• Sharmeen

The Dominance of 3 Subcortical Levels of the Brain Function Over the Cortex

Every parent desires that their offspring acquire the highest level of cognitive function to be academically successful.

Rightfully so... However, the fact of the matter which remains unaddressed in mainstream education is the understanding of the physiological basis/immature functioning of the central nervous system. This creates barriers and interferes in allowing a young learner to reach their highest potential. I am aiming to explain that here as follows;

During the first few months of newborns life, the involuntary, stereotype movements which are initiated in response to any stimuli, are called Primitive reflexes. These are ‘brain-stem’ level reflexive functions.

Unlike ‘Intrauterine reflexes’, which emerge in utero as early as 5.7 weeks after conception. These are ‘spinal level’ reflexes.

Moreover, the subsequent Postural reflexes, emerge during the first 12 months of life and are mediated at the level of mid-brain.

Thus, the spinal level, brain stem, as well as the mid- brain are ” sub- cortical” levels of the brain.


Therefore, in case of ’retention’ of the Primitive and Postural reflexes, (according to the degree of the retention) the ’sub- cortical’ levels become dominant to the cortex (the highest level of the cognitive function) or the cortical activity.

Consequently, it reflects in learners emotional, social and academic performance.

For example, on an emotional level, a person may appear to have poor impulse control, resulting in immature emotional reactions, lacking in logic and consequences.


In academic pursuits, the difficulty in conceptualization of abstract concepts, retention, and retrieval becomes increasingly challenging for young learners.

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