A clarification on "reflexive stability"

The Scientist

Level 3 Valued Member
This is for anyone interested, but I would be most interested in hearing from anyone in the Original Strength or FMS crowd. I have been seeing more and more about a phenomenon termed "reflexive stability" around here, and I would like to know if someone can further define the physiological mechanism behind what is being described. As I understand it, RS is being described as:

" – your body’s subconscious ability to anticipate movement before it actually moves and prepare the joints and muscles involved in a particular movement to execute the movement."

The problem that I have with this is that reflexes are clearly defined phenomena. They are involuntary and predictable responses to stimuli. In the case of the proposed "reflexive stability", what exactly is the stimulus? Is it being proposed that visual input is the stimulus? Is it proprioceptive input from stretch or golgi tendon reflexes in the surrounding musculature? This would seem to negate the "anticipate movement before it actually moves" part of RS.

To me, it sounds like the "anticipate movement before it actually moves" part suggests that what they are actually attempting to describe is motor learning and patterning. This is a critically important thing for movement, but it really is not a reflex at all.
 

Brett Jones

StrongFirst Director of Education
Master Certified Instructor
Beast Tamer
the input(s) are visual, vestibular and proprioceptive

Hopefully this will help:

a repost from  the thread below:

Here are a link:

http://www.functionalmovement.com/articles/Podcasts/2014-10-28_stability_training_timing_and_motor_control

So…

From Movement by Gray Cook – “stabilizers control movement in one local segment while movement occurs in another, or they create supportive tension within multiple global joints.  Their role is to not move in the presence of movement.  They should therefore be trained to produce integrity, alignment and control in both static and dynamic situation.”
….”the contribution of stabilizers can change throughout the range as well, performing a static role in one phase of movement and a dynamic role within another plane.”
“…true authentic stability is about effortless timing….”

“To take this a step further , it would not even be necessary to train stability if quality and functional patterns had not at some point been neglected….”

By setting a baseline for fundamental movement patterns (I use the FMS) we can “check in” on the fundamental patterns.
Mobility problems can be found and addressed.  Mobility is important because quality proprioception is driven by quality mobility and proprioception drives reflexive stability/motor control.  Can restrictions in mobility be the result of poor stability/motor control – absolutely and these are filtered out in the FMS correctives.  Once mobility is adequate then stability/motor control can be either regained automatically or regained with a progression from static to dynamic work that emphasizes integrity, alignment and control.
 

Sean Schniederjan

Level 3 Valued Member
Thanks for putting that informative response together, Brett.

I've got a question on a particular example.  When you laterally flex the spine, the same side obliques/ql or whatever contracts reflexively [probably to stabilize the pelvis when we walk.]

Which category of the three inputs is that, if it is one?  Or does it "depend"?
 

The Scientist

Level 3 Valued Member
Brett,

I am good with most of what you are saying, except a few things.

1. Reflexes are set and really can't be modified by training. They are predictable algorithms built into a system, and a stimulus always causes the exact same response. What you are describing is motor pattern learning. This doesn't really change what you are doing, but the terminology is confusing to those familiar with the physiology.

2. When you say:

“To take this a step further , it would not even be necessary to train stability if quality and functional patterns had not at some point been neglected….”

I have to wonder, what exactly is being trained here? From the opposite direction, what is being lost when a patter is neglected? If this were truly a reflex, you would have to be arguing that specific synaptic connections were either lost or weakened within a reflex pathway, and that the training that you implement is somehow repairing that pathway. Isn't it much more plausible that training makes people better at the movements you are using because they are developing learned motor patterns to execute those movements?
 

Brett Jones

StrongFirst Director of Education
Master Certified Instructor
Beast Tamer
Sean - it is always a mix of the 3

Scientist

I'll try to be brief - yes we are talking motor learning and programming and the motor control of the "stabilizers" is "reflexive" or subconscious
for Example - try to volitionally fire your rotator cuff....
You cannot but try to pick up a weight and it had better fire first
Yes the Gag reflex is "hard wired"
so no we are not talking about those reflexes
but the reflexive activation of the "stabilizers"  so that they fire in the correct sequence - this is why we prefer the term motor control to stability

What is lost when you "lose" a fundamental pattern?
As stated quality motor control is based in quality proprioception and loss of motion reduces proprioception and can alter the motor control in a pattern (as can pain etc...)

you are taking the term reflexive and taking it to mean reflex (like gag reflex)

 
 

Sean Schniederjan

Level 3 Valued Member
So would the oblique/lateral flexion reflex contraction described above be reflexive or a reflex as you just distinguished?

