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bibliography * The PainScience Bibliography contains plain language summaries of thousands of scientific papers and others sources, like a specialized blog. This page is about a single scientific paper in the bibliography, Miura 2013.

Fancy fMRI reflexology study is likely meaningless

Tags: controversy, massage, acupuncture, debunkery, manual therapy, treatment, mind, energy work

PainSci summary of Miura 2013?This page is one of thousands in the bibliography. It is not a general article: it is focused on a single scientific paper, and it may provide only just enough context for the summary to make sense. Links to other papers and more general information are provided at the bottom of the page, as often as possible. ★☆☆☆☆?1-star ratings are for negative examples, fatally flawed papers, junk science, suspected fraud. Ratings are a highly subjective opinion, and subject to revision at any time. If you think this paper has been incorrectly rated, please let me know.

Reflexology will probably get a big PR boost from this bogus science. It’s already “highly accessed,” which creates the appearance of validity where there is probably is none.

It has a shiny, hard protective shell of superficial legitimacy. That is, it sounds good and fancy, and there’s nothing obviously wrong with the paper. And yet fMRI studies are notoriously prone to producing research artifacts, and the results just happen — coincidence, I’m sure — to give a lot of comfort and aid to one of the most implausible and scientifically bankrupt treatment claims in all of alternative medicine.

Dr. Christopher Moyer: “There is no good theory for reflexology. In the absence of a good theory, a single study that connects a twitch of the toe to the blink of an eye is as close to worthless as it gets.” Without high quality replication, this gets no more than a Spock eyebrow raise from me.

~ Paul Ingraham

original abstractAbstracts here may not perfectly match originals, for a variety of technical and practical reasons. Some abstacts are truncated for my purposes here, if they are particularly long-winded and unhelpful. I occasionally add clarifying notes. And I make some minor corrections.

BACKGROUND: Reflexology is an alternative medical practice that produces beneficial effects by applying pressure to specific reflex areas. Our previous study suggested that reflexological stimulation induced cortical activation in somatosensory cortex corresponding to the stimulated reflex area; however, we could not rule out the possibility of a placebo effect resulting from instructions given during the experimental task. We used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to investigate how reflexological stimulation of the reflex area is processed in the primary somatosensory cortex when correct and pseudo-information about the reflex area is provided. Furthermore, the laterality of activation to the reflexological stimulation was investigated.

METHODS: Thirty-two healthy Japanese volunteers participated. The experiment followed a double-blind design. Half of the subjects received correct information, that the base of the second toe was the eye reflex area, and pseudo-information, that the base of the third toe was the shoulder reflex area. The other half of the subjects received the opposite information. fMRI time series data were acquired during reflexological stimulation to both feet. The experimenter stimulated each reflex area in accordance with an auditory cue. The fMRI data were analyzed using a conventional two-stage approach. The hemodynamic responses produced by the stimulation of each reflex area were assessed using a general linear model on an intra-subject basis, and a two-way repeated-measures analysis of variance was performed on an intersubject basis to determine the effect of reflex area laterality and information accuracy.

RESULTS: Our results indicated that stimulation of the eye reflex area in either foot induced activity in the left middle postcentral gyrus, the area to which tactile sensation to the face projects, as well as in the postcentral gyrus contralateral foot representation area. This activity was not affected by pseudo information. The results also indicate that the relationship between the reflex area and the projection to the primary somatosensory cortex has a lateral pattern that differs from that of the actual somatotopical representation of the body.

CONCLUSION: These findings suggest that a robust relationship exists between neural processing of somatosensory percepts for reflexological stimulation and the tactile sensation of a specific reflex area.

This page is part of the PainScience BIBLIOGRAPHY, which contains plain language summaries of thousands of scientific papers & others sources. It’s like a highly specialized blog. A few highlights: