Research by Brain Gym Foundation

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Does Brain Gym® International have research on the effects of the Brain Gym activities? Yes, we offer three primary publications that summarize our research: (1) A Chronology of Annotated Research Study Summaries in the Field of Educational Kinesiology, on the braingym.org website, offers summaries of research studies done by a number of our instructors through the last twenty years. (2) The Brain Gym® Global Observer, formerly the Brain Gym® Journal, published three times yearly, offers in-depth articles as well as reports of an anecdotal, statistical, or theoretical nature, written by instructors about their use of the Brain Gym program in diverse settings. (3) The Research Packet offers expanded abstracts of some of the studies in the Research Chronology.Many books also detail the effects of learning on movement.

What books or other sources will give me research on the validity of using movement to support the learning process?Here are a few good examples from the many existing resources:

  • Smart Moves: Why Learning Is Not All in Your Head by Carla Hannaford. Salt Lake City: Great River Books, 2005.
  • The Dominance Factor: How Knowing Your Dominant Eye, Ear, Brain, Hand and Foot Can Improve Your Learning, by Carla Hannaford. Alexander, N.C.: Great Ocean Publishers, 1997.
  • “Three Papers on New Discoveries in Brain Function,” by Susan Diamond. [Dr. Diamond synopsized three of her recent papers: “Educational Kinesiology, Movement, and Sensory Integration: A Review of Recent, Relevant Neuroscientific Literature”; “NLP and the Brain: Some Issue Areas, Findings, and Hypotheses”; and “A Review of Brain Gym Literature and Study Design Proposal.”] Brain Gym® Journal, July 2001, Volume XV, Nos. 1 & 2.

What’s the difference between the two kinds of research studies in your chronology of annotated research studies? The foundation’s existing studies are categorized under two research designs: Experimental (with three subcategories) and Descriptive (with two subcategories). The difference between these two has largely to do with the method of data collection and how the research is set up to isolate a particular variable. As you can imagine, the more stringent the methodology, the less room there is for human error. Yet those who conduct research studies on Brain Gym tend to be individuals who work with young people, so their research subjects tend to be classroom students. And, because of the nature of children, for whom stringent methodology can actually influence testing results, descriptive or anecdotal research serves best.

Is the foundation’s research on the Brain Gym® movements and processes scientific? Some academics consider only experimental research (statistical research with control groups) to be scientific. You’ll find the studies that most adhere to this standard in our Annotated Research subcategories “Quasi-Experimental Research” and “True Experimental Research”. To our knowledge, two have been published in a peer-reviewed journal:

  • G.C.K. Khalsa’s, Don Morris’s, and Josie M. Siift, Ph.D.’s  study on static balance, 1990) “The effects of Educational Kinesiology on the static balance of learning-disabled students“
  • Josie M. Siift, Ph.D.’s  and  G.C.K. Khalsa’s study “The effect of Educational Kinesiology upon simple response times and choice response times”.
Other academics consider descriptive research to be of equal scientific value to experimental research, because it identifies trends and provides a sound basis for controlled experimental research. You’ll find many examples of such pilot studies that use qualitative or anecdotal research. These latter studies have not yet been peer- reviewed, although some of them are qualified for such review. Both qualitative and quantitative studies are acceptable for peer review.

Does the foundation sponsor research? No, we do not financially sponsor research projects at this time. Our choice is to disseminate information about the relationship of movement to learning. To this end, we publish research and pilot studies as they become available to us.

Why isn’t there more quantitative research? Quantitative research or scientific research follows a medical model, not an educational one. A medical model studies the effects of one intervention (such as a medication or a teaching method) when all other factors are controlled. In our case, this requires that two or more groups in the study be established as uniformly as possible, preferably by random selection, and do very similar things, with only one group receiving the benefits of the Brain Gym® program. Quantitative statistics are derived from testing and then comparing the results achieved by different groups. In the few such statistical studies that we already have, you’ll see that the Brain Gym group usually does better than the control group. Yet few of our instructors have the background or funding to do statistical research. Universities usually conduct such studies; they receive grants from government sources, for-profit and non-profit corporations, private sources, or some combination thereof to do such studies. Also, since most of our instructors are teachers who use the Brain Gym® program in the classroom, they’re working to make a difference for all children, and they question the ethics of not offering equal opportunities to all participants. We anticipate further quantitative research from academia at large as the validity of our work’s premise that movement enhances learning is further established. (See also Answer No. 7.)

