Creating a Balanced Brain
Activating and Stimulating Greater Neurological Function
By: Dr. Stephen Ranicki
Many of the therapies for children with autism focus on teaching the children to use their strengths to compensate for their weaknesses. Looking at autism as the result of a hemispheric imbalance shows us that the strengths are coming from the dominant hemisphere. Using the strengths more, especially in ways that compensate for tasks the weaker hemisphere is unable to perform, serves to make the imbalance greater. To bring the balancw in hemispheric function back it is necessary to strengthen the weaker hemisphere
while somewhat suppressing the dominant hemisphere. Creating demand on the weaker hemisphere while providing it with more stimulation and activation offers the driving forces of neuroplastic changes. Long term activation of the weaker hemisphere can reverse the dominance of the left brain and make the right the dominant hemisphere as intended.
During pregnancy a signal from the mother stimulates the male fetus to produce a surge in testosterone. This testosterone surge causes the right hemisphere of the brain to develop more than the left. There is a thickening of the cortex in the right hemisphere of the brain compared to the left in a properly developing male. High levels of maternal stress block this signal to the male fetus preventing the testosterone surge and the thickening of the right cortex. The right brain becomes underdeveloped and the left brain, which was intended to be non-dominant, becomes the dominant hemisphere and may make efforts to inhibit the weaker right hemisphere and become even more dominant. Female fetuses are largely unaffected by maternal stress and are much more symmetrical in there hemispheric development and tend to a slight left brain dominance. This explains why the Autism Spectrum is largely a male disorder.
The two hemispheres of the brain have very unique functions that are mostly not duplicated in the opposite hemisphere. The left hemisphere processes introspection, verbal language, pattern recognition (sameness and order), mathematical calculation, logic, high frequency sound, light, and vibration, fine motor skills, small muscle control, detail processing, immune activation and more. The right hemisphere, on the other hand, processes social skills and awareness, non-verbal language (such as body language, facial expressions, mind-reading), new concepts or experiences, difference, mathematical reasoning, spatial perception, low frequency sound, light and vibration, gross motor skills and large muscle group control, and global processing (getting the big picture), immune suppression and more. The two hemispheres of the brain also process sensory input from the opposite side of the body and control the muscles and organs of the opposite side of the body.
Because of the different roles the two hemispheres have in immune function children with a right hemisphere deficit can
develop rather normally until the first time there is a significant immune challenge. For many children with a right hemisphere deficit the first major immune challenge is the trigger that makes the imbalance dramatic enough to bring out the symptomatology of the autism spectrum disorder. This starts to shed some light on why most parents of a child with autism are able to point to an occurrence such as a particular vaccination, a bad cold or respiratory tract infection, etc. as the event that brought on their child’s autism.
The right hemisphere’s role in social skills and facial recognition explain why a right hemisphere deficit might result in the
concept of a child who is trapped inside of their own mind that is often used to describe autism and the unwillingness to make eye contact. Even though verbal language is processed in the left hemisphere a right hemispheric deficit might still explain the language challenges that children with autism usually have. Spoken language is still a social skill. To develop language you have to have someone to talk to. An inability to relate to others might affect our ability to develop and use language skills. For example, 5 nights a week Jay Leno, David Letterman and others appear on the television and speak directly to anyone
watching. They are, quite literally, talking to you; but you would never consider talking back to them in this scenario, would you? They are not “real” so you observe them but don’t interact with them. There is no social connection to the people talking to you on the television. Someone with a right brain deficit is believed to perceive to people in their world very similarly. “There
they are all the time talking to me, trying to get my attention but they are not like me. I am up here in my mind. Not down there in the physical world” So there is no one to talk to and without anyone to talk to we never develop language.
A very impressive study done by Ozonoff and Miller and published in Brain and Language tested a group of adults with autism through a battery of language tests that were sensitive to right brain injuries. They found that the group with autism performed very similarly to adults that had stroke related injuries in the right brain and very differently from a control group. This lends further evidence to the connection between autism and right hemisphere deficits.
Whenever one hemisphere of the brain is deficient the dominant hemisphere will actually try to increase its dominance and make the asymmetry even worse as it tries to assume some f the jobs and roles of the weaker hemisphere. This would explain the regressive nature of autism and can also explain the savantism that is often seen in autism. The left hemisphere becomes so dominant and activated that it can perform seemingly impossible tasks. Kim Peek, the autistic savant that the Rainman movie was based on, can tell you the day of the week of any date you can come up with and even which day was Easter Sunday from decades ago without seeing a calendar. The left hemisphere’s affinity for structure, order and sameness explains why most parent of children with autism report that the doors in the house have to be all open or all closed and that routine is extremely important to their children.
Neuroplastic changes are driven by activation and stimulation of the desired part of the brain, spinal cord, or peripheral nerves. Stimulation comes partly from our five senses but the largest source of stimulation to the brain comes from movement against gravity. There is not always something to see, or hear, or taste, or touch or smell, but there is always gravity and we are always moving, even if it is only the movement that comes from our ribcage expanding and contracting while we breathe. Movement fires a type of nerve ending called mechanoreceptors. Mechanoreception is the most effective way to create rewiring and repair of brain tissues. Of course, the random mechanoreceptive input that will come from day to day movements will have impact on the brain, but the effects will also be random and therefore have little to net impact on the brain.
Doctors of Chiropractic are uniquely qualified to care for children with autism through the hemisphericity model. The Chiropractic Functional Neurology approach offers very specific pathways to target the weaker hemisphere and activate it while slightly reducing stimulation to the dominant hemisphere. Adjusting the spine, joints of the legs and joints of the arm on one side of the body and not the other is a powerful way to provide activation to the weaker hemisphere and not the dominant.
Chiropractors focused on neurology often have additional tools such as light and sound therapies, vibration, balance training, spinning, caloric irrigation (warm or cool water applied to the ear to excite or calm the vestibular system), etc. that can amplify the stimulation of one side of the brain. Only by repeated activation of the weaker hemisphere can hemispheric integration be brought back to effect the changes we really want to see in children on the autism spectrum.
Chiropractic is not about backs, or necks, or what does or doesn’t hurt. Chiropractic is about brains; brains, spinal cords,
and nerves to more accurate. Chiropractors have just found that the safest and most specific way to change the brain, spinal cord, and nerves is to fire the nerve endings of the body which are everywhere but most heavily concentrated in the joints and muscles of the spine. By working with the joints and muscles of the spine and other highly neurologically active areas such as the eyes, inner ear, and hands we can influence the nervous system to function better and even rewire and repair itself. This is commonly known as Neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity holds a great deal of hope for children on the Autism spectrum; AD/HD
at its mildest end, Asperger’s Syndrome in the middle, and Autism at its most extreme end.
While the process of achieving hemispheric integration is rigorous the outcomes have been very positive and centers are being set up across the country providing this specific type of care to children on the Autism Spectrum and to children with Dyslexia or learning disabilities.
If you would like to find out if your child could have a hemispheric weakness and if hemispheric integration through Functional Neurology could help please contact our office at:The Mindspring Center, 1147 US Highway 80 West, Pooler, GA 31322. Phone: 912-748-6463 or email.