“Research suggests that restoring neural integration requires the simultaneous reregulation of networks on both vertical and horizontal planes” •Lou Cozolino 2010
One of the most important concepts to understand and the basis of our practice is the understanding of vertical and horizontal integration. Vertical integration is the development of the brain from the bottom to the top. Think of building a house, you begin by laying a strong foundation, then you build the walls on top of that and finally the roof. Vertical integration and development of the brain is the exact same way, first, the foundation has to be built, which is the brainstem.
The brainstem is responsible for all of our essential life functions like heart rate, digestion and breathing. It also holds the basic program of our nervous system which are the primitive reflexes. Primitive reflexes are the training wheels of the nervous system and are responsible for the initial development of the brain.
Next, we have to build the walls which is the cerebellum. The cerebellum is responsible for balance and coordination and is like the conductor of the brain and keeps everything running smoothly.
Finally, the roof or the cortex has to be built which is responsible for all of our senses like smell, sight, taste and executive functions like learning, judgment, regulating emotions and communication.
Once the cortex is developed the next process of brain development begins, which is horizontal integration. This is the development of both the left and right sides of our brain. Both sides must develop evenly since both sides must share information to effectively work to their fullest potential. For example, the right side of the brain is responsible for non-verbal communication while the left side is responsible for verbal communication.
This all eventually leads to Top Down-Regulation, which controls the whole body. Think of this as an airport control tower monitoring and coordinating all the activity around an airport. This also is responsible for inhibiting or turning off the primitive reflexes since the brain has developed enough to no longer need them, think of this like upgrading the software on your phone. The brain can now process information faster and perform more complex actions like walking as opposed to crawling. This is how all complex systems evolve the parts to develop the whole and the whole comes down to eventually regulate the parts.
But, any interference in this process alters the developmental trajectory of the individual and can lead to primitive reflexes not being integrated ie retained primitive reflexes, and an imbalance in the brain called a functional disconnection. This ultimately results in a myriad of conditions such as ADHD, Autism, Dyslexia, PANS/PANDAS, OCD, Tics & Tourettes, etc.
As the quote above suggests to be successful we must be able to examine and treat both vertical and horizontal integration SIMULTANEOUSLY.
Vertical integration looks at brain development and removing bottom-up interference (integrating primitive reflexes, improving balance and coordination, and developing core strength). Horizontal integration is hemispheric integration and building connectivity so that the left and right side of the cortex is balanced.
By addressing the nervous system and body in a comprehensive manner most if not all of the above conditions can resolve.
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