For example, if you are turned upside down in a surf wipeout with your eyes closed (and ear closed - if that were possible) and have no sense of up or down whatsoever and you laterally flex the spine - the oblique (or ql - still not sure) still fires - reflexively - or reflex-ly?
 

The Scientist

Level 3 Valued Member
Brett,

You say: "you are taking the term reflexive and taking it to mean reflex (like gag reflex)".

Reflexive is simply adjective form of reflex, so how can something that you call reflexive not refer to a reflex action? I just doesn't make sense, and this is why Sean is confused. In the scientific community, reflex has a very precise definition – why confuse everyone by trying to change it? When I started reading some of the materials from the Original Strength group, this immediately turned me off because it gives the impression that they don't know what they are talking about. My first impression is that they were talking about stretch reflexes or golgi tendon reflexes. I'm not saying that this has any impact on whether the program is effective, but only that it may be a problem when trying to get people in the medical field to accept the program when basic terminology is misused.

"As stated quality motor control is based in quality proprioception and loss of motion reduces proprioception..."

Do you have evidence that lack of movement decreases a person's proprioceptive abilities? I'm really not try to be difficult – this is a very interesting question, but I have never seen data that support this claim. If they exist, I would love to see them.
 

Brett Jones

StrongFirst Director of Education
Master Certified Instructor
Beast Tamer
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC164311/

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC164312/

http://journals.lww.com/spinejournal/Abstract/1998/01010/The_Effects_of_Abdominal_Muscle_Coactivation_on.19.aspx

http://journals.lww.com/spinejournal/Abstract/1999/12010/Biomechanics_of_Increased_Exposure_to_Lumbar.7.aspx

Just a couple to start - reflexive stability is an established term apparently
 

The Scientist

Level 3 Valued Member
Yes, and they are describing actual reflexes and not motor learning. Read the methods:

"Methods. Cyclic loading of the lumbar spine at 0.25 Hz was applied to L4–L5 for 50 minutes while electromyograms from the multifidus muscles of L1–L2 to L6–L7 were recorded. A rest period of up to 2 hours was given, during which electromyographic responses and load were measured every 10 minutes to sample recovery of laxity and reflexive muscular activity."

They providing a stimulus (spinal loading), and measuring the ability of the multifidus muscles to contract in response. They are directly measuring the stretch reflex. This is an actual reflex arc from the muscles spindle, though the spinal cord, and back to alpha motor neurons. It never completely bypasses the brain and cannot be trained. It is innate and is a different thing than what you are describing.
 

The Scientist

Level 3 Valued Member
What this means is that true reflexive stability is a rapid response to current movement, and not an anticipation of future movement. It may seem like a small point, but it seems like it is confusing people. Anticipation of future movement happens when a person is in the middle of executing a learned motor plan.
 

Brett Jones

StrongFirst Director of Education
Master Certified Instructor
Beast Tamer
Scientist

if you re-read my original post I didn't say anticipatory

The term Reflexive stabilization is an established term - and in my attempt to answer briefly at work I muddied the waters by referencing gag reflex and confusion with reflexive etc...

Yes they are describing reflexive stability - how does my original post not line up with this?
 

The Scientist

Level 3 Valued Member
Brett,

I got the anticipatory part from this (not your definition, O know), which is being thrown around on the boards here:

” – your body’s subconscious ability to anticipate movement before it actually moves and prepare the joints and muscles involved in a particular movement to execute the movement.”

As for what you said, my only problem is this:

"yes we are talking motor learning and programming and the motor control of the “stabilizers” is “reflexive” or subconscious"

All I am saying is that reflexive is a technical term that should refer only to reflexes. Subconscious and reflexive cannot be used interchangeably, and it seem like that is what you are doing. The reason this matters is that motor learning can be trained, but reflexes cannot. So it seems suspicious when I hear people talking about training "reflexive stability" when I know (at least I think I know, but could be wrong) that reflexes cannot be developed and trained – they are innate. Muscles can become stronger, and motor patterns can be learned, but nobody is adding a new stretch reflex that they didn't have before through training.

Again, I am trying to be constructive here. I know I can come across as harsh, though. Feel free to let this go if you don't think it is being productive.
 

Matt

Level 3 Valued Member
Thanks for the great discussion Brett and Scientist.

