Brain structure vs function: So, which came first; the chicken or the egg? This ancient riddle has been the center of philosophical debates for millenniums. Bottom line: You simply can’t have one without the other… The same answer for the chicken vs the egg debate applies to the question of which came first in neurodevelopment: structure or function—you can’t have one without the other.
Excerpt chapter from page 10:
Excerpt chapter from page 10:
Chicken or the Egg
So, which came first, the chicken or the egg? This ancient riddle has been the center of philosophical debates for millenniums. Bottom line: You simply can’t have one without the other. The same answer for the chicken vs. the egg debate applies to the question of which came first in neurodevelopment: structure or function—you can’t have one without the other.
For example: A perhaps over-simplistic view of structure vs. function lies in understanding a case of cerebral palsy, where the structure of, let’s say, leg tendons and muscles prohibit normal function in walking. The common medical solution is, more often than not, to brace the affected structure thereby achieving by force a more “normal-looking” function. The problem with this approach lies in that, bracing forcibly modifies the structure of the limbs and ultimately brings muscle atrophy along with a further distortion of the previously adapted-but semi-functioning structure. Ultimately, this approach merely provides the outward appearance of more normal function without addressing the real causes.
To elaborate the point: If you replace the affected limb of a cerebral palsy patient with a normally functioning limb, the new limb will more likely than not quickly assume the former posture of the old limb. The fact is that the associated brain capsules and meningeal/fascial structure in the cerebral palsy person assumes that the tension and position of the tendons and muscles are where they should be. The real solution to this dilemma often is in sending therapeutic signals to the brain through deep pressure, tactile, and temperature therapies (which we will cover later in this book series), working on the meninges (more later), and applying mobility exercises (yes, more later on this too)—all of which can help “wire around” injured brain capsules via neuroplasticity and physically change the dynamics of the meninges and fascia. In doing these kinds of functional therapies, the structural symptoms of cerebral palsy will often lessen and possibly even resolve.
Another example of structure vs. function lies in the use of eye glasses for vision correction. When normal vision becomes distorted by conditions of myopia or presbyopia, it is most often the structure of the eye itself that is misshapen, causing the images flowing through the lens of the eye to fall short of the retina or project beyond the retina—ergo, apply corrective lenses to focus visual images where we want them. But! While the vision now appears to be functioning normally with corrective eye glasses, the structure of the eye is unchanged by the corrective lens and will ultimately atrophy or hypertrophy further, soon causing yet another “change in prescription” all throughout the life of the individual. By performing functional therapeutic eye exercises and sending specific and targeted images through the eye and to the brain, the physical structure of the eye can and will change to a more appropriate shape because the function has been altered.
In both of these previous examples, when the existing structure was artificially manipulated to affect function, the forced changes in structure caused advancing symptoms and atrophy. But, as you can now see, therapeutically changing the function can and will also change the structure.
Axiom: Structure affects function and function affects structure.
Basic Principle: In child neurodevelopment, structure develops and completes as function is applied.
Basic Solution: Give the affected developmental stage appropriate function and it will develop a more appropriate structure at any age.
Goal: The goal is to discover, exercise and thereby complete under-developed neurodevelopmental function milestones to compliment and complete physical and developmental structures.