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The Importance of MOVEMENT

for the Brain
By Carla Hannaford, PHD
Brain Gym® has spread rapidly throughout the world
because it is simple, easy to use in any learning
situation, and highly effective. People who do Brain
Gym® notice the difference in themselves and others;
there are thousands of amazing anecdotal stories of
its success.
I estimate that more than 95% of licensed Brain
Gym® instructors are parents or educators who
started this program because of concern for their
children or students. While teaching and traveling
through 32 countries, I have noticed that Brain Gym®
teachers and consultants work from a sense of
altruism, compassion, and an understanding that
Brain Gym® is profound in its ability to assist learning
for all people.
We are not alone in promoting the value of
movement; many researchers also share our
philosophy. I encourage interested parents,
educators, and others to read my books and the
recent research of those listed below and quoted in
my end notes.
— Carla Hannaford
Movement is essential for learning. If we didn't
move, we wouldn't need a brain. A large part of the
brain is designed to move the whole body from place
to place, for food gathering, community building,
safety, shelter, and exploration; move the head,
eyes, and ears for sensory input; and move the hands
in gestures for personal and group communication,
and for tool use.
If we look at the developing brain of a human
embryo or fetus, we will notice that •growth in key
areas stem from an auditory or •movement response
to .sound and vibration that originate in the
semicircular canals of the inner ear. These are the
primary organs of the vestibular system, known as the
"entry way to the brain". The vestibular system, in
turn, stimulates the development of the brain
stem, especially the cerebellum, .which governs
gross motor movement as well as modulating almost
all the functions: of the rest of the brain. It also assists
with the development of the limbic system, which
helps orchestrate our movements in .relation to
emotions, sensory input, and :memory. Finally, the
vestibular system stimulates the development of
the neocortex, including the motor cortex for : fine
motor functions, and the proprioceptive area in

the sensory cortex of the parietal lobes, which lets us
know where our muscles‐are and how they need to
.respond in order for us to move as we wish.
'Whenever we move in an integrated way ‐‐using both
sides of the body in a coherent manner ‐ we are fully
activating whole brain function. However, a person
who is labeled "hyperactive" or "autistic" often
demonstrates a survival reaction through his
movements; that is, he can run all day, react to any
loud or sharp noise and be hyper vigilant, looking
for where the danger lies, but he may be unable to
balance on one foot, walk across a board, skip or
jump with balanced movements, or think logically
and clearly. Such a person is functioning only from
the sympathetic nervous system, which puts him on
high alert for danger and gets him ready for the gross
motor movements associated with "fight or flight".
In this state of "fight or flight", the non‐dominant
cerebral cortex area can shut down 75‐85% of its
function because there is no need for high‐level
formal reasoning ‐ just reaction, and he may be
unable to learn, think deeply, or create.1
Slow, integrated movements, done consciously,
with good balance, intentionally cross the midline
of the body and equally activate both right and left
motor and sensor}‐' cortexes, as well as the rest of
the brain that is associated with complex
movement, and thus over‐ride the "fight or flight"
response. Brain Gym*, Tai Chi, Yoga, and the
Alexander technique are just a few examples of
integrative movement programs.
A sip of water crosses the membranes of the
mouth and goes directly into the blood, where
it will traverse the body five times even' minute
and optimally assist hydration.
Researchers at the University of California, USA,
discovered that we can actually grow‐new nerve cells
until the clay we die ‐ as many as 60,000 per day
in the hippocampus, the primary area for
memory.2 In attempting to understand what caused
new nerve cells to grow, researchers found that
cross‐lateral, integrated movements were the key


I have noticed over and over again that the movements need to be enjoyable and stress free. and fully stimulate the frontal lobes of the brain via the motor cortex. 2508‐ 2515. 3 Van Praag. May 1999. our spouses and those with whom we work. dance .MOVEMENT IS ESSENTIAL FOR LEARNING! These findings fit well into other research which found that elderly people (ages 70‐90) who danced several times a week decreased their chances of dementia by 79%4. pp. Running Increases Cell Proliferation and Neurogenesis in the Adult Mouse Dentate Cyrus. Nature Neuroscience. ]oe. When the brain is fully balanced in its functioning. Carla Hannaford. In this state. They are able to learn in an optimal manner. we simultaneously activate both sides of the 5 Marano. Hara Estroff and Musselman. 4 Verghese. pp. adrenaline and cortical levels are low. and Coping. Dominique. PhD. is a neurobiologist. Ventura CA www. Smart Moves: Why Learning is not all in your Head. March 1999 (vol. 2: 3). Scientific American.braingym. NY: Freeman. and more importantly. Henriette. Robert. Psychology Today Marchi April 1999. Brain Gym® is a registered trademark of Brain Gym International. 48‐53. dance. Through teaching Brain Gym in schools and working with individual children who have specific learning difficulties. educator. Her first book. By doing the simple. focused and available to our children thus ensuring a positive emotional relationship and a safe learning environment for them as well as for us. Leisure Activities and the Risk of Dementia in the Elderly. when we ourselves do Brain Gym . I have discovered a great truth: our children do what we do. 2003 (vol. our children will also be stressed –out. assimilate new learning. ( Permission pending ) 2 . which allows us to understand a situation. Gerd Kempermann and Fred Gage.348:25).com REFERENCES J Saplisky. Some authors say that depression may become the number one ailment worldwide by the year 20 25. Stress‐related Diseases. or who play a musical instrument (another example of highly integrative movement) are much more focused and perform better in learning situations than those who do not. New Nerve Cells for the Adult Brain. and author. we can easily see the details and the big picture of a situation: have a balanced physical structure to accommodate the movements we need at that moment. However. and remember important details. not what we say. simply taking a walk or doing Brain Gym Activates whole – brain function and can calm the overactive parts of the brain ( especially the prefrontal cortex) that tend to focus on the negative and can lead to depression. Depression: Beyond Seratonin. Copyright 2006. Cage. where dopamine levels are high. music. connect in an empathetic altruistic manner with the people we encounter in our lives. drama the visual arts or business. pp. 266‐270. 73‐74. is available in a newly‐revised edition from www. 33‐34. J998. preferably done with the whole family ) or at least one active parent so that the child is not singled out. New England Journal of Medicine. integrative movements of Brain Gym''. When the whole brain functions in an efficient integrated way . et al. If we are stressed – out. pp. individuals can focus easily and become fully aware of the wonder‐of their environment and the joys in their lives. Gerd and FredH. When we return to an integrated state. create new ideas. On the other hand. ' This article originally appeared in the June 2006 issue of the Edu‐K Update. 2 Kempermann. safely explore their personal emotions and the emotions of others. All rights reserved. international lecturer. people become more aware of their options and potential. The simple movements of Brain Gym® are profound in their effect on the whole brain/body system and the enjoyment that people experience while doing them has an added advantage of raising the levels of neuron‐ chemicals that optimize all learning. we become more attentive. and that children who take part in integrative sports. anything is possible for us – our children. As for adults. Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers: An Updated Guide to Stress. Brain Gym integrates the brain/body system so we can optimize performance and in our area of choice – athletics. and live a more growth‐filled life.braingym.

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