Rebecca Nicholas, chiropractor and clinical director at Back 2 Balance in Brighton and Hove, works with many children and babies with cranial work and gentle spinal adjustments. Recently she has been furthering her knowledge of human brain development and the implications of inadequate maturity. 



Normal brain development will happen through the progression from the brain anatomyReptilian brain, Neo Mammalian brain to the Neocortex. We start out in life helpless, with just a few reflex movements hard-wired to make sure we can feed, breathe and move our neck, body and limbs. As we practise these movement patterns during the first few months of life, we stimulate the next level of the brain to develop. This is when we start to understand who we are and decide for ourselves which movements we perform. By practising this for many years we finally start learning to control complex movements so well that we can perform complex movements and balance. Our ‘top brain’ or Neocortex has been primed and stimulated so well that we are then ready to start taking on school learning. In essence, our body movements are what develop, arouse and connect the brain.

To learn with ease, to concentrate, to behave and to understand right from wrong requires that we progress properly through the brain pyramid of pyramid of learningdevelopment. The premise of this pyramid is that we spend enough time at each developmental stage and receive and process sufficient stimulation to build a solid foundation for the next stage of development. This stimulation comes through movement, touch, sight, sound, smell and taste- not just as babies, but at all ages.

Sometimes things go wrong though and we may end up having gone through one of the layers of development too fast, or in some cases, not at all. Because of the wonderful ability of the brain and nervous system to learn and change, this is not the end of the world. It is possible to go back at a later stage and help it patch up the foundation of the pyramid, if needed.

We are born with a very small and very immature brain, and I’m sure all mothers would be grateful for that during the birth process! Incredibly though, in that little baby brain we have pretty well all the nerve cells we will have for the rest of our lives. As we learn, our brain develops through the stimulation we receive from our senses. These senses are touch, smell, taste, hearing and seeing. We also have 2 more senses, which are essential for development: the vestibular and proprioception senses.

rollercoasterThe vestibular sense detects where we, and our heads are in space, what direction we are going and how fast we are travelling. Remember what it felt like going on a roller coaster- your nerves are sending crazy amounts of information to the brain about where you are and where you are going, and the brain is frantically trying to get all the information together to give you a clear and concise picture of what is going on- which it can’t of course- it’s suffering information overload!

Proprioception is about knowing where our body and limbs are in space, how fast and which direction they are travelling and under which load. Think about it, if you close your eyes you can probably touch your nose with your right finger. That’s because your body knows where your right finger and nose is and how far it has to travel to touch it.

evolution of manThe theory goes that when we started walking upright, against gravity, the amount of feedback to the brain from our body increased tremendously. The brain had to make extra nerve cells to cope with the increased information. These extra nerve cells started connecting with each other. This interconnection particularly happened in the top part of our brain, creating the neocortex. In conclusion, our human movement patterns are what originally built our ability to read and have abstract thought. Our control of movement and balance as well as our ability to concentrate and do maths all comes from the same new part of the brain.

For example- a child who has problems coordinating his movements will often struggle to learn and concentrate as well. Improving coordinated movements through practice may also improve the ability to concentrate and learn.

DyslexiaIt is for this reason that chiropractors work with children and babies, to assess their movement patterns, for signs of dysfunction. In turn this may determine how well the brain, nervous system and body are inter connecting and communicating with each other. Our job as chiropractors are to make sure all our clients, young and old, have a well developed brain and nervous system. Rebecca Nicholas, has studied extensively, learning how to measure the brain development and maturity. Some of these include testing for the presence of primitive reflexes and giving exercises/movements to help them integrate properly. Rebecca has also trained in cranial techniques and adjustments that help the brain process information more correctly.

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