What are reflexes?

A reflex is an instinctive, fast, automatic, uncontrolled, and unplanned muscle movement designed to help a baby survive.

Every baby is born with a series of reflexes that enable the senses, brain, and muscles to work together without the baby having to ‘think’ before responding. Without these reflexes, a baby’s heart cannot beat, a baby cannot breathe or control its temperature, get startled/wake up, suckle, grasp, or adjust in ways that ensure survival. These survival mechanics begin to develop during the nine months in utero, preparing a baby for birth and the first few months of life.

Because a baby has no teacher in utero, nature equips the baby for primitive learning through reflexes.

Immediately after birth, the purpose of performing an APGAR test is to determine if the reflexes are active, ensuring that the baby will survive outside the uterus.

Simple reflexes occur throughout life. For instance, when you touch something hot, your hand pulls away without conscious thought. These reactions are governed by specific areas of the spinal cord.

Primitive reflexes, on the other hand, develop during pregnancy and are present at birth to aid in the birthing process. In the first year of life, these reflexes promote sensory-motor development. They are controlled by the brain stem and have a limited lifespan.

Postural ‘reflexes’ are not reflexes, but reactions to gravity to maintain posture and prevent injury.

At the Mind Moves Institute, we specialize in:

  • assessing selected primitive reflexes
  • optimizing selected primitive reflexes to develop neural circuits
  • integrating and inhibiting selected primitive reflexes.

Why do we prioritize reflexes at the Mind Moves Institute?

Neuroscience reveals that inhibiting primitive reflexes is crucial for integrated myelination, laying the foundation for mastering voluntary movement.

Primitive reflexes enable:

  • Neurogenesis: the process by which new neurons are generated and integrated into the Central Nervous System (CNS)
  • Neuronal migration: a developmental process of the brain during which millions of neurons move from their sites of origin to loci within the CNS
  • Synaptogenesis: the formation of synapses, the points of contact where information is transmitted between neurons
  • Neural pruning: the removal of redundant or unnecessary synaptic connections
  • Myelination: the formation of the myelin sheath around a nerve to protect and increase the speed of signals transmitted between neurons (action potentials).

Children (and adults) who have been diagnosed as neuro atypical may have persistent  primitive reflexes. They then tend to be stimulus bound and unable to control reflexive movements and behaviour. Primitive reflexes  should be superseded by postural reactions that are generated from the midbrain. When more than one primitive reflex remains active, it becomes counter-productive to typical neurological development and may give rise to physical, emotional, social and intellectual developmental difficulties resulting in a spiral of developmental and learning difficulties.


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