Brain Function (Sensorimotor Cortex) Increases with Chiropractic Care

topography of brain cortex
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by Mark Studin DC, FASBE(C), DAAPM, DAAMLP

Chiropractic care improves brain function and the body’s motor or movement ability

Research findings that redefine care for every rehabilitation patient for all motor disorders

According to the Sensory Processing Disorder Foundation (2011), “Sensory processing (sometimes called ‘sensory integration‘ or SI) is a term that refers to the way the nervous system receives messages from the senses and turns them into appropriate motor and behavioral responses. Whether you are biting into a hamburger, riding a bicycle, or reading a book, your successful completion of the activity requires processing sensation or ‘sensory integration'” (

According to Wikipedia (2011), “A motor skill is a learned sequence of movements that combine to produce a smooth, efficient action in order to master a particular task. The development of motor skill occurs in the motor cortex, the region of the cerebral cortex that controls voluntary muscle groups” (

According to LearningRX (2010), “Sensory motor integration is the synergistic relationship between the sensory system and the motor system. Since the two communicate and coordinate with each other, if one is problematic, the other can suffer as a result. The two involve receiving and transmitting the stimuli to the central nervous system where the stimulus is then interpreted. The nervous system then determines how to respond and transmits the instructions via nerve impulses to carry out the instructions (e.g. a hand-eye coordination movement)” ( sensory-motor-integration-faq.htm).

The synopsis of the above 3 paragraphs is that the human body senses information (sensory processing), processes the information in the brain (sensorimotor cortex), and then sends the information to the part of the body that has to perform a function, such as moving your thumb, walking, talking, picking something up or any other function we do in our lives. As the above paragraph eloquently stated, if any of the 3 areas are not working properly or working not optimally, every part of the system suffers.

In 2010, Taylor and Murphy concluded in their research that chiropractic care improves the functional levels of the motor cortex, premotor areas, and that this improved measurement was maintained after a 20-minute training task, indicating that it wasn’t a transient finding. The authors further offered that the practical applications suggesting that:

1. this alters the way the central nervous system responds to motor training

2. a chiropractic spinal adjustment/manipulation alters the neurological integration at the cortical (brain) level

3. this explains the mechanism responsible for reducing pain levels and increased functional ability after the adjustment/manipulation

4. this explains the mechanism of overuse injuries and chronic pain conditions

The above 4 areas change the way we should approach strategies in rehabilitation for all neurodegenerative and congenital motor and sensory disorders. A list of potential disorders that could benefit in rehabilitation from this research is:

1. muscular dystrophy

2. Duchenne muscular dystrophy

3. myasthenia gravis

4. Parkinson’s disease

5. fibromyalgia

6. multiple sclerosis

7. Huntington’s disease

8. stroke victims

9. all other neuro-muscular diseases

On a clinical note, this author, having cared for muscular dystrophy patients for 30 years, can report that in every instance, the patients were able to ambulate (walk) with greater ease and had significantly more motor control (movement) while under chiropractic care. The goal of rehabilitation in the neurodegenerative patient is to both increase muscle tone and through repetition of activities of daily living, gait training, balance training, speech training and all other motor functions, to help retrain the muscles to maximize the body’s ability to regain those functions. The rehabilitation is essential in most cases and critical to the person regaining an independent life.

The therapist in rehabilitation creates a setting similar to a car or kitchen so that the patient can re-create activities of daily living. In doing these activities with the help of the therapist, the patient is activating stimuli in the sensory nervous system. Touching and movement are senses that the brain has to process and then send impulses back to the muscles to move in order to perform daily tasks. In order for function to be regained maximally, there can be no dysfunction at the spinal level. That dysfunction is defined in chiropractic as subluxation or a vertebrate out of place, negatively affecting the nerve and fixed in the wrong position.

Based upon the research by Taylor and Murphy (2010), if there is a spinal dysfunction (subluxation) it prevents normal impulses from the sensory system and lowers the ability of the brain from functioning at its optimal. Therefore, the most rehabilitation can offer is maximization of the body’s ability at reduced capacity. The implications are staggering as in many cases that could mean no matter the expertise of the therapist or the diligence of the patient, the rehabilitation would not be as successful or could fail if the brain could not function at a higher level.

Through chiropractic care, the patient can have the ability to function at a higher level and live a “more normal life” with neurodegenerative disorders. The implications go well beyond neurodegenerative disorders and cross over to industry, sports and everyday life. However, that will be discussed in another article.


1. Sensory Processing Disorder Foundation (2011). About SPD. Retrieved from

2. Wikipedia (2011). Motor skill. Retrieved from

3. LearningRX (2010). Sensory motor integration. Retrieved from

4. Taylor, H. H., & Murphy, B. (2010). The effects of spinal manipulation on central integration of dual somatosensory input observed after motor training: A crossover study. Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics, 33(4), 261-272.

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