In attempt to predict the direction of intra-operative brain shift, I conceptualized the series of events leading up to that precise moment. Following the removal of the dura, the pressure in the brain changes and we witness a loss of cerebral spinal fluid (CSF), the clear liquid that surrounds and nurtures the brain. As a result, the brain collapses under the force of gravity and seeks to inhabit the space previously occupied by the CSF and the tumor tissue that is removed during surgery. But, what drives this movement?
In physics, we know gravity is a force that attacks a body toward the another physical body with mass, and that that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. That is, these forces (action and reaction) come in pairs - when one object directs pressure to another, the second one will respond equally, but in the opposite direction.
However, anticipating the direction of brain shift is not as straightforward. Soft neural tissues deform non-linearly. And so, this movement is neither linear nor perpendicular to gravity, but rather a consequence of the dynamic interactions between the plethora of forces (i.e., gravity) and the resected regions of the tumor tissue?
That is, is intra-operative brain shift a dance with gravity?
Dance has been around since the dawn of human existence, whether as a form of expression, entertainment, or education. And although what dance is could be hard to define depending on who you are speaking to, I would argue that all life form, on some fundamental level, moves in a rhythmical pattern, unique to them, and perhaps even unique to all other life forms. So what if something that is innate becomes lost or something most people take for granted suddenly becomes seemingly impossible? What happens to systems within the human body that run without much conscious effort when they are suddenly disrupted by disease or trauma? Is there a way to acquire them again?
Is there a way of connecting to a system within the human body that doesn’t usually require conscious interference? And if so, might we be able to repair it if need be?
For the last four years, I have worked with the Parkinson’s community as a teacher, volunteer, and assistant in Dance for PD® and PD Movement Lab℠. I have really enjoyed getting to know the brave and beautiful people who come to class week after week, meeting the demand of Parkinson’s disease head on, with an open heart and keen eye on exploring their bodies with creativity in a community that thrives together.
Dance, and its stimulating effects on the body and the brain, has been the subject of many recent studies, as has the study of yoga and meditation and other ayurvedic modalities. For one thing, they both encompass the voluntary communication between the mind and the body, and the undivided attention of one to effectively create change in the other. Of course one could say there is a symbiotic relationship at play in terms of touch and proprioception as a building block for movement learning, but it’s safe to say that whichever way the flow of information is going, it’s a crucial one for not only development, but also healing and nuerorehabilitation.
I’ve experienced the transformative power of Dance, both as a physical training tool, and one of creative expression. In conversation with my partner from across the country, I have been inspired to delve deeper in some research I’ve had on the periphery over the last year or so…
Ever since my studies of Performance Psychology with Dr. Noa Kageyama, I’ve had the interest to see if my Dance for PD students would benefit from such encoding, consolidation, and retrieval methods spelled out in Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning - if long term learning might be attainable in what can sometimes be a tenuous brain body relationship. And how such development might be quantified and codified after time. I’m quite intent on putting such methods into practice while developing this show I’ve been co-writing with members of the Brooklyn Parkinson’s Group.
Another research opportunity will be to reach out to, Julie Worden, a fellow teacher from Dance for PD, and a Kundalini Yoga Teacher, with whom I had the honor of assisting and co-teaching over the last year. There are many speculative connections between mudras and brain reprogramming, so it is something I need to explore, and a conversation I would love to start, which brings me to another book on my shelf that’s been calling me back: Eastern Body, Western Mind.
I’m interested in finding out how certain narrative elements of Indian classical dance might benefit dancers with Parkinson’s, especially in aiding memorization efforts towards mastery of material, and subsequently if improvisation was then added to the mix to ensure a sense of freedom, authority, and creative self-exploration.
In terms of Mudras in Indian classical dance, I now realize the amazing journey in which I find myself. With the help of my SciArt partner I have come to find out that mudras aid in the storytelling, while also conveying specific actions, creatures, or even a certain object to a person.
There's also an emotional component represented by the hand(s), but it’s the dancer’s emotional state, and their natural expression of that state, that guides their intent, making the use of their hand(s) to visually convey those feelings a visual byproduct and not necessarily the meaning of the gesture itself. And finally, a new detail for this particular style, that dancers don't sing or speak while performing, “Hence,” as Devika puts it, “for the audience to understand and to feel engaged, you need to find other ways to express feelings. It's a communication tool and that's partly why most mudras are elaborate and can be a bit complicated.”
She also mentioned to me the importance of the development of certain skills over time, from a young age, building a base for certain moves and rhythmical patterns, and building up in complexity, through practice and repetition, in a sequentially based learning, or cumulative curriculum. I’m thinking what exercises might help people with Parkinson’s develop more dexterity with their fingers, and perhaps, as a result, more strength or control in their shoulder girdle. (Reminds me, I must ask a PT about that correlation between shoulder control and strength, and usage of the pinky and ring fingers).
And the wheels keep turning! Until next time!