What are primitive reflexes?
Primitive reflexes are the early stage reflexes developed in-utero. They begin to emerge at different stages during pregnancy, with the first series of them emerging by just nine weeks after conception. They continue to emerge and develop during life in the womb.
Some primitive reflexes do not emerge until late in pregnancy and as a result, they can be under-developed or be absent in pre-term babies born before 32 weeks.
These reflexes are designed to help the newborn survive for the first six to nine months of life outside the womb. They are needed during this time because the infants brain is not fully wired at birth. Their nervous system and neural connections between different levels in the brain are underdeveloped.
It is during the first six months of life that the higher brain centres develop and take more direct control. This facilitates the inhibition of the primitive reflexes.
This is called reflex integration. It occurs as a result of the maturation of the central nervous system and physical interaction with the environment (real world experiences via the sensory system).
Research has shown time and time again that if there is sensory deprivation in the early years this results in brain alteration. Conversely, if there is an enriched environment provided certain areas of the brain increase developmentally.