What is a retained reflex?

To be perfectly precise, primitive reflexes remain hard wired into our nervous system and function neurologically all our life. In fact, at some stages of development some may be used as a test of normal neurological function. Thus, in this sense, they are always ‘retained’.

It is the neonatal display of these brainstem reflexes continuing after normal time of integration that causes the problems in behaviour, perception, learning, hormonal function etc that are covered here.

For example, it may be normal as a person rotates their head to the right for the muscle that pull the right arm backward and those that pull the left arm forward to contract to allow them to twist their body toward what they see. This is part of the Asymmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex, but it is not normal to experience distractibility, clenched pen/pencil grip, handwriting problems, poor comprehension, momentary disappearance of parts of the visual field, poor hand-eye co-ordination etc.

For this reason the term ‘Retained Neonatal Reflexes’ has been coined by Dr Keith Keen and became a registered trademark in 2009. It indicates that the neonatal display of a primitive reflex has been retained beyond the normal time of integration for that individuals nervous system.

What do they look like and what are they for?

Primitive reflexes involve automatic and stereotyped movements, such as breathing, blinking, swallowing and glandular function. They are mediated by the autonomic nervous system and are executed without higher brain (cortical) involvement.

As higher brain centres begin to mature enough for conscious control of activity, the involuntary, uncontrollable reflex responses are no longer needed. If they are elicited inappropriately beyond the relevant age for integration, the automatic response may be inappropriate, undesirable or even dangerous.

The reflexes anatomically and neurologically stay for the remainder of our life. But for mature voluntarily directed responses to take place, the neonatal display of the reflexes must be integrated or controlled by higher centres.

Do I qualify to study the RNR Technique?

RNR Seminars have been approved as an Advanced Applied Kinesiology course by the International College of Applied Kinesiology (ICAK).

Seminars are restricted to those who have completed a primary healthcare degree (a minimum of 3500 hrs of University study) and have completed the Professional Applied Kinesiology (PAK) Certification course.

We welcome your enquiry about seminars if you already meet these pre-requisites.


What should I expect during my appointment?

All certified Retained Neonatal Reflexes (RNR) Practitioners are qualified Chiropractors, Physiotherapists, Osteopaths or Medical Practitioners. You can feel safe knowing that they have been awarded their healthcare qualifications after years of University study. After these degree/s were accomplished they undertook further study in manual muscle testing techniques, such as Applied Kinesiology, allowing them to further specialise in the cutting-edge area of retained neonatal reflex patterning.

Manual Muscle Testing (MMT) is used as a test of the body’s functioning neurology. For this reason you can expect that your practitioner will test your muscles for optimal function. Once your nervous system is operating in a suitable manner, your practitioner will further challenge your nervous system by asking you to maintain strength while performing specific tasks. If your brain has trouble processing the specific task your brain will let you know this by failing to maintain strength. This is also known as poor sensory motor integration.

Improved brain function and sensory motor integration is achieved by optimising cranial and sacral function, easing tension of the dura mater (the sheath enveloping the brain and spinal cord) and enhancing cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) flow. This involves light pressure on the head (a highly specific and advanced form of cranial massage), holding specific meridian points (acupressure) on the body, and gentle adjustments to the spine and feet.

Signs and symptoms in a school aged child

Primitive reflexes ideally begin to function in a particular order and their neonatal display is integrated in a specific sequence. If they are retained out of sequence, they may disturb the development and integration of other subsequent reflexes. If they are retained beyond their normal age of integration they can disturb some or all of the functions of higher brain centres, which includes:

  • gross motor co-ordination
  • fine motor co-ordination
  • auditory perception and integration
  • visual function
  • vestibular (balance) integration
  • tactile perception and integration
  • HPA (hormonal) and neurotransmitter (brain transmitter) balance
  • cognition and expression
  • social and behaviour

Basically, the perception of our inner and outer environment and our response to it may be disturbed; that is, conscious life may be disturbed.

An individual case may vary from a single neonatal display remaining, which may result in an immature pattern of behaviour or immature system prevalent despite the acquisition of many mature skills, through to many retained neonatal reflexes (termed a “cluster”) which affects the smooth transmission of information through most systems of the body.

Clinical experience has demonstrated that in procedures related to neonatal reflexes, the order of treatment best follows the natural sequence of their integration with a couple of exceptions. For this reason children under our care for these reflexes usually undergo a series of treatment sessions.

Who may benefit?

The benefits of RNR technique procedures are widespread and varied. It is attracting an ever increasing interest about an inexhaustible list of patient concerns.

It is likely that if your child has suffered from birth trauma, developmental delays or poor sensory motor integration then several reflexes will be active.
It is common that those children who have been diagnosed as Low Muscle Tone (LMT) usually have difficulty maintaining strength with the majority of tasks given. These same children are often diagnosed as dyspraxic because they display poor motor co-ordination and can benefit from the RNR technique.

Some children however, who display appropriate muscle tone and strength can find isolated tasks challenging. For example, the person who engages their tongue and jaw while using the hands is displaying retention signs of the Palmar reflex and may benefit from our correction to assist in its integration.