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Why do we emphasize the importance of movement during the Brain Connex Therapy program? There are many modalities and treatments available currently that claim to be able to change the brain by simply sitting still while the brain is given auditory, visual, and vestibular sensory experiences. Does this type of treatment really work? Can it really change the brain’s function?
In our daily lives, our brains learn by what the body experiences. For example, when a person is hiking on unstable territory the body is having to constantly adjust and the brain is learning from that information. The brain learns from the sensations of balance, proprioception, tactile feedback, visual scanning, and auditory stimulation. The brain learns from movement.
Movement benefits the brain even before it benefits the body. The brain does not store its own fuel, nor does it produce its own fuel. The brain relies on the body to get its needed fuel—oxygen and glucose—to the brain. The healthier and more physically fit the body is, the more efficiently the brain functions. This is because exercise changes the brain at a molecular level by:
- growing new brain cells, a process called neurogenesis;
- producing BDNF (brain-derived neurotropic factor), nicknamed the fertilizer for the brain;
- strengthening secondary dendritic branching that increases memory retrieval; and
- improving mood by balancing the neurotransmitters endorphins, dopamine, cortisol, and serotonin
The brain is a complex structure. More parts of the brain “light up,” or are used, when a person is moving or physically active. Movement creates the optimal environment for neural plasticity, the ability of the brain to change. Movement puts the brain and body into balance naturally by regulating brain chemicals that control mood and responses to stress.
Research on the brain reveals how exercise can aid in learning and cognition (Ratey 2008):
Improved Brain Function
Balanced Motor & Behavior
Improved Social Skills & Behavior
Improved Academic Performance
Healthy, active kids make better learners. We are not designed to sit. We are designed to move. Dr. John Medina, author of Brain Rules (2008), says this in his July 5, 2011, blog: “The human brain appears to have been designed to solve problems related to surviving in an outdoor setting in unstable meteorological conditions and to do so in near constant motion. So, if you wanted to design a learning environment that was directly opposed to what the brain is naturally good at doing, you’d design a frickin’ classroom!”
Unfortunately the rise of technology has increased the amount of time children are sitting looking at screens rather than experiencing life outside. Instead of the brain learning and growing from walking through woods, running through the grass, picking leaves, and wading through streams.
Movement with intention anchors learning and prepares the brain for learning (Blaydes 2000). Neuroscience supports the link of exercise, physical activity, and movement to improved academic performance. And movement does not just improve academic performance, but all areas of function – attention, coordination, proprioception, etc. Exercise, movement, rhythm and coordination help the brain encode information and learn through several different systems.
During Brain Connex Therapy we use movement as a tool to create necessary changes in the brain. When you are not in treatment, we encourage you and your children to get many experiences of movement throughout the day. Going to parks, hiking, and playing in the backyard are simple yet effective ways to get the movement in your day needed to help your brain grow. Learning from functional daily activities is far superior to activities that are contrived in a typical therapy session. Children & adults alike must find the activity enjoyable in order to have the internal motivation to continue the activity and learn from it.
*excerpts taken from the original article here.
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