Science Based Models of AT

There are a number of references to scientific concepts in Alexander technique literature and websites. There is also a growing body of rigorous science about how AT works. Here we separate models based on rigorous science from persistent but out-of-date models that may have been reasonable in the past but are no longer scientifically valid.

Current scientific models:

Motor control: AT as reorganizing the postural system

Several experiments suggest that the AT affects postural systems. AT teacher training1, AT lessons1, and AT-like instructions2 affect postural tone to reduce stiffness by making the postural support more dynamically responsive. According to this model changes in movement3–7, balance8,9, and other coordination patterns10, may result indirectly from postural changes, rather than from learning to move or balance in a specific way.

More about AT as postural reorganization
More about the science of posture

Psychosomatic changes

Psychosomatic changes are central to the AT, however to date no studies have revealed how the AT affects cognitive, psychological or emotional phenomena. Despite this, the interplay between such cognitive factors and motor behaviour is currently a hot topic on the frontiers of neuroscience. While not AT-specific, changes in posture have been found to affect psycho-cognitive state (refs), in particular, poor neck posture in healthy older adults is correlated with worse performance on cognative tasks11. Psychophysical models of the AT will be developed as more data becomes available.

Out-of-date and/or invalid models

Magnus Reflex model

This model was first adopted by Alexander in the 1920’s to explain the strong effects that head, neck, and back coordination on the rest of the body. The model is outdated and was of dubious relevance to begin with.

Startle Reflex

This model describes postural pathologies as resulting from an overactive startle reflex. While the startle pattern is a scientifically well researched phenomenon it is not appropriate for describing postural problems.

Natural Movement

This model asserts that there are natural movement patterns, such as those found in children, animals, or primitive tribes, that can be reactivated when acquired bad habits are inhibited. Scientifically, the word “natural” is poorly defined and there is little evidence for immutable so-called natural patterns.  Also, children’s movements are demonstrably less efficient, and their balance is demonstrably worse, than adults’.


This model compares the complex force networks in the body with tensegrity models to account for observations of delocalized tension and support. However there is no scientific reason to think that the body in fact resembles a tensegrity model, and reasons to think that it does not.


Cacciatore T, Gurfinkel V, Horak F, Cordo P, Ames K. Increased dynamic regulation of postural tone through Alexander Technique training. Hum Mov Sci. 2011;30(1):74-89. [PubMed]
Cohen RG, Gurfinkel VS, Kwak E, Warden AC, Horak FB. Lighten Up. Neurorehabilitation and Neural Repair. 2015;29(9):878-888. doi: 10.1177/1545968315570323
Jones FP, Gray FE, Hanson JA, Oconnell DN. An experimental study of  the effect of head balance on patterns of posture and movement in man. Journal of Psychology. 1959;47:247-258.
Cacciatore TW, Gurfinkel VS, Horak FB, Day BL. Prolonged weight-shift and altered spinal coordination during sit-to-stand in practitioners of the Alexander Technique. Gait & Posture. 2011;34(4):496-501. doi: 10.1016/j.gaitpost.2011.06.026
Cacciatore TW, Mian OS, Peters A, Day BL. Neuromechanical interference of posture on movement: evidence from Alexander technique teachers rising from a chair. Journal of Neurophysiology. 2014;112(3):719-729. doi: 10.1152/jn.00617.2013
Hamel KA, Ross C, Schultz B, O’Neill M, Anderson DI. Older adult Alexander Technique practitioners walk differently than healthy age-matched controls. Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies. 2016;20(4):751-760. doi: 10.1016/j.jbmt.2016.04.009
O’Neill MM, Anderson DI, Allen DD, Ross C, Hamel KA. Effects of Alexander Technique training experience on gait behavior in older adults. Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies. 2015;19(3):473-481. doi: 10.1016/j.jbmt.2014.12.006
Dennis R. Functional reach improvement in normal older women after Alexander Technique instruction. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 1999;54(1):M8-11. [PubMed]
Cacciatore T, Horak F, Henry S. Improvement in automatic postural coordination following alexander technique lessons in a person with low back pain. Phys Ther. 2005;85(6):565-578. [PubMed]
Austin J, Ausubel P. Enhanced respiratory muscular function in normal adults after lessons in proprioceptive musculoskeletal education without exercises. Chest. 1992;102(2):486-490. [PubMed]
Cohen RG, Vasavada AN, Wiest MM, Schmitter-Edgecombe M. Mobility and Upright Posture Are Associated with Different Aspects of Cognition in Older Adults. Front Aging Neurosci. 2016;8. doi: 10.3389/fnagi.2016.00257
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