Research shows a strong link between retained primitive reflexes and symptoms of ADHD like fidgeting and an inability to concentrate.
Reflexes are unconscious muscle movements that happen in response to certain stimuli. For instance, if you touch a hot stove, your body jerks your hand away automatically. Babies are born with a set of reflexes called “primitive reflexes,” because they originate in the most primitive part of the brain, and are designed to both protect them from harm and prepare them for later developmental challenges such as sitting and crawling. Examples of primitive reflexes include the Moro, or “startle” reflex, in which baby’s arms fly out from their sides if they feel like they are falling. Primitive reflexes should disappear within the first year of life, and are replaced by higher-level conscious reflexes.
Retained Reflexes and Their Effects
Sometimes primitive reflexes continue to co-exist alongside higher reflexes. This can be due to many factors, including traumatic birth, neck subluxations, chronic ear infections and lack of tummy time. Children who skip crawling are also likely to retain reflexes.
Reinforcement of primitive reflexes during infancy creates pathways in the brain that are the building blocks for later development. When babies skip developmental stages, such as bypassing the crawling or creeping stage, some pathways in the brain fail to develop properly. Recent research shows a strong link between retained primitive reflexes—particularly the Moro reflex and the Spinal Galant Reflex—and ADHD.
The Spinal Galant Reflex
This reflex causes babies to curve their hip outward if the lower back is stroked next to the spine. Its purpose is to encourage movement and develop range of motion in the hip in preparation for walking and crawling. Some authorities also believe that it prompts urination, and that this is why babies often urinate when the diaper is secured around their hips. The Spinal Galant Reflex should disappear by nine months, and retention beyond this point results in problems such as bed-wetting, fidgeting and the inability to sit still, short-term memory loss or an inability to concentrate.
Studies show that children with ADHD have a high incidence of retained Spinal Galant Reflex.
Improving Primitive Reflexes
Researchers speculate that the hallmark symptoms of ADHD, such as fidgeting and poor attention, can be directly attributed to retained Spinal Galant Reflex and that help for ADHD should therefore include a focus on primitive reflexes.
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