe that any of what I’ve highlighted from its creator’s own words is not bunk.

And as for your “empirical” endorsement of chiropractic: I’ll just label it as “anecdotal” and leave it at that. If you want to show me a hard study of its positive impacts, go right ahead, but I’m not going to accept one anecdote as equal in value to the clinical trial that I linked you to.


Acupuncturist (and pretty much hardcore materialist) here. This definitely jibes with my clinical experience.
And FWIW, I’m always bugged when people lump what I do in with homeopathy which I generally think is bogus.


Look, if I quoted some crazy spiritualistic alchemy treatise it wouldn’t invalidate the idea of transmutation of elements. Nor would it mean modern chemists owe no debt to the alchemists of old.

I Iooked at your link, and it says certain specific forms of therapy performed by chiropractors do not appear to work for certain specific ailments and therefore all therapies labelled chiropractic should probably be considered ineffective for all conditions which is a pretty honkin’ gigantic leap of faith, if not an outright fallacy. I’ll continue to trust in my doctor, basic physics and personal observation.

But you know, you’ve gotten so caught up in the tribal crusade to strike down the enemies of Scienceness you’re jacking the thread. How about we just concede that your dogma is the one true Science and my empiricism and skepticism are heretical? I’m totally OK hanging out with the uncool kids, I always have.

Back on topic, I wonder if anyone will try using the rabies technique to try to find all previously undetected neural nets in the human body. Maybe there really are chakras and energy meridians and the like!


Fair enough. I will continue to trust in scientific study and basic logic.

We still haven’t mapped the whole brain yet (as this study shows); I think mapping the entire body might be a few decades away.


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