Babies in Motion
<p>As a fish is to water, we are so close to one of our fundamental sensory inputs that we rarely recognize that it exists. Ask someone what the five senses" are and they will rarely mention our sense of motion. This sense resides in the inner ear (vestibular system) and, as it is the earliest sense to develop in the womb, should be labeled as our first sense. Generally we take this sense for granted except when it causes us trouble - feeling dizziness, vertigo, or motion sickness. But this sense is even more important when our brain first starts to grow.</p><p>From the work of James Prescott, PhD, of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (at the National Institute of Health) in the 1960s and 1970s, we know that input from our first sense is so important to the developing brain that without enough of it, actual brain damage occurs. Sensory input from the vestibular system travels to the cerebellum, the limbic system, and the prefrontal neocortex, which form the basis of the neurointegrative brain. Here, constant movement influences the development of neurotransmitter systems and "brain gestalts" in which the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Most of us alive today did not get enough somatic stimulation and as a result suffer from some degree of somato-sensory affectional deprivation syndrome (S-SADS), which often leads to depression, violence, and/or addictions.*</p><p>Gentle rocking soothes infants, but if we didn't get enough, one way we can treat ourselves for this somato-sensory deprivation is to self-stimulate our sensory system. Self-rocking and other stereotypical behaviors are well-known consequences of S-SADS.</p><p>Do you recall riding in the back of a car at night as a child and falling asleep? Was it upsetting to have this womblike state disrupted when the car stopped at a traffic light or, worse yet, you arrived home and had to walk to the house?</p><p>As young children we are drawn to naturally stimulate our vestibular system on playgrounds. This is probably the result of the various forms of sensory deprivation our bodies are otherwise enduring. Swings, slides, merry-go-rounds, and teeter-totters all happen to specifically stimulate the inner ear, which provides an important input to our nervous system. Due to liability fears, however, many of these devices have been removed from playgrounds - the teeter-totters and merry-go-rounds are usually the first to go, then the slides get shorter and the swings lower. In a few more years, what will be left besides static devices?</p><p>But older kids have found another solution - skateboards!</p><p>As adults, we pay money to have our vestibular system stimulated by carousels, Ferris wheels, and roller-coasters, not to mention the upside-down terror machines of theme parks.</p><p>We crave it in the air: with sail planes, hang gliders, parasailing, sky diving, bungee jumping, high diving, and so on on; or on the water, with surfing, sailboats and sailboards, water skiing, snorkeling, and scuba diving.</p><p>The correlation of the rise of interest in these sports and the increases in S-SADS among the very generations that create and pursue these sports is intriguing.</p><p>It must be a monumental shock to a newborn to come out of the womb, in which she was constantly in motion and being massaged by the movement of her mother's diaphragm and intestines, and be placed alone in a lifeless plastic container; yet this shock goes as unnoticed as our sixth sense itself. Carrying babies and sleeping with them mimics the experience of being in the womb; it has been the norm for millions of years of our ancestry. Cross-cultural studies have confirmed that tribes with high mother-infant bonding through movement are peaceful cultures. The lack of this mother-infant movement bonding produces violent cultures.† To think we can ignore such a basic need without severe consequences is probably arrogant and shortsighted.<HR>* Prescott, J. W., "The Origins of Love" (2004), www.byronchild.com/arts21.htm.<BR>† Prescott, J. W., "How Culture Shapes the Developing Brain and the Future of Humanity" (2002), www.touchthefuture.org/services/bonding/02SpringNLJWP.pdf.