Why aren’t there more peer-reviewed articles? Articles published in peer-reviewed journals are generally required to be based on scientific studies. Such studies must prove that an intervention made a statistically significant difference and didn’t happen by chance, and this necessitates a control group. Some are longitudinal studies requiring personnel to administer them over time. For the ethical reasons mentioned above, and because of the expertise required for statistical work and the high costs of doing such research over time, we haven’t yet seen many such studies. We anticipate further peer-reviewed articles from academia at large as the validity of our work’s premise that movement enhances learning is further established. (See also Answer No. 6.)

What value is there in small classroom studies like the ones mentioned in the chronology? The foundation is creating a body of literature that validates research hypotheses about the Brain Gym® work on which larger studies can then be based. Some of our instructors are currently developing such larger studies. We invite impartial researchers with an interest in how learning occurs to validate or disprove our established hypotheses.

Isn’t quantitative, peer-reviewed research a standard requirement for any program used in schools? No. For example, there are no quantitative or peer-reviewed articles that support the idea that children learn best by being tested or being grouped by age levels, yet programs that involve testing and age grouping are standard procedure in most schools.

What kinds of factors are usually measured in Brain Gym research? The Brain Gym work is seen to positively impact a broad variety of skills and behaviors (for examples, see Brain Gym®: Teacher’s Edition by Paul and Gail Dennison, © 2010). If you refer to any of our research publications (see answer No. 1, above) you’ll see that, in the last twenty years, a full range of skills, including reading, writing, spelling, mathematics, attention, memory, and fine-motor and postural skills, have been measured in pilot studies. Because the Brain Gym program offers such multifaceted results, the descriptive and anecdotal research studies are best suited to typical study purposes.

