Brain Gym International

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Brain Gym International
Brain Gym logo.jpg
Founded 1987
Founders Paul E. Dennison and Gail E. Dennison
Type Nonprofit 501(c)3 in Education
Area served
Product Methods purported to aid learning
Website Brain Gym International

Brain Gym International is the trade name of the Educational Kinesiology Foundation, a California nonprofit organization that promotes a series of exercises called "Brain Gym" that the company claims improve academic performance. The underlying ideas are pseudoscience, and as of 2014 there was no good evidence that the exercises are effective in improving learning.


"Brain Gym International" is the trade name of the Educational Kinesiology Foundation,[1] a California nonprofit corporation that was incorporated in 1987[2] and that received its IRS ruling as a nonprofit in 1992.[3] "Brain Gym" is a registered trademark owned by the company.[4]


In the 1970s, Paul and Gail Dennison developed a set of physical exercises that they say improve children's ability to learn and that they say are based in neuroscience; they called their approach "educational kinesthesiology".[5][6] The company makes money training people in the methods, and licenses the right to use the "Brain Gym" trademark to people whom it trains; the trained people use branded books and other materials they buy from the company.[6][1] Schools pay the trained people to work in schools, training teachers and working with students.[5]

In 2005 the company claimed to be selling its programs in 80 countries and by 2007 it had been widely covered in the press.[7] In a 2013 article in The Economist commenting on the wave of "brain training" programs being brought to market at that time, the organization was used as an example of commercializing neuroscience in a way that scientists found unsupportable but that received widespread adoption for a time.[8] The program was adopted widely in schools in the UK and appeared on many UK government websites as of 2006.[9]


The Brain Gym program calls for children to repeat certain simple movements such as crawling, yawning, making symbols in the air, and drinking water which are claimed to increase blood flow to the brain, "integrate" the brain, and "repattern" the brain.[7][10]

The claims of the organization for the effectiveness of its methods in improving educational outcomes were not supported by evidence as of 2014, and although the organization says the methods are grounded in good neuroscience, the underlying ideas are pseudoscience.[7][10][11][12][13][14][15][16][17]

One of the underlying ideas is that the exercises are meant to ‘balance’ the brain hemispheres so the two "sides" work together better; there is also a notion of integrating the "top" parts of the brain with the "lower" parts of the brain to integrate thought and emotion, as well as integrating visual, auditory, and motor skills; these are all fairly common "neuromyths" based on work published by Samuel Orton in the 1930s.[7][11]

Another idea is that of "brain buttons" - spots on the neck that if touched in certain ways, can stimulate the flow of blood to the brain.[15][18]

Another set of underlying ideas is psychomotor patterning, also known as the Doman-Delacato theory of development, which claims that if motor skills are not acquired in the correct order, the result will be a lifelong deficit in learning ability, and also claims that these deficits can be overcome by going back and learning the skipped skills; this theory and claims to improve learning based on it were discredited in the 1970s and 1980s.[7][13] An example of this in the Brain Gym method, is to have children practice crawling.[13]

In 2009, after inquiries from the House of Commons, the UK Department for Children, Schools and Families said that it had no policy on Brain Gym, and said that it was aware of substantial criticism, and was not aware of substantial research supporting Brain Gym's effectiveness.[5]

As of 2014, publications presenting research finding that the methods are effective in improving learning had not appeared in high quality journals, and the papers that had been published were widely condemned for methodological flaws and small sample sizes that made generalization not possible.[13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Brain Gym - FAQ". Educational Kinesiology Foundation. Retrieved 6 November 2016. 
  2. ^ "Results Detail: C1397468: Educational Kinesiology Foundation". Secretary of State of California. Retrieved 6 November 2016. 
  3. ^ "Profile: Educational Kinesiology Foundation". Guidestar. Retrieved 6 November 2016. 
  4. ^ "BRAIN GYM Trademark of Educational Kinesiology Foundation - Registration Number 2003128 - Serial Number 75007413 :: Justia Trademarks". Justia. Retrieved 6 November 2016. 
  5. ^ a b c "House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee Evidence Check" (PDF). House of Commons. 2009. 
  6. ^ a b Spaulding, Lucinda S.; Mostert, Mark P.; Beam, Andrea P. (19 January 2010). "Is Brain Gym® an Effective Educational Intervention?". Exceptionality. 18 (1): 18–30. doi:10.1080/09362830903462508. 
  7. ^ a b c d e Hyatt, K. J. (1 April 2007). "Brain Gym®: Building Stronger Brains or Wishful Thinking?". Remedial and Special Education. 28 (2): 117–124. doi:10.1177/07419325070280020201. 
  8. ^ "Commercialising neuroscience: Brain sells". The Economist. 10 August 2013. 
  9. ^ Goldacre, Ben (18 March 2006). "Brain Gym exercises do pupils no favours". The Guardian. Archived from the original on October 15, 2014. 
  10. ^ a b Goldacre, Ben (2010). "2: Brain Gym". Bad science : quacks, hacks, and big pharma flacks (First American ed.). Faber and Faber. ISBN 9781429967099. 
  11. ^ a b Howard-Jones, Paul A. (15 October 2014). "Neuroscience and education: myths and messages". Nature Reviews Neuroscience. 15 (12): 817–824. doi:10.1038/nrn3817. PMID 25315391. 
  12. ^ Rose, Hilary; Rose, Steven (23 June 2016). "The false promise of neuroeducation". Times Educational Supplement. 
  13. ^ a b c d Howard-Jones, Paul (January 2014). "Neuroscience and Education: A Review of Educational Interventions and Approaches Informed by Neuroscience" (PDF). The Education Endowment Foundation. 
  14. ^ Denton, Carolyn A. (Winter 2011). "Physical Exercise and Movement-Based Interventions for Dyslexia". Perspectives on Language and Literacy. 37 (1): 27–31. 
  15. ^ a b "Neuroscience and Education: Issues and Opportunities" (PDF). Economic and Social Research Council Teaching and Learning Research Programme. Archived from the original (PDF) on September 28, 2009. 
  16. ^ McCall, Linda Ann H. (Spring 2012). "Brain-based Pedagogy in Today's Diverse Classrooms: A Perfect Fit—But Be Careful!" (PDF). The Delta Kappa Gamma Bulletin. 78 (3): 42–47. 
  17. ^ "How neuroscience is being used to spread quackery in business and education". Matt Wall. The Conversation. 
  18. ^ "Sense About Science – Brain Gym" (PDF). Sense About Science. Archived from the original on November 22, 2009. These exercises are being taught with pseudoscientific explanations that undermine science teaching and mislead children about how their bodies work. ... There have been a few peer reviewed scientific studies into the methods of Brain Gym, but none of them found a significant improvement in general academic skills. 

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