Brain Gym

Status: Highly dubious
Based on the description on the Brain Gym website, Brain Gym sounds like a pretty good idea. It's "a program of physical movements that enhance learning and performance in ALL areas." The program, which consists of 26 different exercises, is now being used in a lot of schools to help kids learn. Exercise can definitely improve mental acuity, so having kids do something like this would seem to make sense. But as Ben Goldacre revealed in a recent Bad Science column, the concept is a lot more bogus than it appears at first blush. The reason is that all kinds of dubious and pseudoscientific claims are made on behalf of these exercises. Take, for example, this exercise called "Brain Buttons":

“Make a ‘C’ shape with your thumb and forefinger and place on either side of the breast bone just below the collar bone. Gently rub for 20 or 30 seconds whilst placing your other hand over your navel. Change hands and repeat. This exercise stimulates the flow of oxygen carrying blood through the carotid arteries to the brain to awaken it and increase concentration and relaxation.”

Huh? Then there's another exercise called "The Energizer," which involves shaking your head, because "this back and forward movement of the head increases the circulation to the frontal lobe for greater comprehension and rational thinking."

It sounds to me like the schools should save whatever money they're paying to the Brain Gym organization, and just have the kids go outside and run around for a while.

Psychology Sports

Posted on Mon Apr 10, 2006


With stuff like this, you always have to wonder: does the person actually *believe* what their book is telling people, or are they just finding a fast way to make a buck?
Posted by Robin Bobcat  on  Tue Apr 11, 2006  at  12:05 AM
...Yeah, shaking your head back & forth so much isn't a good idea.

Just ask a shaken baby. :roll:

This is most likely one of those things where it's not likely to hurt to do it...but like Alex said...running around outside will most likely achieve the same effect.
Posted by Maegan  on  Tue Apr 11, 2006  at  06:25 AM
My mom teaches third grade and she has a method for dealing with kids when she realizes she's losing their focus. Every once in a while, she'll have the kids go out to the playground and run quietly to the opposite side where there is a swingset. They have to be quiet until they get there, but when they do, they have to scream and yell their heads off for one minute. Then they come back. As long as it's not done too often, it works pretty well.

So just like Maegan said, running around outside does wonders. Anything to break up the routine probably gets the job done.
Posted by Silentz  on  Tue Apr 11, 2006  at  09:34 AM
Both Ben Goldacre columns are worth reading (there's a follow-up somewhere). He came in for a lot of criticism from teachers who argued that they were having wonderful results and he shouldn't be knocking the programme. Quite correctly, his response was that his criticism was aimed squarely at the pseudoscientific and just plain wrong 'explanations' as to why drinking plenty of fluids and getting out more was good for you (duh!).
Posted by David B.  on  Wed Apr 12, 2006  at  07:18 AM
The "research" papers cited in the pdf file located on the site are all either listed in the "Brain Gym journal" or in foreign journals. Clearly, the "Brain Gym" journal's articles'' support the "Brain Gym," otherwise they wouldn''t be in there. Also, most of the relatively few articles have barely anything to do with the "Brain Gym" itself.

However, one shouldn't completely throw away this theory, and one should keep an open mind.
Posted by Hairyman  on  Wed Apr 12, 2006  at  11:13 AM
If you are going to start covering all the medical quackery out there, you are going to need a larger web page.
Posted by wdlevy  on  Wed Apr 12, 2006  at  05:32 PM
Hey! It works, I used to do it.
The only reason I'm not calling you an idiot right now is because you're a Mac user.
Posted by Ian  on  Wed Apr 12, 2006  at  11:24 PM
This was a story in Weekly World News a while back.
Posted by Someone  on  Sat Apr 22, 2006  at  09:23 AM
Brain gym follows the fundamentals of John Thie's Touch for Health kinesiology, and Donna Eden's Energy Medicine. If your energy is not "crossing over" you cannot get well, focus, etc. So Brain Gym works great for ADD/ADHD kids, for adults with chronic illness who are "stuck" etc. The idea is to get the energy unstuck. Just a little more info for the uninformed. Please do research before judging something as quackery.
Posted by PK  on  Mon Jul 24, 2006  at  04:23 PM
Okay, I've done research now.

