Sunday, January 29, 2006

"Proprietorship" ?

I came across a chiropractic website recently whose creator, based in Oregon, has decided to appropriate the term "Neuromodulation Technique", own it, and move to protect it, apparently so that he can develop an empire of training and a stable of trained practitioners to help him move forth comfortably well-off into the future. From his site:
Neuromodulation Technique is a proprietary system of health care based upon a method of accessing and assessing the autonomic control system of the patient through muscle response testing utilizing verbal and/or non-verbal semantic questions and statements.

We use a unique form of muscle response testing as one convenient tool to query the ACS, thereby determining the errors in the way the ACS is controlling the body. Specific query statements are codified into NMT clinical pathways that constitute algorithms created to address particular areas of physiology like allergy or sensory/motor function. Based on the information derived by applying this investigation of the patient, these treatment algorithms define corrective information with with which the NMT practitioner is able to semantically reprogram and debug scripts. This process is further augmented and reinforced with percussive, or other stimulation of vertebral segments, specific breathing patterns, and other sensory stimuli. It is based upon widely accepted neurophysiological models. There are no vials, special reflex points, or potions used. It is the NMT proposition that the closest analogy to the human nervous system is the computer.

The NMT method is based on generally recognized principles of neurophysiology, physiology, psychology, linguistics, and anatomy. NMT constitutes a unique and proprietary system of health care protected by applicable laws United States copyright, and trademark laws. Patent is pending for the NMT process.

I have rolled this discovery around in my mind for a few weeks. As I read through the site I noted that his path has been through chiropractic training, and then through various winding "energy" trainings. It seems he did some reading, had a bright idea one day, and is now taking the term "neuromodulation" to mean (as near as I can make out) justification of "energy" techniques by calling them "neuromodulation technique", and furthermore, he wants to lay claim to the term, as if its origin had something to do with him personally. ("Shoehorning" is a word that comes to mind..)

In any case, ahem.. I beg to differ. Neuromodulation is a term that describes something quite specific and scientific, i.e., changing an input into the nervous system to facilitate a change in its output. Period. No one else to my knowlege has ever laid claim to the term especially in order to protect some perceived financial interest.

This article, Reality Check, will help those who are confused about what "energy techniques" are, to gain some perspective. A brief foray into some self-education about what pseudoscience entails, might be of interest. This page contains more information about pseudoscience. In particular, note the blue comparison columns further down the page. Here is another perspective on pseudoscience from Wikipedia. It contains many useful links, including one to Occam's Razor, a pithy term used in science to describe whacking away superfluity and decide what is a worthy basis for further investigation and what is not. Here is yet another link to a page that distinguishes pseudo from actual science.

A point I would like to make is that no one can "own" a term that describes something scientifically specific. This ambitious practitioner may be able to own the term "neuromodulation technique" as defined by himself, i.e. as a catchall term that covers "energy" treatment, e.g., one form of which used to require the purchase of vials of special water for the patient to hold, from which it could be determined (somehow) what the "diagnosis" was... and when the practice to "neuromodulation technique" suddenly purchase of said vials is no longer required..

... but he can't own a clear chunk of English that has a scientific meaning and is used within those parameters.

I will continue to call myself "Neuromodulator" and I will continue to argue for the term "neuromodulation" to be a free word without commercial strings attached. As long as the practitioner in question continues to attach the term "neuromodulation" as an adjective, modifying his own particular methods i.e., a noun, "technique," I will have no further quibble with him.

In closing, I would like to draw attention to this excellent essay, written by a British physician, entitled The Sea Monster and the Whirlpool which may be able to give you a glimpse of the seas science-based and science-respecting practitioners have to navigate.

Finally, I want to state that this chiropractor individual and I have nothing whatsoever to do with each other, and that's how it shall remain.

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