Specific Studies

Along with the many anecdotal reports included in Brain Gym® Journal, the following are some representative studies that cite statistics. A Study on Brain Gym and Its Effects on Academic Progress:
  • “Brain Gym for All: From Pre-Birth to Old Age,” by Elisabeth Demuth, RN., North Sulawesi, Indonesia. [The learning achievement of 246 Brain Gym students in 2003-2004 (average grade 8.1) compared to that of students at the same school in 2002/2003 without Brain Gym intervention (average grade 7.7). From Brain Gym® Journal, March 2007, Volume XXII, No. 1.
  • “Brain Gym for All: From Pre-Birth to Old Age,” by Elisabeth Demuth, RN., North Sulawesi, Indonesia. [The school attended by the students in the study proved to be number one nationally among thirty-one tested.] From Brain Gym® Journal, March 2007, Volume XXII, No. 1.
Studies on Brain Gym and Its Effects on Reading:
  • Gates-MacGinitie Reading Test Results (for a Fourth Grade Inclusion Classroom) reported in “I’m Not the Same Teacher I Used to Be” by Carmel Dodson, Florida. Brain Gym® Journal, Nov. 2006, Volume XX, No. 3.
  • TPRI Reading Scores (2004-05), reported in “Planting ‘Brain Gym Seeds’” by Cheryl Carpenter, Texas. Brain Gym® Journal, Nov. 2005, Volume XIX, No. 3.
  • “Giving Back,” by Karen “Freesia” Peterson, Hawaii ( 2001-2002 and 2002-2003). [Test results of children involved in a Brain Gym program where they were mentored by seniors showed significant improvement in reading skills: an average of .85 grades and .66 years’ improvement during the period of participation.] Brain Gym® Journal, July 2005, Volume XIX, No. 2.
  • “Improving Reading Achievement in a Combined Second and Third Grade Classroom” (January 2000), © 2004 by Judy Bourne, Alberta, Canada. Brain Gym® Journal, Nov. 2004, Volume XVIII, No. 3.
  • “A Movement-Based Learning Lab” (2002), © 2004 by Thad Trahan, Texas. Brain Gym® Journal, Nov. 2004, Volume XVIII, No. 3.
  • “Taking a Leap of Faith in My School Reading Lab,” by Sheila Potter, North Carolina. [Reported the following growth in class averages: A nine-week study, grade six: 83 percent to 95 percent, a gain of 12 percent; grade seven: 80 percent to 94 percent, a gain of 14 percent; grade eight: 83 percent to 94 percent, a gain of 11 percent.] Brain Gym® Journal, Nov. 2003, Volume XVII, No. 3.
  • “A Pilot Study: The Effect of Brain Gym® on Reading Achievement for Grades Three through Five” (2002), by Sheila Potter, North Carolina. [Results from the paired t-test indicate a statistically significant difference in the reading achievement gain between the two groups.] Brain Gym® Journal, Nov. 2003, Volume XVII, No. 3.
  • “The Moving Classroom: Results of a School District Research Study,” by Dorothea Beigel, Wetzler, Germany. [A double-blind statistical analysis of the data indicated that the children who had done the Brain Gym activities read faster, made fewer mistakes, and had better comprehension of the test material than did the two comparison groups.] Brain Gym® Journal, Aug. 2003, Volume XVII, No. 2.
  • “Academic Support for ‘Kids in the Middle,’” by Darcy Lewis, Michigan. [Seventh graders in a special-ed classroom achieved an average of two years’ academic growth in one year]. Brain Gym® Journal, Nov. 2002, Volume XVI, No. 3.
  • “Creating a Win-Win Situation in a Canadian Grade School,” by Liz Jones Twomey, Ontario, Canada. [Between 1997 and 2000, reading scores went from 39 percent to 82 percent.] Brain Gym® Journal, Nov. 2002, Volume XVI, No. 3.
  • The Effect of Brain Gym on Reading Abilities, © 1998 by Cecilia Freeman Koester.
  • Brain Exercise Improves Reading and Memory, © 1994 and 1996 by Jochen Donczik (translated from German by Christine M. Grimm and Sigrid Wong).
Studies on Brain Gym and Its Effects on Writing:
  • “Pilot Study: First-Grade Students Improve Their Writing Skills,” by Debra Honegger, Ohio. Brain Gym® Journal, March 2004, Volume XVIII, No. 1.
  • “Kinesthetic Learning for Young Environmental Scientists,” by Terry Sanchez, Virginia. [Fifth-grade students passed the Standards of Learning tests (SOLs) with a 12 percent gain]. Brain Gym® Journal, Nov. 2002, Volume XVI, No. 3.
  • “Creating a Win-Win Situation in a Canadian Grade School,” by Liz Jones Twomey, Ontario, Canada. [Between 1997 and 2000, writing scores went from 31 percent to 82 percent.] Brain Gym® Journal, Nov. 2002, Volume XVI, No. 3.
A Study on Brain Gym and Its Effects on Mathematics:
  • “Creating a Win-Win Situation in a Canadian Grade School,” by Liz Jones Twomey, Ontario, Canada. [Between 1997 and 2000, mathematics scores went from 33 percent to 92 percent.] Brain Gym® Journal, Nov. 2002, Volume XVI, No. 3.
Studies on Brain Gym and Its Effects on Eye Movement and Vision:
  • “Assessing the Effects of Brain Gym of Visual Processing Speed and Reading,” by Buffy McClelland. [In this statistically significant study in the United Kingdom, Brain Gym intervention brought the visual processing speed of a group of poor readers to the same level as a group of good readers.] Brain Gym® Journal, March 2007, Volume XXII, No. 1.
  • “Changes in Visual Processing Speed with Brain Gym Movements in a School Setting,” by Buffy McClelland. [In this study done in the United Kingdom, the twenty-five children who did Brain Gym showed a significant increase at 95 percent confidence in visual processing speed (the average score increased from 4.56 to 5.54), while the twenty-five children who had only the usual school interventions showed no statistically significant change. Reading age increased by nearly one year in the Brain Gym group, but in the control group did not improve beyond the expected age-related gains.] Brain Gym® Journal, March 2007, “Assessing the Effects of Brain Gym of Visual Processing Speed and Reading,” Volume XXII, No. 1.
