Complementary and alternative medicine Friday Woo Medicine Quackery Skepticism/critical thinking

Your Friday Dose of Woo: Soundscapes on the brain


I had thought about taking the day off after celebrating the 100th Meeting of the Skeptics’ Circle yesterday, but a skeptic’s work is never done, and, besides, my wife’s out of town for a couple of days. Given the choice of television, working on my program’s section of our cancer center core grant or one of the two other grants I’m currently juggling, or blogging, I wonder what appeals to me more. Hmmmm….

Ah, screw it. I’ve been living my work nearly every waking hour for the last few days. Heck, I even got stuck at work fairly late last night because of the bane of being s surgeon, having a case scheduled as an add-on. Whenever that happens, you can be sure that it won’t start until 6 PM at the earliest–and that’s if you (and your patient) are lucky. I wasn’t lucky, and neither was my patient. (It really sucks for a patient to have to wait so many hours to be operated on.) In any case, blogging helps me maintain my sanity in the face of this unrelenting onslaught, at least for now.

Speaking of faces, though, let’s move on to week’s victim–I mean subject–for the latest installment of Your Friday Dose of Woo. Back in August we met the woo-meister du jour at the heart of this particular woo. (Or, should I say, woomeister de la semaine?) I’m talking about a woman named Mary Elizabeth Wakefield. She runs an “alternative” medicine practice known as the Chi-Akra Center, and at the time she was hawking Acupuncture Facial Rejuvenation, otherwise known as an “acupuncture facelift.” I had to admit, it was pure genius in that it combined an appeal to the vanity that is in us all with the promise of a “no surgery” solution to produce a face lift-like result. Best of all, in an “Emperor’s New Clothes” sort of angle, who’s going to admit after paying so much money for such a procedure that his or her face is just as wrinkly as it was before the treatment? Marks–I mean clients–will convince themselves that they see an improvement, no matter what.

But, hey, acupuncture deals with all those nasty needles being stuck into the skin. There might even be a little bit of blood. Who needs that hassle? Why not instead take advantage of Ms. Wakefield’s new and even more appealing bit of vanity woo?

Why not take advantage of Facial Soundscapes: Harmonic Renewal™? Check it out:

Drawing upon her experience both as the creator of Constitutional Facial Renewal™ and an Acutonics® practitioner, Ms. Wakefield, in collaboration with her teaching partner, MichelAngelo, Director of Astrological Medicine & Musical Studies, Acutonics®, has formulated a vibrational facial protocol utilizing the entire range of Acutonics® planetary tuning forks that is gentle, powerful and non-invasive. Using the Five Elements, this treatment is tailor-made for each person’s constitutional archetype. An entire topical herbal protocol accompanies the treatment.

Vibrations again. Why does it always have to be vibrations?

But, hey, planetary tuning forks! That sure sounds cool, certainly way cooler than any surgery or medications I can offer patients. Even cooler, Ms. Wakefield is “personalizing” the frequencies for each patient. But what frequencies? How does she know which frequencies to use? Is there any science behind it? (I think you know the answer to that question.) Let’s take a look:

A number of studies have been conducted on the vibrational healing properties of tuning forks. The Pythagorean monochord vibrates to overtones that can be detected in the chanting of Tibetan monks, the sounding board of a piano, an operatically-trained voice, musical instruments, and a variety of sounds in nature. Tuning forks are made to bear these resonances, and in certain intervals can be applied to acupuncture points and muscles to lift, tonify, disperse and firm the face.

This unique modality, based upon the principles of Chinese medicine, addresses certain areas of the face which are difficult to treat with needles, like the neck, chin and jowls. Tuning forks can “lift” the pterygoids, masseter and platysma muscles by means of select vibrating intervals. For instance, the interval of a second disperses, a third sedates, and a fifth tonifies. These vibrating forks are applied gently to the face, and are relaxing and pleasantly tingly.

