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Dartmouth Investigators Push for Substantive Study of Body-Mind Therapy Approaches

February 04, 2015
Lebanon, NH

In a Theory and Hypothesis paper titled "Somatic Experiencing: Using Interoception and Proprioception as Core Elements of Trauma Therapy," published today in Frontiers in Psychology, Dartmouth investigators Peter Payne, SEP, and Mardi Crane-Godreau, PhD, note the lack of hypothesized scientific models for the mechanisms of action responsible for outcomes in Somatic Experiencing® (SE) trauma therapy and other body-mind therapies.

Pointing to the well-established association of stress with mortality from cancer and many other diseases, the team spoke of the need for more research into the mechanisms through which SE and similar therapies resolve stress, trauma, and their co-morbidities. "This perspective explores the interactions between the motor, autonomic and immune systems, and offers a rational approach to the study of both healthy and maladaptive responses to stress and trauma," said Crane-Godreau.

Payne, SE founder Peter Levine, and Crane-Godreau present the theory through a composite case study of a SE treatment, and offer a possible neurophysiological rationale for the mechanisms involved. They present a theory of trauma and chronic stress as a functional dysregulation of the "Core Response Network." Clarifying the concept of the Core Response Network, a new concept originated by Payne and Crane-Godreau, Payne explained, "We are talking about sub-cortical, largely unconscious responses. They involve in particular, the autonomic nervous system, the emotional motor system, the reticular arousal systems and the limbic system. We believe that it is the persistent maladaptation of the Core Response Network that is the essence of the stress and trauma."

SE is a form of trauma therapy which emphasizes guiding the client's attention to interoceptive, kinesthetic, and proprioceptive experience. Levine, a co-author on the publication, claims that this kind of inner attention, in addition to the use of kinesthetic and interoceptive imagery, can lead to the resolution of symptoms of chronic and traumatic stress and to increased resilience and well-being.

"We believe that this paper will facilitate future research and open a wider discussion of the neuroscience behind the efficacy of the body-oriented stress therapies," Crane-Godreau explained. "We hope that this will include studies of neuro-immune interactions."
Payne and Crane-Godreau suggest that future high quality clinical studies are essential.

Peter Payne, BA, SEP, and Mardi Crane-Godreau, PhD, SEP, work in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at Dartmouth's Geisel School of Medicine where Crane-Godreau is an assistant professor. They are funded in part to study Qigong (meditative movement), which they believe shares mechanisms of action with Somatic Experiencing®.

About Norris Cotton Cancer Center at Dartmouth-Hitchcock

Norris Cotton Cancer Center combines advanced cancer research at Dartmouth and the Geisel School of Medicine with patient-centered cancer care provided at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, NH, at Dartmouth-Hitchcock regional locations in Manchester, Nashua, and Keene, NH, and St. Johnsbury, VT, and at 12 partner hospitals throughout New Hampshire and Vermont. It is one of 41 centers nationwide to earn the National Cancer Institute's "Comprehensive Cancer Center" designation. Learn more about Norris Cotton Cancer Center research, programs, and clinical trials online at cancer.dartmouth.edu.

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