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The Moro Reflex: When Is It Normal?

Different ways of looking at the Moro Reflex, how it works and how to fix it if it's still there. The Moro Reflex is the reflexive action of a baby to unpleasant sudden changes in light, posture, sound, etc.

By Svea Gold

Fern Ridge Press -- Eugene, Oregon --

(From a letter to D.A., June 2008)

I promised to talk about the Moro and Kandel. Kandel of course only tried to find out exactly what happens at the nerve cell. Nothing more. In the process he proved that what we have been doing with exercises actually works. For years, and even today, nobody wants to believe it. By repeatedly stimulating a connection you can increase connections between two or more nerve cells.
To satisfy a grant scientists have to do things a little bit at a time in order to be able to prove whatever they are trying to prove. Unfortunately their research does not get integrated with whatever others are doing. (That has been my job)

The next step in proving how a motor program works comes from the research in Netrins and now with other nerve growth factors, done at the Salk Institute by Samuel Pfaff, He showed that it takes the nerve growth factors created by the brain itself and the nerve growth factors created by the muscles to make connections for the brain and body to function.

All this research backs up Sally Goddard’s work on reflexes.

A reflex is not just some nasty little ogre that sits there to frustrate a child. It is an indication of how the brain functions: which circuits are working in the brain at that particular moment. Reflexes – loops in the brain circuits-develop as soon as the first cells start to differentiate after conception; each little reflexive action causes movements. Each movement then puts information into the brain so the brain can take over the next step. To put it better – taking it from the research at the Salk Institute, new connections are made between the muscles and the brain. This depends on the specific “Netrins” or guides. Actually, the more we know the more magic it becomes.

If for any reason this progression is interrupted – by toxicity, by a fever, by a lack of oxygen at birth or a drowning accident, there is an interruption in the normal development. If there is damage to an nerve, the damage travels backward along the axon.

The retained Moro shows an interruption in the brainstem. The Moro reflex is a word for hyper-reactions to hot or cold or noise or change in position. It shows some problem in the reticular formation, caused probably by earlier problems in the olivary complexes in the brainstem. It is always hard to tell where the break in the circuit started. According to Patricia Rodier, in autistics it may have happened because of toxicity during the first 16 weeks in utero.

There are many different ways to talk about this. For Instance, when the pupils did not close to light, Florence Scott used to say: There is a problem in the Pons. It is during the development of the Pons that nerve fibers also go into the cerebellum. The cerebellum is also responsible for the opening and closing of the pupils and the adjustment of the muscles in the eye that allow allow the lens get thicker or thinner so that the eye can see clearly both near and far.(Masao Ito)

What came first is not always clear. If a child is hypersensitive to noise, it may be that the stapedius muscle is not working right. You may also suspect that his eyes don’t function right and he depends on his hearing to know where he is. I knew a blind little boy who at 5 was already in school and he found his way around pretty well with his white cane as long as he knew the route. However, the moment when he went somewhere strange to him, he would start to hum a tune. He was using his voice to echolocate! He might also jump up and down and the noise his feet made helped him echolocate.

In the olivary complexes all the senses interact. So that if there is a problem there, you have a problem in the inter-sensory connections, you just have to shake the tea kettle to know how much water is in it, you don’t have to open the lid.) The child to whom this connection does not happen has to monitor each sense to know what is happening. William Ludlum, a developmental optometrist monitored how much light actually reached the cortex when he flashed lights into the eyes of children who had vision problems. Before developmental vision therapy, the entire cortex was involved in procession the light. After therapy, which included connecting the entire body with the eye function the children only used the visual cortex. Information there now told them what they were seeing. They did not have to check every sense to know what was going on.
I think that this is one of the reasons they find that autistic children have a bigger cortex than other children. The connections down below are not happening automatically, so the child has to do all the work cortically.

As an indication that something is wrong in the brain stem, there may be a problem in the reticular formation. That is where the attention centers and the sleep areas are. All the senses are involved there: what wakes us up? Sound, change in position, smell, light – all the things that trigger a Moro reaction.

In other words, the child’s brain is still functioning like that of a newborn. The new born will stare at sound. He can’t see and hear at the same time. This is a problem most autistic children have. We are dealing with an interruption happening at the time of very early development. A break in the brainstem will result in malfunction of this thing called gaze control. Many autistic children don’t have gaze control. They live in a world where they see things as if they were driving in a bumpy car looking through field glasses.

Because this is so complicated, it is simplest just to go all the way back - with prenatal moves, and following normal sequential growth moves, give auditory and vestibular stimulation and sensory and kinesthetic input. In other words make sure that sure that all connections are made that should have occurred under normal circumstances.

While I go all the way back with every child, if the child is hyper-tactile in the face – i.e. hates to be touched there, the early fear paralysis and withdrawal reflexes are usually still there. I describe much of this again in the update of my book.

I hope this answers at least some of your questions.

Svea Gold

RELATED BOOK: If Kids Just Came With Instruction Sheets!! by Svea Gold, $24.95

But a problem is not a problem if you can fix it - whether we are raising our children or helping those of the global village. This book deals with connections, not just single answers. Whether we are exploring behavior problems, learning disabilities, attention problems, delinquency or drug use, rarely does just one remedy apply. Neither do all remedies apply to every child. Even if only one of the many approaches suggested in this book helps only one child in a hundred, and that happens to be your child, or a child in your acquaintence, this may be the most important book you ever read.

RELATED BOOK: Reflexes, Learning and Behavior - A Window Into The Child´s Mind by Sally Goddard, $24.95

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