What Are Primitive Reflexes?
Primitive reflexes are inborn, automatic, and involuntary reactions to stimuli (i.e. movement, sound, touch) that are essential for survival and development within the womb, during birth, and early childhood. They are initially designed to control aspects of life (i.e. breathing, feeding) and movement until an infant’s higher brain centers have developed. Once an infant moves to a higher level of development, the primitive reflexes help to mature the brain and develop the foundation for one’s neurological system.
When a reflex is “integrated” the reflex is no longer present and is not inhibiting movement or any other aspect of human development. When a reflex is “retained” the reflex is still present and is impeding the natural sequence of human development in some capacity.
Primitive reflexes are integrated through rhythmical movement practices that infants naturally experience. Once an infant masters one movement, a reflex is typically integrated and they move onto integrating another reflex by learning a new movement pattern, therefore, brain and body connections are being made. Most reflexes are integrated within the first year of life. When reflexes are still present (retained) beyond the age of 2 or 3 we often see poor brain maturation, developmental delays, motor impairments, learning disabilities, speech delays, behavior issues and regulatory difficulties. In school aged children, we will often see difficulties with reading, writing, math and attention. In adults, retained reflexes can show up as anxiety, depression, lack of focus, and poor memory to name a few.
Some areas/conditions that may be impacted by retained reflexes include:
Concentration & Focus
Why Do Primitive Reflexes Become Retained?
There are a variety of reasons why primitive reflexes may be retained across a life span with stress and trauma being the most common. However, at any point of our development whether it be genetics (nature), the birthing process, or our environment (nurture) if there is a disruption there can be retained reflexes. Some "disruptions" leading to retained reflexes may include but are not limited to:
Genetic anomalies (i.e. Down Syndrome),
Stress (during pregnancy, postpartum depression, PTSD),
Birth trauma (c-section deliveries, forcep use, complicated labor)
Premature birth, environmental toxins,
Injuries to the brain/central nervous systems (i.e. cerebral palsy, agenesis of the corpus callosum)
Emotional trauma, abuse, lack of bonding
Container syndrome: insufficient activity/movement during infancy
Excessive screen time
The presence of the retained reflexes creates essentially a “lock” on the body, making natural progression through developmental milestones and activities of daily living difficult for anyone at any age.
What Can We Do About Retained Primitive Reflexes?
Primitive reflexes integrate naturally during infancy when a baby makes spontaneous rhythmic movements. However, when they do not integrate on their own, three techniques used to assist with integration include Rhythmic Movement Training (RMT), Quantum Reflex Integration (QRI) and Brain Gym®. Reflex integration benefits people of all ages and abilities.
1. Rhythmic Movement Training (RMTi) is a movement based, primitive reflex integration program that uses developmental movements, gentle isometric pressure and self-awareness to rebuild the foundations necessary to help overcome motor learning, sensory, emotional and behavioral challenges. The movements can be done on children and adults of all ages. For those who have significant delays, these movements are done passively to help to activate the primitive brain centers to build new neuronal connections by moving the child through developmental movements that babies and infants naturally and automatically make as they grow. Added benefits of RMT include: decreased seizure activity, improved arousal levels, a better body/brain connection, activation of the movement center of the brain (cerebellum), and stimulation of the vestibular system to name a few.
More information for RMT
can be found at:
2. Quantum Reflex Integration (QRI) uses low level cold laser therapy to promote integration of persistent primitive reflexes that hinder development while supporting reflexes that should be emerging. QRI produces a photochemical effect that promotes natural healing through increased cell metabolism when stimulating reflex pathways and acupressure points with the intention of integrating neurological reflexes. As a result, improvement in physical functioning and mental development occurs. There are various programs specifically designed to be used in conjunction with QRI. Some of those programs include the TALK program, ASD program and the MOVE program. Added benefits of QRI include: decreased seizure activity, improved arousal levels, relaxation of muscle tone, a better body/brain connection with the ability to move independently, activation of the movement center of the brain (cerebellum), and pain reflex to name a few.
More information for QRI
can be found at:
3. Brain Gym (BG)® is a trademark program based upon principles of educational kinesiology and learning theories that consists of 26 specific movements that enhance the way the brain and body connect and function. Brain Gym can be used by anyone of any age and incorporates whole body learning using the visual, auditory, motor and social/emotional systems. While meeting the client where they are at, Brain Gym can help improve concentration/focus, attention skills, whole body coordination, academic/learning skills, social emotional skills while promoting self responsibility, organization skills, calming strategies and regulation skills.
More information for BG
can be found at: