Why Do Primitive Reflexes Return or Worsen

Why Do Primitive Reflexes Return or Worsen

I have been asked why some primitive reflexes reappear after doing integration therapies. Also, why do some reflexes seem to get stronger before improving while doing the integration therapies?  I did some research because I was curious about it too. Previously, I had a daughter that showed no signs of the Landau until I got further into integrating her Moro. Then the Landau became very apparent and noticeable.

Primitive Reflexes Becoming Stronger During Integration

In researching this, I spoke to one of the greatest minds of our time on the subject, Dr. Robert Melillo. He uses and studies primitive reflex integration. As a matter of fact, he has for over 25 years now. Several studies have been done on his work that I will reference below for anyone who wants to get to know his work better. I learned from him and others that they can appear to increase while integrating properly.

Many children who have present primitive reflexes do not feel their own body well and have lower sensory response. Therefore, physical or audible triggers, such as the ones we use to trigger a reflex response when testing, will not produce much response in their body at first. However, as they start to integrate those reflexes and their brains start to connect and respond on a higher level, there is greater response to the triggers.

As a result, many take this higher response to the stimuli as a worsening primitive reflex response and discontinue their work. This is unfortunate because the integration exercises are often doing exactly what they should be doing, creating higher function in the brain and body. Therefore, many reflex integrations are discontinued when they should have persevered a little longer and seen them fully integrated.

The Exception

However, there are times that a reflex becomes stronger to a slight degree. This happens when doing hemispheric integration to the wrong side. In hemispheric integration, the clinician uses sensory stimulation to one side of the brain to help with an underactive hemisphere.  It is important when doing one sided stimulation to get it right. If the clinician mistakenly diagnoses the child with an underactive left side, further stimulation to the right side can increase the reflex. If he is correct in the side he stimulates, there will be an immediate reduction in the response to the reflex trigger. This is shown beautifully in this YouTube video wherein Dr. Robert Melillo was recorded showing this example after one of his conferences. Check it out.

Primitive Reflexes Reappear After Integration

Some have seen primitive reflexes reappear after complete integration. This can have several answers.

First, were they truly and completely integrated? Many see them diminish and parents stop the therapy shortly after. They can become almost unnoticeable during integration. We do the exercises for an additional month after there is no sign of them.

Second, it helps to look at the person as a whole. What were other struggles in their life? Were they ADHD, Autistic, ADD, had Sensory issues? Are those worsening again as well? This is a clear picture as to the health of the neurological connections in the brain. My daughter with ADHD did great for a couple of years after integration and hemispheric stimulation. As she approached puberty, she seemed to be having some of her old problems again.

I had to revisit some of the reflexes and hemispheric integration exercises again. This was explained to me in this way: The underactive or overactive neurons that contributed to the initial issues may have become slightly under or overactive again as the brain matured. This caused some underconnectivity in the brain and allowed some re-appearance of symptoms again. Even though it was on a much lower level, it did need some follow up treatment.

Third, and less common. In some children and adults there is true brain degeneration or damage that will cause the return of reflexes. Such is the case with stroke, dementia, seizure disorders that cause brain damage or other brain degenerative diseases. Furthermore, trauma to the brain, such as injury or abuse, can also cause a reappearance of the reflexes.


With this said, reappearance of the reflexes should only happen in isolated circumstances. In other words, if integration is done correctly and completely, they are usually gone for good. If you’re a clinician that sees reappearance of reflexes a lot, try doing the exercises longer and use different methods of testing after a few months of exercise.


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