Dr Helen Sexton

Session Title

Self Regulation: Chiropractic's Influence on Vagal Tone

Session Outline:

During this presentation Dr Sexton will discuss how an individual’s capacity to organise their physiological resources and respond appropriately to internal and external challenges in the environment can be measured by Heart Rate Variability (HRV). This metric, HRV, has become a well-used index of physical health and wellbeing on the one hand and emotional and social health on the other.  A large body of research over the last two decades from many different disciplines suggests that mastery of the many different parameters of regulation – including physiological, social/emotional and cognitive, depends on how flexibly our Parasympathetic Nervous System, through the Vagus nerve can influence the heart. 

During this talk she will be exploring this research and looking at how chiropractors can influence vagal afferent input and improve our patients general health and regulatory capacities.

Learning Outcomes:

  • Developing a nuanced understanding of the subsystems of the Autonomic Nervous System
  • A discussion of two models – the Polyvagal Theory (PVT) and Neuro-Visceral Integration Model (NVIM), that have been explored extensively in the literature to help us to understand how cardiac vagal tone influences our physical and psychological health
  • Understanding the complex signal - Heart Rate Variability, including the brain networks that influence it
  • A detailed look at the Vagus nerve, including its role in a larger integrated system, the Central Autonomic Network (CAN)
  • How the Autonomic Nervous System evolved in mammals to support complex social, emotional and cognitive behaviours, and particularly, how the myelinated Vagus is neurophysiologically linked to the facial muscles of expressivity and receptivity
  • Learn strategies to recruit the newer myelinated Vagal System and shift our patient’s physiology towards states that favor growth, restoration and prosocial behaviour.



HelenSextonDr Helen Sexton has enjoyed over 25 years living, breathing and practicing Chiropractic in a busy clinic in regional Victoria. Completing the Carrick Functional Neurology program spurred her enthusiasm to reconcile neuroscience within the clinical environment of a family practice, and she embraces the challenge towards a brain-based model of Chiropractic care.

Her interest in family health and child development has led her to explore the ways we regulate our physiology and emotional and social health. Helen’s professional journey has seen her connected with various interest groups in the profession and lecture on diverse platforms within the Chiropractic community.

She continues to be inspired by family practice and believes Chiropractic is uniquely placed to support families and individuals to live healthier and happier lives.