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What are primitive reflexes?

They’re the root of many common symptoms that we experience every day - but why do we all share these inborn movement patterns?

 

Reflexes are repetitive, involuntary movements in response to sensory stimuli.  They emerge in utero, assist during the birth process, and integrate in the first part of the child’s life in the more mature and lifelong movement patterns of the postural reflexes. Primitive reflexes have survival, protective, restorative, and postural purposes.  Reflexes assist in the infant’s development; they are an important sign of physical and neurological development. 

At Blomberg Rhythmic Movement Training, we work with both primitive and postural reflexes

Both types of reflexes are critical for proper development and mature adult functioning.

Primitive Reflexes

Primitive reflexes develop during intrauterine life and are fully present usually by birth or shortly thereafter in normally developed full term infants. Primitive reflexes play a fundamental role in establishing head control, developing vision, posture, sensory integration, and the ability to move with stability and control. In addition, the primitive reflexes further stimulate the brain in order to improve attention and control of impulses, helping to regulate activity levels (yes, this is related to hyperactivity!).  They assist in linking up key areas of the brain for emotional control, sensory processing and intellectual, athletic or academic pursuits.

The primitive reflexes integrate into postural reflexes, and this integration should be completed while the infant is still on the floor, before he learns to crawl and walk. For this reason, it is extremely important for babies to be able to move freely on the floor on their stomach and back.

Postural Reflexes

Postural reflexes are necessary for stability and balance. They enable us to move automatically and with ease.  Development of postural reflexes depends upon the basal ganglia (a part of the brain which works in cooperation with the motor cortex to control our motor activity) functioning properly. There are a multitude of reasons why the basal ganglia might not complete the task, which we discuss in our courses.

Primitive reflexes are integrated into mature postural reflexes by the spontaneous rhythmic movements that infants make before learning to crawl and eventually walk.  Postural reflexes help us establish balance, coordination, and overall physical and emotional well-being.  Most postural reflexes are life-long and designed to ensure our survival, especially during stressful situations as we mature into adulthood.

What happens if we don’t integrate these reflexes? Read on below.

 

Integrating Reflexes

Why integrate active reflexes? The number of symptoms associated with primitive reflexes may surprise you.

There are many reflex patterns. Nonintegrated or active primitive reflexes that persist beyond childhood, teen or into adulthood will hinder brain development and can be a major contributor to physical, intellectual, emotional, behavioral and social problems.  The symptoms and reflexes that are most common and which may remain most active for some children or adults are listed below. These reflexes usually are present when there are challenges with balance, coordination, attention, concentration, math, reading and writing, and difficulties with vision, speech and language, behavior, or mental health. Rhythmic Movement Training can assist in completing the reflex patterns and integrating them into our whole body system for increased sensory integration and motor development, improved coordination and balance, enhanced visual, auditory, and academic performance, and overall physical and emotional well-being.

 

Symptoms of active reflexes include:

 
  • ADD/ADHD

  • Angry outbursts

  • Autism

  • Balance problems

  • Behavior challenges

  • Cognitive delays

  • Coordination issues

  • Dyslexia

  • Emotional challenges

  • Joint pain

  • Learning difficulty

  • Motor challenges

  • Muscle pain

  • Muscle weakness

  • Reading difficulty

  • Sensory processing disorders

  • Shyness

  • Sleeping problems

  • Speech and language challenges

  • Vision challenges