I would say Scientist, that you can develop/train your reflexes?  Maybe no ones tried to learn to blink faster, but other reflexes - which is perhaps what you refer to as movement patterns.  How do you distinguish between reflexes and the "hardwired" (autonomous nervous system perhaps ?) reflex?  Don't they both have a movement pattern involving muscles.  Maybe you are saying it is the conscious control aspect?
 

Brett Jones

StrongFirst Director of Education
Master Certified Instructor
Beast Tamer
From this article:
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC164311/

"For example, the reflexive response is the mechanism the body uses to maintain or restore joint stability after an imposed joint perturbation......In the case of joint perturbation, the processes include mechanoreceptor stimulation, neural transmission, integration of the signals by the central nervous system (CNS), transmission of an efferent signal, muscle activation, and force production."
"Specifically, from a joint stability perspective, we define neuromuscular control as the unconscious activation of dynamic restraints occurring in preparation for and in response to joint motion and loading for the purpose of maintaining and restoring functional joint stability. Although neuromuscular control underlies all motor activities in some form, it is not easily separated from the neural commands controlling the overall motor program. For example, in throwing a ball, particular muscle activation sequences occur in the rotator cuff muscles to ensure that the optimal glenohumeral alignment and compression required for joint stability are provided. These muscle activations take place unconsciously and synonymously with the voluntary muscle activations directly associated with the particulars of the task..."
"Activation of motor neurons may occur in direct response to peripheral sensory input (reflexes) or from descending commands initiated in the brain stem or cerebral cortex, or both."

I think this provides some clarity....

 
 

Matt

Level 3 Valued Member
Perhaps some of the confusion comes from treating all reflexes as reactive (to some stimulus) and not anticipatory.  The mind can anticipate a movement and then the nervous system reacts to that in anticipation.  I'm no expert in the physiology, just philosophising.

I was just adding this thought then Brett posted it expertly with more detail!
 

t.h.h.emmanuel

Level 2 Valued Member
Good day!

I cannot add anything to the thread concerning definitions, but I have read about changing the firing patterns of the stretch reflex in Pavel's "Relax into stretch". So altering some reflexes should be possible.

Best regards, Henke in Sweden
 

Zach Ganska

Level 3 Valued Member
Certified Instructor
Scientist-

Reflexes can be trained:

http://www.nih.gov/news/health/feb2013/ninds-05.htm

 

Brett- Thanks for posting the articles, good stuff within!
 

The Scientist

Level 3 Valued Member
Matt,

What you are calling "hardwired" reflexes are just plain reflexes. Everything else that commonly gets assigned that term really is not a reflex at all. When someone sees a goalkeeper quickly react to a shot, they say "Wow, he has excellent reflexes!" This is not a reflex, but a learned motor pattern. A reflex is a simple circuit comprising:

1. A sensory receptor (like the muscle spindle, or tendon organ).

2. A sensory neuron that carries an impulse from the sensory receptor to an integrator.

3. An integration center – usually the spinal cord for muscle reflexes.

4. A motor neuron that carries the outout back to one or moe muscles.

5. The effector (the muscles in this case).

The thing about a reflex arc is that it is set. It cannot be modified or changed. It also is characterized by the stimulus always producing the exact same response. When a physician taps your patellar tendon and your quadriceps contracts, this is simply because the tapping stretched the tendon, which stretched the muscle. The circuit for the stretch reflex is wired so that when the muscle stretches (like it does when you being to lose balance and fall), the response is to contract (so you stand back up).

Motor learning is different. This is your brain taking tasks that you repeat over and over, and writing a script of sorts that runs the program automatically when you initiate it. Some are very simple and deeply ingrained (walking, reach and grapes, etc..) and others are learned later in life (writing, instrument playing, etc...). The more you use it, the more entrenched the program becomes. The primary difference here is that a learned motor pattern can be strengthened, and even changed with practice. Reflexes cannot be changed through practice or training.

So is the learned motor program conscious or subconscious? I would say that it is initiated consciously, but the  program then runs its course subconsciously for the most part.
 

The Scientist

Level 3 Valued Member
Brett,

In addition to my response to Matt:

The quotes you posted are not using the terms interchangeably. Just because reflex responses are subconscious does not mean that all subconscious responses are reflexes. I think this is where there is confusion.

"Activation of motor neurons may occur in direct response to peripheral sensory input (reflexes) or from descending commands initiated in the brain stem or cerebral cortex, or both.”

The "or" in the above quote makes my point. Muscle are activated from reflexes or from descending motor commands. These are different things.
 
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