Chiropractic Care and
The Resting State Network in Humans

Michael Hickey, MA, Carla Hickey, MA, and Anish Bajaj, DC

The human brain and nervous system is composed of a highly advanced network of nerves and related oxygen and heart rate frequency functions. These functions take on a unique set of quantitative patterns when a person, in an awake state, closes their eyes and rests. These quantitative patterns create a normal distribution data set wherein significant deviation from the normative data is indicative of either poor Resting State Network function or optimal Resting State Network function with a clear majority of the population falling within a 2-standard deviation spread.

When the Resting State Network functions are disrupted, the individual is subject to cognitive declines in attention, working memory, and problem-solving capacity; is often chronically anxious, is prone to developing a significant sense of discouragement that can lead to hopelessness, and in severe cases, can become a clinical problem.

Disruption of the Resting state can be the result of stress derived from active or intentional behaviors, as well as passive or environmental factors. In the Resting state, the brain and body maintain essential functions in response to the constant influence of earth’s gravity and the body’s need for oxygen through respiration. In the eyes closed Resting state, the nervous system monitors these functions through proprioception, the unconscious perception of movement and spatial orientation arising from stimuli within the body itself, independent of vision.

Balance is the ability to maintain the center of gravity over the base of support. In the resting state it is achieved through the rapid communication of sensory receptors, called proprioceptors, shadowing and reporting status of skeletal muscle. The muscles of the spine, in particular the intrinsic muscles of the deep layer, have the highest concentration of these sensors. The primary respiratory mechanism is the system where cerebrospinal fluid, which is nutritionally potent for the spine and brain, is circulated by spine and cranial movement associated with proper breathing. The spine and cranium are linked by a protective sheath called dura at the sacrum and occiput. The movement of joints surrounding the dural connections are thus respiratory pumps for cerebrospinal fluid. The spinal levels associated with these pumps have the highest concentrations of proprioceptive sensors in the spine.

Resting state disruption can occurs when a self-perpetuating, central segmental motor control problem that involves a joint, such as a vertebral motion segment described above, that is not moving appropriately, resulting in ongoing maladaptive neural plastic changes that interfere with the central nervous system's ability to self-regulate, self-organize, adapt, repair and heal. In this phenomenon, the brain cannot achieve a complete resting state due to the distraction of a constant afferent feed of stress signals. Under this stress the brain coordinates a response in an attempt to correct the problem.

When the stress causing behaviors are not corrected the brain becomes fixated on old feedback loops, losing awareness of new sensory information. This disruption creates gaps in the timing and coordination of efferent controlled responses. When this state of disruption becomes chronic, innate self-regulating responses may be suppressed further compounding the problem. Eventually the brain may lose the ability to recover to the resting state even through wellness behaviors, a phenomenon known as reward deficiency syndrome.

The key principles associated with this mechanism are: the deep integration of the brain’s development around upright bipedalism; the use of conscious sense of sight and the unconscious sense of proprioception to achieve balance and coordination of both static and dynamic movements in the neutral upright position; the dependence of the primary respiratory mechanism on proper spinal posture to effectively pump cerebrospinal fluid and their correlations to health quality with proper breathing mechanics.

A common modern behavior, sitting with a fixed gaze, is particularly dangerous in that it causes stress while resulting the least amount of immediate pain. The risks of remaining in a prolonged state of stress are that the brain loses cognitive capacities resulting in compromised decision making around maintenance of health. Behavior modification remains the primary survival tool against chronic stress and must be initiated before the body loses neuroplasticity, or the ability to adapt to stress.

A basic measurement of Resting State Health is composed of a measurement of the difference between the activation and deactivation of the Resting State Network. This process can be compared to a balloon inflating and then deflating. The activation of the Resting State Network acts, in a frequency specific change, as a balloon being blow up and the deactivation of the Resting State Network is like a balloon being fully deflated. The activation and deactivation differences of the Resting State Network is particularly disrupted by chronic stress. When a person is under chronic stress, the Resting State balloon function does not fully inflate and it does not fully deflate and there is less difference in the measurement and more overlap in the data space.

Many chronic diseases also cause disruptions in a normal Resting State Network. This has been shown in peer-reviewed studies across a wide range of chronic diseases including Stokes, Dementia, Alzheimer’s, Diabetes, Obesity, Kidney Disease, Parkinson, chronic pain and many others.

Since each of these chronic diseases can cause significant chronic stress, patients are faced with a compounding negative effect on their Resting State Networks. In other words, the Resting State Network is disrupted by the underlying disease or pain condition, and the stress effect of the disease causes additional disruptions in the Resting State Network. Although the two Resting State Network disruptions are related, they are also independent phenomenology. Therefore, they can be addressed independently.

The Resting State Network Strength can also be viewed as having an additional dimension to its structure and function. Human beings can intentionally self-regulate certain biological processes that historically seemed to be functionally autonomic but in fact are subject to intentional regulation. These are sometimes referred to as neuro-plasticity functions or, in a broader sense, biological plasticity functions or Bio-Plasticity Psychology. For the purposes of this review, we are focusing on three areas of intentional plasticity. These are Oxygen Intentional Plasticity, Parasympathetic Intentional Plasticity, and Brain Wave Intentional Plasticity.

Oxygen Plasticity is the capacity of a subject to intentionally self-regulate their oxygen saturation and desaturation, thus developing a greater dynamic range of oxygen hemoglobin saturation. This increase in the dynamic range of hemoglobin saturation is correlated with increased capacity for stress management. This Oxygen Plasticity is achieved by intentionally raising the hemoglobin oxygen saturation by way of breath regulation and by intentionally lowering the oxygen desaturation through a “no movement” interval fitness exercise programing system. These intentional regulation effects also make significant and measurable changes in Parasympathetic and Brain Wave Plasticity dimensions.

Parasympathetic Plasticity is measured by intentional regulation of Heart Rate Variability and Galvanic Skin Conductance, each of which is a measurement of Parasympathetic Plasticity. These intentional self-regulation efforts also make significant measurable changes in Oxygen Plasticity and Brain Wave Plasticity. Brain Wave Plasticity is measured by intentional regulation of the brain wave Theta/Beta Ratio (attention), the Theta/Alpha Ratio (working memory), the Alpha Percentage increase (problem solving), and Inter-hemispheric Phase Coherence (deep pattern recognition). As with the above intentional regulation activities, these brain wave intentional activities also create significant measurable changes in the Oxygen and Parasympathetic Intentional Plasticity dimensions.

A Resting State Strength Assessment can be used to integrate both activation and deactivation measurements with intentional plasticity measurement to derive a total Resting State Strength. Using this methodology, the Resting State Strength Assessment can consider the effects of Resting State disruption by measurement of activation and deactivation as well as the potential of the patient to overcome these effects through intentional plasticity potential. This later dimension can be improved and optimized through the smart phone feedback programming.

The body of science in Resting State Networks can be integrated with Chiropractic theory and methodology and in doing so promises to open new dimensions to Chiropractic care. First, the use of Resting State Network measurement in optimizing Intentional Oxygen, Brain Wave and Parasympathetic Plasticity would easily fit into and support Chiropractic care for Stress Management programing related to pain. Second, the integration of big data Resting State Network data streams in both clinical and real-world settings promises to elucidate the relationship of subluxation and Resting State Network disruptions perhaps to a degree that would provide Chiropractic care with a more objective measurement of the disruption of subluxation in human suffering. This approach would also calibrate the relationship between increasing changes in biological plasticity and physical pain.

Wellness IP, Inc. is committed to opening this opportunity for the Chiropractic field.