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Environmental Enrichment: Interventions and Interpretations

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1 Environmental Enrichment: Interventions and Interpretations
Andrew Brown Psy328 March 15, 2005

2 Aims and Objectives Reinforce awareness that environment and biology interact in development Emphasize the importance of long-term follow-ups and scientific controlled investigations Consider scientific vs pseudoscientific interventions

3 Ramey & Ramey (1998) ‘Early years’ programmes must attempt to alter rate of cognitive development if genuine catch-up is to occur “little is known about how to accelerate cognitive development beyond normative or typical rates”

4 Seven Principles of Successful Early Intervention Programs (Ramey & Ramey, 1998)
Timing Intensity Direct provision of learning experiences Breadth Recognition of individual differences Environmental maintenance of development Cultural appropriateness and relevance of intervention strategies

5 Science Vs Pseudoscience (Beyerstein, 1995)
tries to appropriate prestige of science lacks rigorous controls secrecy/role of ‘experts’ / gurus reliance on anecdotal evidence Their explanations are ‘usually contradicted by well-established scientific knowledge’ their own findings ‘rarely, if ever, withstand scrutiny by competent critics’ Science experiments controlled conditions public accessibility peer accountability gold standard = RCT ‘expert opinion’ = a low grade of evidence anecdotes not acceptable as evidence – “the plural of anecdote is not data”

6 Pseudotechnology – “commercial ventures promoted by hucksters who mislead consumers into thinking that their products are sound applications of scientific knowledge … any supporting ‘research’ done by these distributors or their associates will be found to be seriously flawed” (Beyerstein, 1995)

7 Brain Gym Drinking water Simple physical exercises
Pseudoscientific explanation


9 What is Brain Gym ? Brain Gym® is an educational, movement based programme which uses simple movements to integrate the whole brain, senses and body, preparing the person with the physical skills they need to learn effectively. It can be used to improve a wide range of learning, attention and behaviour skills. Educational Kinesiology and Brain Gym® are the result of many years of research into learning and brain function by an educationalist, Dr Paul Dennison PhD, from the United States. It is now used in over 45 countries and is recognised as a safe, effective and innovative educational and self-development tool.

10 Who does it help? Originally created to help children and adults with learning challenges, for example dyslexia, dyspraxia and ADHD, Brain Gym® is now used to improve functioning and life quality by people from all walks of life from education to the arts, business, healthcare, sport and personal development. The movements can be safely used by people of almost any age and mobility, from babies upwards.

11 Rationale Movement improves learning
Much of the movement focuses on improving communication between hemispheres Specific neurophysiological explanations given Water consumption also aids this process


13 Brain Gym in UK schools 1700 teachers trained by one body (Osiris)
Widely in use in Wakefield LEA In use in over 40 countries 43 Brain Gym consultants in the UK (to complete all BG courses costs around £3,000)

14 Guiding concepts for efficacy trials (Ramey and Ramey, 2004)
Recruitment from prespecified populations Random assignment to treatment and control groups Application and documentation of a replicable compound of services Minimization of attrition Independent assessment of outcomes by researches blinded to participant’s condition

15 Guiding concepts for efficacy trials (Ramey and Ramey, 2004)
Pre-planned statistical analysis of hypothesized outcomes Replication of key findings in independent samples Publication in peer reviewed journals Dissemination of findings to key policy makers following peer-reviewed publication

16 Brain Gym ‘research pack’
Summaries of evidence, most in the Brain Gym Journal 10 expts, 9 from BGJ, 1 from Perceptual and motor skills (impact factor 0.3) 21 quasi expts (most from BGJ) 11 qualitative reports

17 Brain Gym ‘research pack’
Populations included in the research pack: ADHD Simple response times (only peer reviewed paper) Improves learning and memory in adults ‘learning disabled’ children ‘Emotional handicaps’ Foetal alcohol syndrome Improves hearing Athletes Alzheimer’s patients Insurance salesmen

18 Brain Gym teacher’s handbook (1989; still in use)
“There are no lazy, withdrawn or aggressive children, only children denied the ability to learn in a way that is natural to them”


20 Movements to improve laterality:


22 “hook-ups shift electrical energy from the survival centres in the hindbrain to the reasoning centres in the midbrain and neocortex, thus activating hemispheric integration … the tongue pressing into the roof of the mouth stimulates the limbic system for emotional processing in concert with more refined reasoning in the frontal lobes”



25 Why the popularity ? Offers a very quick, relatively cheap, easy fix to almost any ailment Contains enough (incorrect or inappropriate) science to go unquestioned by teachers Trappings of scientific respectability – Brain metaphors, the ‘PhD effect’ Probably works ! Fun, running around before doing work, ‘special’ components eg being allowed to drink in class, huge potential for expectancy and placebo effects

26 Conclusions Programs like Head Start are based on the assumption that it is possible to modify the trajectory of a child’s intellectual development Enrichment programs are most effective when they are intensive and start early, but they will only be effective within the limits of biology “Wild claims … are likely to surface whenever proven empirical techniques offer no quick and easy route to a desirable end … if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is” (Beyerstein, 1995) “In an ideal world, we would be teaching children enough science in school that they were able to stand up to a teacher who was spouting this kind of rubbish” (Ben Goldacre, the Guardian’s ‘Bad Science’ column, 2003)

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