I’m sure they probably do feel pleasantly tingly. One part of a neurological exam involves tuning forks. They’re used to test a patient’s ability to sense vibration, which is distinct from the ability to sense light touch, two-point discrimination, and pain. Placing a tuning fork on the skin can be pleasantly tingly, although it can be annoying or even uncomfortable if placed in certain areas. In any case, reading this, I see the same sort of nonsense that Ms. Wakefield was peddling when it came to her acupuncture facial rejuvenation, in which she claimed that the needles would somehow “tighten up” the muscles of the face. Of course, whenever I hear someone say that tightening up the muscles of the face does much good, I point out that, even if it works, just tightening the muscles doesn’t do much good unless you can tighten the skin, too. After all, it’s the saggy skin that makes people look old, not “loose muscles.”

But do these tuning fork tuned to the frequency of wool even tighten up the muscles? Who knows? No evidence is presented. I’m sorry, but the bit about the tones sounding like Tibetan monks just made me laugh. Maybe she recommends listening to recordings of chants while undergoing the treatment. At least that would probably be soothing. But, hey maaaan, this is science! Really and truly it is! Don’t believe me? Oh, ye of little faith! Check out this “evidence”:

The Acutonics® tuning forks which are used in these treatments are fashioned from high-quality, space-grade metals, and are vibrationally calibrated to the frequencies of the Sun, Moon and the other 8 planets, as well as Chiron, Nibiru, Sedna, and the 4 female asteroids.

The Acutonics® system of sound healing is a distillation of the theories of Pythagoras, Johannes Kepler, and Swiss scientist Hans Cousto, given this particular form and further refined by Donna Carey, Ph. D., L. Ac. of the Kairos Institute of Sound Healing, LLC.

Wow! Pythagoras and Kepler! You don’t get much more serious science that that! Well, not quite, at least not to me. Personally, I like my medical treatment to have a bit more–shall we say?–recent scientific backing. But, you say, what about Hans Cousto? Well, what about him? All I could find out about him is that he’s a woo-meister too, one who claims to have discovered something called the “Cosmic Octave,” which somehow–or so Cousto claims–ties together different kinds of perodically occurring natural phenomena, inclusing the orbit of the planets, the weather, colors and musical rhythms and tones. And, of course, this Octave includes all the “rhythms” of the human body (whether they exist or not). In fact, this is nothing more than the usual appeal to ancient knowledge, also known as the fallacy of the ancient wisdom. But Ms. Wakefield can sure tell a story:

Each tuning fork is tuned to a natural harmonic series based on the orbital properties of the planet or heavenly body. These forks resonate in harmony with the celestial bodies and each communicates a distinct aspect of the Music of the Spheres. They are used to correct imbalances, uncover emotions, stimulate growth, development, and transformation and facilitate inner harmony and wholeness.

Tuning forks are applied to specific acupuncture and acupressure points to access the body’s meridian and chakric energy systems, as well as to points and regions on the face. The tuning fork is struck, then placed on the body or held near the ears. The sound waves of the forks vibrate and travel deeply into the body along energy pathways, effecting human physiology and reaching places not easily accessed by traditional medicine.

Of course they do. I wonder if Ms. Wakefield has ever measured this energy field or documented changes in human “energy pathways” as a result of her treatments. Never mind. I know the answer to that one, too.

But, you now, I’m getting tired of “conventional” medicine and surgery. After all, annoyances such as what my patient and I had to put up with last night are all too common. Maybe I could become a sound healer. All I’d have to do is to sign up for Ms. Wakefield’s practitioner training. Now there’s a low stress class to take. I could certainly handle the topics, such as Facial Soundscapes: Harmonic Renewal™, Planetary Soundscapes: The Cosmic Countenance™, and The Transcendent Face™.

I”m not sure I want my face to transcend anything.

Be that as it may, though, this is some mighty tasty, grade-A woo. It even contains something like “quantum music theory,” because it absolutely, positively isn’t high quality woo until someone inserts the word “quantum” into it. But that’s not the best stuff I could learn. The two topics that really interest me in this course are a “planetary model for facial wrinkles” and “Facial syndromes as a manifestation of underlying planetary disharmony with recommendations for treatment.”

Now, we’re talking! When it comes right down to it, Ms. Wakefield is practicing astrology for the face, truly a modality worthy of Your Friday Dose of Woo.

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

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