What is a Reflex? Most of us think of a quick automatic response to a stimuli, or when the Dr. taps our knee and it shoots forward with no effort from our thinking minds, and this is a good point to begin from.
As a broad definition, “a reflex is a nervous system reaction caused by stimulation of receptors in the skin, tendons, muscles, mucous membrane and pupils” (I.M. Setchenov).
As we develop in utero, the pathway of many reflexes are laid in our brainstems to set us up for a successful birth and first stage of life. If you’ve ever seen ultrasound pictures of pre-term babies sucking their thumbs or yawning, you’ve seen this in action. These early reflexes are what’s responsible for babies navigating the birth process, feeding, bonding with family, and generally staying as safe as possible as they continue to grow during this very vulnerable time.
The role of our Reflexes continues to be crucial as we develop further. These early, “primitive” reflexes that we are born with, are the foundation that the next higher level of reflexes build on top of. As our brains and nervous systems mature, these early reflexes are integrated (no longer active) to develop into a higher level reflex that prepares us for the next stage of learning. A commonly understood example of this is the Moro Reflex which most of can easily see in a baby. As the baby grows, this reflex should slowly start to disappear as the child develops new ways to stay safe.
But what happens if a reflex does not properly integrate to allow the next level of higher reflex to develop? This is when there can be some neurological disorganization, if you will. Our brains get confused so to speak, and then our nervous system gets overwhelmed. This is where the work of reflex integration comes in.
My underastanding and clinic relationship with the Primative reflexes has been shaped, first through my trainings with MNRI, founded by Svetlana Masgutova, Ph.D. comes in. Dr. Masgutova has been leading research since 1989 in understanding the importance that primary movements have on development. MNRI ® for Neuro-Sensory-Motor and Reflex Integraion,LLC, masgutovamethod.com. This work uses simple movements and bodywork, to help the body recognize and integrate, or organize, neurological reflexes.
I’ve been studying this work for 6 years and it has informed the way I approach the nervous system and body in incredible ways. It is an amazing complement to craniosacral therapy and especially effective when working with babies and children, but also for adults as well.
I have trained with Dr. Masgutova in 3 of her classes, and attended intensive family camps, where specialists work with the individual for 8 days straight. I am not a specialist in MNRI, nor do I claim to be, but can help clients figure out if this work would be helpful for them or their child and refer you for an assessment with the specialists. I plan to continue my studies with MNRI, as I’ve found it very helpful.
More recently I have been studying the Haller Method, taught by Maxine Haller, OTR/L cardinalcapers.com/overview.html. This method is easily applied through bodywork practice, and specifically addresses many of the underlying neurological reflex issues that are effecting infants. With non invasive bodywork and movement patterns, it is another beautiful compliment to CST, and can offer great benefit in dealing with regulation and feeding issues that I work with regularly.