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Brain Gym: Does It Work?

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It isn't well-documented science, according to some, but can it help our kids learn?

I found my car keys; they were in the freezer. I put them in there, along with the waste paper I intended to take out to the trash, which means that the fish filets…

And I programmed my cell phone. That is, I took it to the store and let them program it. I tried to learn the process from the instruction book, but I gained as much from the Chinese section as I did from the English.

Wouldn’t it be nice if there were a pill I could take to keep on track? If there was a way to absorb all that knowledge before it ran off like rainwater from my broken gutters? Well, according to some educators, there is. It is called “Brain Gym.”

That phrase is the registered trademark of the Educational Kinesiology Foundation headquartered in Ventura, California. The system’s founders are educator Paul E. Dennison and his wife Gail E. Dennison.

Brain Gym denotes a series of twenty-six exercises based on the theory that our brain is not alone in facilitating our learning; every cell of our body comes into play. In order to tap into the resources of our physical body to help us learn, Brain Gym utilizes specific physical movements.

Among Brain Gym’s claims are that it can improve:


Concentration and focus


Learning of academic material



And Responsibility.


I understand the principle. I once bought into a weight loss program that required proponents to stand nude in front of a full-length mirror each day before meals. The morning viewing was quite effective. The problem came whenever I had to be away from home at mealtime. My workshop at a conference cleared out after the noon break when the attendees discovered me standing naked in the public bathroom sink. And I must admit there were a few nay-sayers in the Google lineups.

Brain Gym ® has its doubters as well. Most don’t doubt the usefulness of activity for learning. It seems to be a matter of the way it is presented. Robert T. Carroll ( questions the science behind Brain Gym. He notes the refusal of the Dennisons to allow double-blind testing of their theories, and the small number of participants who have been tested to substantiate the claims of Brain Gym. (In one case, Carroll points out, there were only four subjects and one of them was the author of the study.)

Still, it makes sense to me that our brains learn tasks in sequence and we are most successful if that sequence is followed. We are familiar with the concept that children who learn to walk before they crawl are often put through a series of exercises to simulate the crawling step. (This idea, forwarded by a physical therapist named Doman has been widely disputed.) And we know that if we restrain hyperactive children from fidgeting they may become agitated and less able to learn.

We were introduced to the Brain Gym ® concept at a foster parent meeting. Several stations were set up and we parents went through the walking course. Many foster children have delays in their learning, and DHS is always looking for ways to improve their chances of academic success. If we parents bought into the system, then perhaps we could experiment with it a bit. It couldn’t hurt.

Here, then, are a few of the exercises involved with Brain Gym. I invite you to make up your own minds. It could be that the greatest value these exercises offer for adults is the increased focus on a specific problem …memory, for example, and for children is the increased interaction with their parents. Or, there may well be a real opportunity in Brain Gym® to improve our brain function.

The first of the 26 exercises is drinking water. For someone my age, that might be a detriment. After all, it is difficult to master a concept when you interrupt your reading every fifteen minutes for a “potty break.” But hydration is important for physical as well as mental functioning.

Another exercise is called “the thinking cap.” One proponent suggests before doing the exercise, you turn your head to the left, and then to the right noting how far you can turn it without tension and your field of vision. Then, you unfold the rolled part of your ear lobe from the top to the bottom three times. Afterward, repeat the head turning to see if your range of motion is greater, with less tension.

At our foster parents meeting we were encouraged to draw a vertical line on a page and practice tapping on both sides of it while we were reading or listening to material we wanted to retain. Supposedly, this patterning connects both hemispheres of the brain and increases the ability of the brain to function as a whole.

It’s an intriguing concept, and one that invites experimentation. It can’t hurt. The actual Brain Gym course is expensive. I suggest playing around with the concept before you invest in the material. The official Brain Gym® website is found at

And a word for those of us who just want to recall where we put the fish filets? I would like to suggest that you visit this website:


Write it down, you know you won’t remember if you don’t.