The Inherent Rhythmic Motion of the Brain and Spinal Cord

Motion of the central nervous system anatomy has been well documented in research studies from multiple sources mostly outside the osteopathic profession.

  • Greitz, et al.1 utilizing MRI technology, found brain tissue motion related to the contraction phase of the heart, demonstrating a “piston-like” remolding of the brain.
  • Enzmann and Pelc2 demonstrated brain motion during the cardiac cycle with MRI technology.
  • Poncelet, et al.3 using echo-planar magnetic resonance imaging, demonstrated pulsatile motion of brain tissue (parenchyma), appearing consistent with the contraction phase of the heart.
  • Feinberg and Mark4 postulate that brain motion and the pulsatile nature of Cerebro-Spinal Fluid (CSF) are driven by the choroid plexus (specific brain tissue that creates CSF). Their MRI study suggested that the blood flow in the brain served as the force for CSF circulation.
  • Maier, et al.5 demonstrated periodic brain and CSF motion associated with movement of the blood through the head.
  • Mikulis, et al.6 demonstrated movement of the cervical spinal cord in a back and forth manner during the cardiac cycle.

The Primary Respiratory Mechanism (PRM) also proposes intracellular activity that contributes to the rhythmic motion of the Central Nervous System (CNS). Intracellular rhythmicity has been identified in animals and humans.

  • In 1935, Canti, Bland and Russell7 observed “a characteristic rhythmic pulsatility” in cultures of human brain cells (oligodendrocytes). “We believe also that we have seen similar cells in a few tissue culture preparations from the cortex of the normal human brain.”
  • In 1957 Lumsden, et al.8 filmed rat brain tissue (oligodendrocytes) under a microscope demonstrating a similar rhythmic pulsatility.
  • In 1957, Wolley and Shaw9 reported rhythmic contractions of the oligodendroglial cells of brain and spinal cord.
  • In the early 1960s Hyden10 reported that glial cells, grown in a tissue culture, pulsate continuously.
  • In 1998, Vern et al.11 were able to measure rhythmic oscillatory (back and forth) patterns related to metabolism in cat and rabbit brain cells (cortex), using more modern technology.
  • Dani et al.12 showed active waves of Calcium ion activity in rat astrocytes (brain cells) in response to nerve activity.


Experimental evidence demonstrates that the brain and spinal cord do have motion, which appears to be of a rhythmic nature. Biochemical activity inside the cell has also been identified, which produces a rhythmic activity of brain tissue.


  1. Grietz D, Wirestam R, Franck A, et al. Pulsatile brain movement and associated hydrodynamics studied by magnetic resonance phase imaging: The Monro-Kellie doctrine revisited. Neuroradiology. 1992; 34:370-380.
  2. Enzmann DR, Pelc NJ. Brain motion: measurement with phase-contrast MR imaging. Radiology. 1992;185:653-660.
  3. Poncelet BP, Wedeen VJ, Weiskoff RM, Cohen MS. Brain parenchyma motion: measurement with cine echo-planar MR imaging. Radiology. 1992;185:645-651.
  4. Feinberg DA, Mark AS. Human brain motion and cerebrospinal fluid circulation demonstrated with MR velocity imaging. Radiology. 1987;163:793-799.
  5. Maier SE, Hardy CJ, Jolesz FA. Brain and cerebrospinal fluid motion: real-time quantification with M-mode MR imaging. Radiology. 1994;193:477-483.
  6. Mikulis DJ, Wood ML, Zerdoner OAM, Poncelet BP. Oscillatory motion of the normal cervical spinal cord. Radiology. 1994;192:117-121.
  7. Lumsden CE, Pomerat CM. Normal oligodendrocytes in cell tissue: a preliminary report on the pulsatile glial cells in tissue cultures from the corpus callosum of the normal rat brain. Experimental Cell Research. 1951;2:103-114.
  8. Canti RG, Bland JO, Russell DS. Association Research Nervous Mental Disease. 1935;16:1-5.
  9. Wolley DW, Shaw EN. Evidence for the participation of serotonin in mental processes. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 1957;66:649-665.
  10. Hyden H. Satellite cells in the central nervous system. Sci Am. 1961;205:62.
  11. Vern BA, Leheta BJ, Juel VC, et al. Slow oscillations of cytochrome oxidase redox state and blood volume in unanesthetized cat and rabbit cortex: interhemisheric synchrony. Adv Exp Med Bio. 1998;454:561-570.
  12. Dani JW, Chernjavsky A, Smith SJ. Neuronal activity triggers calcium waves in hippocampus astrocyte networks. Neuron. 1992;8:429-440.