Thursday, May 29, 2014

Cross patterning and the brain

There was a question on yesterday's post and I thought I'd take a moment to answer it. I had mentioned cross-brain patterning and someone asked what that was. The comments also mentioned crawling and EMDR, thus giving me a chance to roll all that information into a blog post. (Hooray!)

(First, my usual disclaimer. I'm not a brain-scientist and neither of my degrees relate to brain science at all; I'm just well read. Take my post as a starting point and do your own research.)

As I said yesterday, our brain has two halves. The left half controls the right side of the body and the right half controls the left side. As well, there are certain functions which are usually housed in different sides of the brain, though the brain is continually talking back and forth between the two halves. In fact, we function best when the brain is easily able to do this communication between each half of the brain. Sometimes, though, the communication isn't always that great and things get stuck. (Now you see the need for the above disclaimer. I'll probably use the word 'stuff' at some point as well.) But, there are certain things people can do to help their brains By doing something physical that causes the brain to move back and forth between the two halves, we facilitate that type of movement when we use our brains in other ways.

This brings us to crawling. When I was little, my father taught first grade, then when I entered first grade, he made the switch to teaching kindergarten. (This was at a different school, but I always thought it was funny that while I was moving up to first grade, he was moving down to kindergarten.) The only reason this is important is that he had a lot of experience with reading readiness and teaching children to read. I can remember him describing how he would make sure every child was able to crawl because that would aid in their ability to read. (Note this doesn't mean that the child actually used crawling as their means of locomotion, but that they had the ability to crawl. As another side note, I never crawled as a baby.) It is not the crawling itself, but the extreme cross patterning that happens when you crawl. Think about it, you have opposite arms and legs moving in a pattern, thus activating the entire brain and forcing both halves to work together. Crawling is good for your brain.

Now we move onto EMDR therapy. It's often shortened to its acronym because the full name, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy. EMDR is easier. It is actually my experience with EMDR that made me think of trying the whole tapping-thing with H. As a therapist explained it (very simply) to me, when trauma happens, our brains can store it in two ways in different halves of our brains. Our rational side can think somewhat critically about the event, but we can store a more visceral emotion-laced memory of it somewhere else. The trouble comes when the two parts of our brain do not integrate those two very different types of memory. EMDR works because of the cross patterning (with lights or buzzers) that happens during therapy. It sounds a little crazy and a little too simple, but many people have had great success with it.

The last thing you need to know (or remember) is how plastic our brains actually are. They are constantly forming and deleting connections all based on current usage. (This is going to segue so nicely into my book review I'm going to do soon.) The more we do something, the more brain cells are devoted to it and the more secure those connections become. We can practice new ways of doing things. We can give ourselves new ways to think. It can take time and persistence, but we can change our brains.

1 comment:

Ann said...

This is irrelevant (and irreverent), but I have a dopey friend who was told that reading readiness was indicated by a child's being able to walk on a balance beam. So what did she do? She worked on her son's balance beam skills.

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