  • “Eye Teaming with Brain Gym,” by Kathy Brown, Arizona (anecdotal report). [Brain Gym group and control group; significant increase in writing skill at a .10 level, based on a repeated analysis for variance (ANOVA) in each area assessed; Correct word sequences (.01 P-value) demonstrated a significant level of change while words spelled correctly (.061 P-value) and total words written (.066 P-value) demonstrated levels very close to the more stringent significant marker.] Brain Gym® Journal, July 2004, Volume XVIII, No. 2.
A Study on Brain Gym and Its Effect on Spelling:
  • “Spelling, Science, and SATs: What Movement-Based Learning Has Brought to Our School” (2003), by Lynda Underwood, England. Brain Gym® Journal, Nov. 2007, Volume XXI, No. 3.
Studies on Brain Gym and Its Effect on Attention, Locomotion, and Fine-Motor Control:
  • “Using Brain Gym with People Who Have Parkinson’s Disease,” by Jo Anna Shaw, Oregon. [In the self-assessments of ten elders diagnosed as having Parkinson’s Disease who completed a ___long program of Edu-K balances and Brain Gym homeplay, four experienced significant improvement in breathing and mental balance, five experienced moderate improvement in physical and emotional balance, writing, quality of life, tremors, “freezing,” and physical mobility, and one experienced some improvement in reading, seeing, hearing, speaking, memory, focus, dyskinesia, and self-maintenance.]
  • “Edu-K Opens the Door to Movement Development,” by Svetlana Masgutova, Poland [anecdotal]. Brain Gym® Journal, March 2004, Volume XVIII, No.1.
  • “A Movement and Music Program Featuring Brain Gym,” by Marian Ownbey. [Kindergarten students tested on jump, hop, gallop, and skip: 71 students (65 percent) mastered four skills; 30 (28 percent mastered three skills; 8 (7 percent) master two skills; 0 mastered one skill; 0 mastered no skill.] Brain Gym® Journal, Nov. 2003, Volume XVII, No. 3.
  • “Moving to Learn in Country Schools,” by Gillian Morrison, New South Wales, Australia. [23 kindergarten children were assessed; in March of 2000 12 were identified on the TOMI (Test of Motor Impairment) as having moderate to definite motor impairments; after a once-a-week Brain Gym program for two years and four months, post-test scores reflected improvements in motor skills as a result of the Edu-K program, and 10 of the 12 children tested as now having no significant motor problems.] Brain Gym® Journal, Nov. 2002, Volume XVI, No. 3.
  • “A Study on the Influence of Brain Gym Movements on Muscles and on Dynamic and Postural Reflexes” (1994-1999, a five-year study), © 1999 by Svetlana K. Masgutova. Brain Gym® Journal, July 2001, Volume XV, Nos. 1 & 2.
  • “Brain Gym for Preschoolers in a Headstart Program,” © 1996 by Gail Dennison and Diane Lehman (a six-week study). Brain Gym® Journal, July 2001, Volume XV, Nos. 1 & 2.
Studies on Brain Gym and Its Effects on Level of Arousal (Biobehavioral States):
  • “Using Brain Gym with Los-Incidence Disabilities and Severe Cognitive Impairments,” © 2007 by Marth Vincent, Texas. Brain Gym® Journal, Nov. 2007, Volume XXI, No. 3.
  • “Bilateral Exercises to Decrease Off-Task Behaviors in Special-Needs Preschoolers” (2005), by Jennifer Dustow, Hawaii. Brain Gym® Journal, July 2005, Volume XIX, No. 2.
Studies on Brain Gym and Its Effects on Balance, Coordination, Recall, and Vision Improvement with Seniors:
  • An anecdotal report: “Elders Create Community by Mentoring Other Elders,” by Karen “Freesia” Peterson, Hawaii. Brain Gym® Journal, July 2005, Volume XIX, No. 2.
  • “Happy, Moving Seniors,” by Elisabeth Demuth, RN, North Sulawesi, Indonesia. [An anecdotal report: improved vertigo, muscle cramps, and headaches.] Brain Gym® Journal, July 2005, Volume XIX, No. 2.
  • “Keeping Body and Mind Active,” by Gerda Kolf, Soest, Germany (translated from the German by Constance Carr). [An anecdotal report on the use of Brain Gym with the elderly: improvements in static and ambulatory balance, reading, writing again after a stroke. Brain Gym® Journal, July 2005, Volume XIX, No. 2.
  • “Using Movement Therapy after Cardiac Surgery,” by Sharon Tepfer, New York. [An anecdotal report on the use of Brain Gym after cardiac surgery: improvements in posture, the ability to relax and to write, and gross- and fine-motor coordination.] Brain Gym® Journal, July 2005, Volume XIX, No. 2.
  • “Energetics: Working with the Aging and the Aged,” by Dvora Shurman, Tel Aviv, Israel. [An anecdotal report on the use of Brain Gym with the elderly for improvements in positive attitude, flexibility, and static and ambulatory balance.] Brain Gym® Journal, July 2005, Volume XIX, No. 2.
  • “Learning Again After Acute Brain Injury,” by Barbara Aigen, RN, Virginia. [An anecdotal report on the use of Brain Gym with the elderly for improvements in walking ability and communication after a stroke.] Brain Gym® Journal, July 2005, Volume XIX, No. 2.
A Study on Brain Gym and Its Effects on Attention Deficit Disorder, Hyperactivity, and Problem Behaviors
  • “Giving Back,” by Karen “Freesia” Peterson, Hawaii. [For 2001-2002 and 2002-2003: Test results of children involved in a Brain Gym program where they were mentored by seniors showed a significant decrease in all problematical behaviors, including symptoms of attention deficit disorder and hyperactivity during the period of participation. Brain Gym® Journal, July 2005, Volume XIX, No. 2.
A Study on Brain Gym and Its Effects on Discipline Referrals:
  • “Planting ‘Brain Gym Seeds,’” by Cheryl Carpenter, Texas. [Discipline Referrals for a Pittsburg pre-K classroom (2004-2005) of 32 students; referrals went from 19 per month to 0 with the use of Brain Gym.] Brain Gym® Journal, Nov. 2005, Volume XIX, No. 3.