Welcome to the Zentralapparat Project
Eighty-six years ago, F. Matthias Alexander observed that the “relativity in the use of the head, neck, and other parts” constituted a “primary control of the general use of the self” (The Use of the Self, 1932).* With the observations made in this groundbreaking book, Alexander heralded a discovery of far-reaching importance—one that, over a hundred years after Alexander’s initial observations, is still far ahead of its time.
But how does the primary control work, and can Alexander's claim be scientifically validated? In 1949, with the support of John Dewey, Frank Pierce Jones embarked on a pilot study of the primary control at the Tufts University Institute for Applied Psychology. During the next three decades, Jones published over 40 papers on the Alexander Technique (Collected Writings on the Alexander Technique, Alexander Technique Archives 1998, available at the Dimon Institute) — the most extensive research effort on the subject to date. Since that time, a handful of researchers have conducted studies, but these have been largely clinical in nature, examining the benefits of Alexander Technique lessons or the effects of making changes in head balance on movement patterns. Virtually no studies have focused on the primary control itself, formulating and testing hypotheses about how the postural system works, independently of Alexander’s hands-on method.
We are happy to announce that, earlier this year, the Dimon Institute launched The Zentralapparat Project—a research initiative aimed at studying the primary control. Building upon the hypotheses advanced by Ted Dimon in “The Organization of Movement” (AmSAT Journal / Spring 2013 / Issues No. 3-6) and in Neurodynamics: The Art of Mindfulness in Action (North Atlantic Books, 2015), the purpose of the project is to demonstrate and study the central role of the head-trunk relationship in the organization of movement. To assist in this project, James French, a graduate of the Dimon Institute, has joined the effort as research assistant at the Institute where, in collaboration with Ted, he is devoting much of his time to this crucial project.
In The Zentralapparat Project, we will look at a number of aspects of the primary control—anatomical design, the role of muscles and stretch reflexes, the central role of neck reflexes, and more.
In our next blog entry we will introduce our pilot study on the primary control, in which we examine head balance, its relationship to the spine, and the central role these elements play in upright posture.
* The quotation used here is actually from a later edition, published in 1946.