Brain Gym is a commercial training program that claims that any learning challenges can be overcome by finding the right movements, the use of which will create new pathways in the brain.
They claim that the repetition of the 26 Brain Gym movements “activates the brain for optimal storage and retrieval of information.” Its theoretical foundation has been thoroughly discredited by the scientific community, who describe it as pseudoscience.
Peer reviewed scientific studies into Brain Gym have found no significant improvement in general academic skills.
Its claimed results have been put down to the placebo effect and the benefits of breaks and exercise. Its founder, Paul Dennison, has admitted that many of Brain Gym’s claims are not based on good science, but on his “hunches”.
It is widely used in British state schools. It is also offered to both children and adults in parts of the United States and Canada.
What became Brain Gym began in Paul and Gail Dennison’s work in the 1970s, researching more effective ways to help learning disabled children and adults.
They call their field of study, which they founded during this period, “Educational Kinesiology” (Edu-K), a form of applied kinesiology. They define Edu-K as “learning through movement”.
Some of the specific movements the program uses were, according to the Brain Gym website, developed from Paul Dennison’s “knowledge of the relationship of movement to perception, and the impact of these on fine motor and academic skills.”
Others were learned during his training as a marathon runner, his study of vision training, his study of Jin Shin Jitsu (a form of acupressure), and his study of Applied Kinesiology.
The Dennisons presented their program under its current name in their booklets Switching On: A Guide to Edu-Kinesthetics (1980) and Brain Gym – Simple Activities for Whole Brain Learning (1986).
Brain Gym is now used in more than 80 countries.
Rubbing the brain buttons, in order to “improve blood flow to the brain”, to “switch on the entire brain”.
The program is based on the premise that all learning begins with movement, and that any learning challenges can be overcome by finding the right movements, to subsequently create new pathways in the brain.
It claims that the repetition of certain movements “activates the brain for optimal storage and retrieval of information” and “promotes efficient communication among the many nerve cells and functional centers located throughout the brain and sensory motor system.
There are 26 of these exercises, which are designed to “integrate body and mind” in order to improve “concentration, memory, reading, writing, organizing, listening, physical coordination, and more.
Educational Kinesiology teaches that brain function is defined in terms of three dimensions: laterality is the ability to co-ordinate the left and right sides of the brain, focus is the ability to co-ordinate the front and back of the brain, and centering is the ability to co-ordinate the top and bottom of the brain.
According to Brain Gym, people whose brains are not interconnected properly in the three different dimensions suffer from corresponding deficits; for example, the ability to move and think at the same time is dependent on laterality (left to right coordination).
The Brain Gym exercises are claimed to work by interconnecting the brain in these three dimensions. Anatomical, physiological and neurological research does not support this model.