View Full Version : Clinical applications of mindfulness: Primitive reflexes

Kunga Dorji
08-10-13, 02:17 AM
I have been practicing a number of mindfulness techniques for several years now.

The main techniques have been
1) Single pointed focus
2) Body scanning techniques
3) Training in equanimity, and the skill of observing negative body sensation to the point of extinction.
4) Compassion and loving kindness meditation.

This has been coupled with ongoing study of the issues of intuitive empathy and the functioning of mirror neurones, and the application of yoga and martial arts to movement integration.

Noneof this would have been possible without a treatment on an injury in my upper cervical spine. Prior to that single treatment I used to become drowsy and unbalanced when I attempted to meditate.

Subsequent assessment has revealed a degree of brainstem injury secondary to the original neck injury- which had left me with a deranged and over-reactive stress response ever since my infancy.

One of the effects of this training is that I have become much more acutely aware of my own body.

Like many ADDers I used to fidget, especially with foot tapping and had issues with restless legs at night.

As my mindfulness training progressed, and I sought treatment for my residual neck and back pain, I became aware that whenever my feet felt fidgety, the muscles in the anterior compartment of my lower legs (responsible for lifting my toes and ankles) were tender to the touch, with multiple trigger points, but that tenderness did not translate to a conscious sensation of pain in those muscles.

At about that time I attended a workshop with prof Marco Iacobone , an expert on mirror neurones.

Soon after that I became aware that the effect of being in the presence of other restless, fidgety people, was that it made me feel uncomfortable and restless myself. I also became aware that that feeling was entirely predictable given the known properties of the mirror neurone system.

The question then became one of why those muscles so often felt sore and overworked.

I was already clear that upright posture (ear canals vertically above the centre of the shoulder joint) substantially improved mental alertness) so had been using the mindfulness body scanning technique to carefully scrutinise posture and muscle tension.

My conclusion was that my instinctive posture involved me holding my pelvis slightly forwards of the ideal line, and that that was causing overwork of the shin muscles.

A little further investigation with the chiropractor who has been correcting the residual problems related to my neck revealed that I had a number of retained primitive reflexes, that should have been lost in infancy.
These retained reflexes are known to reappear in cases of brain injury or severe stress, and interestingly it is now clear that my original upper cervical birth injury caused a minor brainstem injury- and that my persistent primitive reflexes reflect that.

The original injury also caused significant disturbance of cerebellar function, and now that that has been corrected, this is next on the list.

i have done some preliminary investigation into the question of retained primitive reflexes, and found that there is a strong association between them and attention problems.

While I have yet to identify a good review paper on the subject, this review from a practitioner's website interested me:

Retention of Primitive Reflexes has a fourfold effect:

The immature sensory / motor loop is still in place and results in inappropriate movements.
These movements have to be consciously compensated for.
Under development of the Postural Reflexes ( causes immaturity of adjustment or righting reflexes with regard to balance, movement and gravity. This lack of automatic adjustments will have to be consciously compensated for.
As most nerve pathways must pass through the brain stem to reach the other functional areas of the brain immaturity within this region will inevitably have detrimental effects upon all nerve networks leaving the brain stem and going to those higher centres. It will depend upon the degree of immaturity and the particular nerve networks involved that will determine the level of dysfunction. However, sleep, immunity, energy levels, impulse control, concentration and all levels of social, emotional, and intellectual learning can be involved.

Clearly point 2 must have a significant effect on overloading working memory.

So there is more work to be done in elucidating all this and documenting it in a way that will satisfy everyone, but I hope this will at least stimulate some curiosity.