I call quackery.
Posted by Charybdis  on  Tue Jul 25, 2006  at  08:51 AM
I have done a little research on this issue. Here is what I came up with.
The Brain Gym
Posted by Jessica  on  Mon Sep 25, 2006  at  12:57 PM
To Jessica in California:

Based on your response, the only "research" you have done is to read the Brain Gym promotional literature.

Those of us who are calling for research are talking about scientific studies, the results of which appear in peer reviewed professional journals. Don't bother looking for any on Brain Gym because such research doesn't exist.

You are not providing a service to parents of children with disabilities by supporting and suggesting an approach which has no scientific merit and which has been called a waste of time and quackery by many respected authoriites.
Posted by Alan Balter  on  Mon Dec 18, 2006  at  08:29 AM
I my opinion Ben Goldacre has "revealed" nothing and disproved nothing. He has yet to quote an empyrical scientist who has proven Braingym to be ineffecive or no more effective than random exercise. All I see in Mr. Goldacre's collumn is a host of cynical remarks.

Sadly, people buy this sort of pseudo-critical writing and mistake it for coming from an actually informed person.

Science has indeed proven by using biometric measuring equipment that certain areas of the brain respond to specific physical stimuli. I am truly sorry I do not yet have any links to studies to back up this claim.

Furthermore, Mr. Goldacre makes a reference to a powerpoint presentation that contains one infuriating remark. According to this presentation , to be allowed to drink in class would be a 'special' component of Braingym. I think drinking in class is in some cases an essential component and if my child were to be denied a drink shen he needs it, he would be in a different school before the end of the week.
Posted by Agnostic  on  Thu Mar 08, 2007  at  07:35 AM
I quote:
"which has been called a waste of time and quackery by many respected authoriites."

I dare anyone to name but three of those respected authorities.
Posted by Agnostic  on  Thu Mar 08, 2007  at  07:42 AM
To Agnostic:

And I dare you to cite even one double blind, peer reviewed research study which indicates that Brain Gym is effective in the least.
Posted by alan balter  on  Wed Mar 14, 2007  at  09:11 AM
You have exactly understood the purpose of braingym! Paul Dennison (Braingym creator) would fully agree with your comment that the kids should "go outside and run around for a while." This is exactly why braingym is needed today, kids do not exercise freely anymore.
Posted by Olivier  on  Sat Jun 16, 2007  at  04:54 PM
I think it's sad, yet typical for our quick fix, pill popping skeptics on this board to quickly dismiss Brain Gym. As a poster said, children today do not get the exercise they used to. They do not walk to and from school, they do not spend as much time outside like they used to, they do not have the free time they once had. Any type of exercise, stretching or movements will help the brain. Is it a cure for ADD/ADHD or learning difficuties, of course not. But common sense tells us that even short simple exercises or movements will help the brain. The Asian culture had been using yoga, meditation and accupuncture for thousands of years now. Now it's a "new" thing for most in the USA. For thousands of years the Asian culture have reaped the benefits of relaxation and concentration through MOVEMENT! Those of you who dismiss Brain Gym are the typical "give me a pill to mask my problem" type of people that are to lazy to seek out an alternative. Meditation and yoga was once mocked here as psuedoscience and, oh my god, now look, it actually works. Of course, not as quickly as Xanax which I'm sure most here are either on or have been on. Like I said, quick fix, pill popping society.
Posted by Jennifer  on  Mon Jan 14, 2008  at  09:00 AM
To Jennifer in Charlotte, NC,

I wonder how it is possible for you to know that the skeptics on this board are pill poppers? A bit of an over generalization, isn't it?

Yes, any type of exercise is likely to have value. Brain Gym advocates, however, find it necessary to justify their exercises by cloaking their program with pseudoscientific mumbo jumbo.

In fact, my scepticism regarding Brain Gym relates to the lack of controlled research. Those who make claims to parents of children with disabilities, people who are often desperate for solutions, are responsible for documenting those claims with the findings of scientific research. And, by the way, I think the same thing is true for yoga, meditation,. and accupuncture.
Posted by Alan Balter  on  Sun Jul 27, 2008  at  08:36 AM
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