The Vault

Professor Eugene R. Lumbers

Head of School of Physiology & Pharmacology, The University of New South Wales, Sydney


I wanted to welcome you here today on behalf of the School of Physiology and Pharmacology. As you are all aware of course, physiologists work out how things function, how things are put together, how we integrate from a biological point of view, and the pharmacology side of our school, of course, deals with the inter-relationships of drugs and the mechanisms of drug-action.

Body Information and the Brain

I guess, thinking about the Alexander Technique, one would have to say that underpinning it is the concept of 'postural awareness.' I know that is only one tiny aspect of it, but I was thinking about this and saying to myself "but you know, when I think about it from the point of view of a physiologist—this term 'postural awareness'— how do I know I am standing here talking to you?" Then, one has to open one's mind and say what information is coming in—information from my skin, my joints, my muscles? This all precisely monitors how much muscle tone I have. All that information is coming in from the vestibular canals, the visualing cues that I am using, all of which is pouring into my central nervous system, as I stand here, and, at the same time, I am processing that information but ignoring a large amount of it. I am not thinking about my 'big toe' -but I just did when I said 'big toe'. My brain has this incredible capacity to process information in such a way and it fascinates me with the Alexander Technique that what you are doing is taking that sort of basic biology and using it to help people. Particularly because of my own interest I am fascinated at the work you do with musicians. This is an outside interest I have, not an interest as a physiologist.

Research in the School of Physiology & Pharmacology

So, I felt it very appropriate that perhaps the School of Physiology and Pharmacology at New South Wales is, in a sense, not hosting the conference but is such a key player in the conference, not just because of David's work in posture but also because we have other neurophysiologists in the school who have made a significant contribution over the years to our understanding of how we process the information—providing the biological substrate on which we work. Professor Rowe's study on our perception of touch and showing the tracts up the spinal cord—how the information crosses over, and where it goes into the central nervous system—this has been Professor Rowe's work for many years. Professor McClosky, who was the previous head of school before I became head of school, has carried out tremendously elegant experiments, that are internationally recognised, on proprioception and how we know where we are at any particular point in time. So, with those brief words, I feel that the School of Physiology and Pharmacology, as I say, has a place in welcoming you here today. During the week I believe you are coming up to the department to do practical exercises and to do some work on physiology. I hope that during that time, when you are up there, you will think about the work that we do in trying to find out these basic pathways, the basic processing that is involved in finally putting the integrated story together. I wish you all success for your conference and I hope you have a very successful week and a very exciting time in Sydney. For those of you coming from overseas I really hope you have a chance to find out what a great city Sydney is as well as doing all your learning. Thank you.

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