Balance Integrated Health

Childhood behavioural, developmental and learning disorders

Our Central Nervous System is our Control Centre for Living.


Anatomically, the central nervous system is composed of the brain and the spinal cord, the brain may be further divided into a hierarchy of centres:

  • Of course these brain regions are not isolated, they are quite complexly interlinked, but separating them helps to understand brain processes.

'Primitive' means 'the earliest of its kind' and the nerve centres controlling primitive reflexes are located in the oldest and therefore most primitive part of the brain, the brainstem.

A reflex does not involve thinking, it is an involuntary response. That is; given a sensory stimulus such as touch, noise, heat or hunger for example there is an automatic, involuntary reaction if the relevant reflex is active.

Primitive reflexes are needed for the survival and development in the womb and in early months of life. As higher centres begin to mature enough for conscious control of activity, the involuntary, uncontrollable reflex responses are stored away for use in special circumstances, like the need to quickly move a body part away from excessive heat or something sharp. The reflexes stay with us for the remainder of our life, but if all is well they are integrated into higher centre control.

Primitive reflexes ideally begin to function in a particular order and are integrated in a specific sequence. If they are retained out of sequence, they disturb the development and integration of subsequent reflexes.

What causes reflexes to be inappropriately retained? Like all questions on the nature of life and health there are no absolute answers. From research and experience it appears that trauma of some kind is involved somewhere between conception and early months of life. The trauma can be physical, chemical, emotional, hormonal or other forms not yet researched.

In utero many chemicals and hormones can pass through the umbilical cord and all manner of traumatic events can occur in the delicate earlier months of life. The biggest causative factor appears to be birth trauma. Birth trauma includes any intervention at birth including chemical induction, instrumental delivery, caesarian section and anaesthetic. Statistics and clinical observation show that there may also be genetic factors involved.

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Fear Paralysis Reflex (FPR)

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Moro Reflex (MR)

Begins to function between 9-12 weeks after conception and is normally fully developed at birth. The newborn’s higher centres have not yet developed enough to make a rational decision about whether a circumstance is threatening or not.

The newborn arches its head back, lifts its arms up and back, spreads its hands and takes gasps of air as if falling. It then curls forwards and pulls its legs up, folds its arms across its chest and breathes out in a cry for help seemingly to grasp or cling to mother or to protect the most vulnerable front of the body.

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Rooting Reflex (RR)

The combination of rooting and suck reflexes ensure that a babies head turns toward a source of food and the mouth opens wide enough to accommodate a nipple.

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Juvenile Suck Reflex (JSR)

The neonate projects the tongue forwards to suck a nipple. In the adult swallow reflex, the tongue moves backwards to push a bolus of food down the throat.

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Asymmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex (ATNR)

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Wlist the ATNR is operating, the hand moves in conjunction with the head. This connection between touch and vision helps to establish distance perception and hand eye coordination.

By the middle of the first year of life this is normally accomplished and the ATNR, being no longer required, should be integrated.

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Palmar and Plantar Reflexes (PR)

The Plantar reflex is similar to the Palmar reflex in that stroking or pressing the ball of the foot causes the foot to flex and the toes to flex or curl and should integrate at about the same time, between 4 - 6 months. The Palmar and Plantar reflexes are part of a group of reflexes that develop in utero and whose common characteristic is to grasp.

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Spinal Galant Reflex (SGR)

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Tonic Labyrinthine Reflex (TLR)

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Symmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex (STNR)

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Retained Neonatal Reflex Correction (RNR)

The Central Nervous System is so important as a Control Centre that it is housed within a membrane which isolates it from the rest of the body. Outside that membrane, blood supplies nutrition and lymph carries wastage. Inside the membrane, a special clear fluid called cerebrospinal fluid provides nutrition and protection.

The membrane surrounding the Central Nervous System is called the Dura Mater. It attaches at its uppermost end to the inside of our skull; it surrounds our brain, brainstem and spinal cord, and attaches at its lowermost end to our tailbone. Cerebrospinal fluid is circulated mainly by the rhythmic movement of our cranial (skull) bones at the top and the movement of our sacrum, (in the middle rear of our pelvis) at the bottom, joined by the dura mater between.

If this cranio- sacral system is not functioning correctly, many symptoms can occur.

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©2011, Balance Integrated Health acknowledges and thanks the contribution of the principal author of these pages in reference to Retained Neonatal Reflexes, Dr. Keith Keen, Sydney, 1997. Balance Integrated Health also acknowledges and appreciates the opportunity to present this information courtesy of the work of Dr Susan Walker, Dr Trent Banks and Dr Annika Jende. Pioneers in childhood developmental disorders. We thank you for your teaching, your guidance and for the chance to help a generation.