It is a well known fact that kids struggling with impulsive behaviors is a concern for many parents. More and more kids are getting diagnosed with ADHD every year, and it is currently about 1 in 10 kids. What may be surprising to many is that this issues can improve through implementing the proper developmental strategies. I work with many kids with ADHD on a daily basis, and when we implement strategies to improve cerebellar function their symptoms improves dramatically.
This study breaks down how cerebellar dysfunctions are related to impulsive behaviors, compulsive behaviors, and how it is related to disorders such as ADHD, Autism, OCD, Anxiety, and Addiction. I couldn’t agree more with this working hypothesis, because I see it constantly on a daily bases. What we find is that when you improve how someone moves, and coordinates their body their impulsivity improves as well.
Below I will share some of the information from this research article (Miquel. M, Nicola.s. A Working Hypothesis for the Role of the Cerebellum in Impulsivity and Compulsivity. Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience. May 2019 article) and comment on it!
The first paragraphs jump right into discussing how cerebellar dysfunction is found in people with autism, addiciton, OCD, ADHD, and motor dysfunction. I find this to be true in clinical practice as well with this subset of patients! They also discuss how the posterior vermis of the cerebellum is involved in executive function. Your vermal regions help you develop core stability, balance, and eye tracking. Dysfunctions here I find play a large part in learning delays, behavioral delays, and motor development and this article supports those findings.
At the bottom of the page it also talks about htow the cerebellum regulates the prefrontal cortices. This is important because this area of the brain is associated with higher cognitive thought, decision making, initiating of movements, impulse control, and much more! If your cerebellum is dysfunctional you will not get regulation of this area and therefore have executive function issues!
I often say that the cerebellum is so important that it has more neurons than the rest of the brain combined, which it does! Its job is to coordinate the rest of the brain and body. It is responsible for making everything looks smooth and not look robotic! this article also talks here bout how the cerebellum enables predicition, organization, modeling and comprehension of complex sequences.
This is a very important section of this paper. The reason why it is so important is because it states “it is proposed that the majority of mental disorders results from dysregulation of normal central nervous system development”! I greatly agree with this statement, when working with kids with developmental delays we find abnormal nervous system development in almost every case.
Many of them still have neurological reflexes called primitive reflexes that should develop in the first months to years of life even if a child is 6 or 7 years old. These reflexes are signs of central nervous system underdevelopment, and I find them in every kid that has impulsive behaviors or mental disorders.
Another key point it talks about is how injuries in the womb or outside the womb can cause abnormal development. They also discuss how preterm babies have increased abnormal development of the cerebellum. I find this constantly in practice. Many of my patients were preterm, or they were adopted because the biological parent was using drugs during pregnancy.
We also see this in kids that are neglected in early months of life. A large part of cerebellum development occurs in the first months of life as a child does tummy time, learns to crawl and creep. Many kids with impulsive behaviors and focus issues never hit these milestones on time or at all! These motor milestones are extremely important to make sure the cerebellum is developing at an appropriate rate. If a child is delayed in their motor milestones it means that they are delayed in brain development, and there is always a reason why!
In this portion of the article they specifically talk about kids with ADHD and how they have decreased cerebellar volume. It also again states that preterm babies have decreased cerebellar volume and increased impulsivity. These kids also have reduced connectivity with the prefrontal cortex (which stated earlier is responsible for executive functions).
This is an interesting portion of the article because it talks about how if someone has decreased regulation from the cerebellum, they will have an over reliance on “go” mechanisms and decreased reliance on “no-go” mechanisms. For me this seems very similar to a child being in a sympathetic dominant state (a fight or flight state) Vs. a Parasympathetic state (rest and digest state).
A shift toward a sympathetic state will result in a child constantly being on edge and reacting to everything in a survival mode. This obviously isn’t good because this creates one anxious, stressed out child. It also creates a child that cant learn or focus because they are always worried about what they are going to have to survive next!
At the end here they discuss how activation of the cerebellum would decrease impulsive behaviors, and decrease compulsive behaviors. This is exactly what we see in practice. As we get the cerebellum healthier through developmental exercises, adjustments, and nutritional changes these kids cerebellums get healthier. This improvement in cerebellar health allows the child to coordinate their higher brain centers and control their impulses!
Has any other health practitioner noticed this pattern?
If you would like more information on keeping your cerebellum healthy check out my recent blog post!