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Primitive Reflexes influencing Movement & Motor Control: Assessment and Rehabilitation

  • Davidson Physiotherapy 520 Pinewood Road Riverview, NB, E1B 5J9 Canada (map)

Primitive Reflexes influencing Movement & Motor Control: Assessment and Rehabilitation

Two Day Course

This course is suitable for orthopaedic, paediatric and neurological physiotherapists 

Sean Gibbons

BSc. (Hons) P.T., MSc. Ergonomics, PhD (c), MCPA 

Parfrey K, Gibbons SGT, et al 2014 Head and limb position influence superficial EMG of abdominals during an abdominal hollowing exercise. BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders. 15:52. DOI: 10.1186/1471-2474-15-52 

Course Description

Primitive reflexes (PR) are brain stem-mediated, complex automatic movement patterns that commence in utero. If PR persist beyond their average lifespan they may begin to interfere with proper CNS development and could indicate neurological impairment. They present in conditions such as learning difficulties or movement disorders in children and adults. PR can also reappear due to altered sensory input into the CNS (musculoskeletal injury) or altered processing (i.e. concussion). The presence of PR will influence motor control and may indicate altered CNS neurocognitive processing. The presence of significant PR can interfere with normal rehabilitation. 

A sub group of patients have difficulty understanding the exercises or education we give them. These patients have significant deficits in sensory motor function, learning skills, and have primitive reflexes in the nervous system. Research shows that there is a strong relationship between sensory motor function, presence of primitive reflexes and neurocognitive function. Some other patients just seem to have tightness in muscles that does not go way. This is frequently due to a retained PR. 

During this two day course we will cover the assessment and rehabilitation of primitive reflexes in detail. Strategies for treatment in the clinic and home exercise will be discussed. The Motor Control Abilities Questionnaire is an instrument developed to identify patients who have difficulty understanding stability and movement control exercises. The use of this questionnaire will be described and how primitive reflex inhibition can be used to improve neurocognitive function and motor control. 

Several clinical studies support the use of primitive reflex inhibition to improve neurocognitive function, reduce pain, disability and learn specific exercises. 

There are no pre-requisites for this course. The Sub-classification course is recommended, but not required. It is available online:

Course Objectives

The participant will be equipped to: 

• Identify clients who will unlikely learn or progress with specific stability exercises (e.g. subjective history, screening, physical Ax) 

• Understand the role of primitive reflexes in pain, cognitive function and motor control. 

• Assess and rehabilitate primitive reflexes in children and adults 

• Implement a home exercise program for primitive reflex inhibition 

• Use primitive reflex inhibition strategies to improve movement & motor control 


Sean Gibbons graduated from Manchester University in 1995. He shares his time between clinical practice, teaching and research. His PhD was on the development of a prescriptive clinical prediction rule for specific motor control exercises in low back pain. A key new sub-classification was developed which identified the patient's ability to learn the exercises. This involves sensory motor, neurocognitive function, and body image. His current work follows this and aims to further sub-classify pain mechanisms. His goal is to have valid and reliable screening tools to classify people into sub-groups to identify the best treatment. His dissection and research into psoas major, gluteus maximus and other muscles has provided new insight into muscle function and led to the development of new rehabilitation options. He has presented his research at national and international conferences and has several journal publications and book chapters on related topics. He is an associate researcher at MUN and is part of the teaching faculty at McMaster's Advanced Orthopaedic Musculoskeletal/Manipulative Physiotherapy Specialization. 

SMARTERehab 2016© - all rights reserved 

Note: SMARTERehab reserves the right to cancel a course at any time. In the event that SMARTERehab cancels a course, your registration fee will be refunded in full. SMARTERehab reserves the right to accept course applicants. 

Cancellation Fee: A 25% administration fee will be charged up to the registration deadline for refunds. No refunds will be granted after this date. 

Video & Audio recording is not permitted 

Copyright: Participants will be required to agree to reference SMARTERehab original ideas in teaching, presentations or publications 

Course Fee: $460 

10% discount for the following: 

Group: 3 or more registrants from same company 

(Must register together as a group at the same time) 

Early Bird: register by Oct 7 

New Physio Grads 2015 or 2016 

(cannot be combined together or used in conjunction with below) 

20% discount if Repeating the course? 

(cannot be used in conjunction with above) 

Paying yourself? 

Pay in 2 instalments: Nov 2016 & March 2017 

(Must pay by cc or post dated cheque; 

Does not apply if use discount rates) 

Date: Nov 19-20, 2016 

Time: Sat: 8:30a.m. – 4:30p.m. 

Sun 8:30a.m. – 4:30p.m. 

Registration Deadline: Nov 10, 2016 

Course Organizer: For more info contact Sean Gibbons @ 709 689 3303 


Location: Davidson Physiotherapy 

520 Pinewood Road 

Riverview, N.B. E1B 5J9 

Tel: 506-854-7973 

What will you get from this course that you may not already have? 

Primitive reflexes

Understand the role of primitive reflexes in pain, cognitive function and motor control. This has a huge influence on correcting movement, rehab strategies and learning skills. This is also important for neurological rehab. 

Neurodevelopmental Process

The neurodevelopmental process can be used for rehabilitation of orthopaedic patients, neurological rehab of adults and children, as well as central pain and balance retraining. 

CNS Coordination – A New Sub-Classification

Our clinical reasoning promotes a diagnosis of movement function, tissue, pain mechanisms and CNS Coordination. The latter represents a new, but significant sub-classification, which represents the cognitive and motor functions of the CNS. 

Motor Control Ability Screening

What about the people who can`t seem to learn the exercises we teach them? You will learn how to use the Motor Control Abilities Questionnaire to screen people for the ability to learn specific motor control exercises. You will learn alternative treatment options to rehabilitate this problem population. 

Learning Difficulties

Appreciate the importance of cognitive based learning skills in rehabilitation. 

Motor Control Problem Solving

Problem solving with some clients can be difficult. We have developed a Universal Problem Solving Model of Motor Control to help you make exercises easier or harder. We have to give people exercises they can do, not ones they can’t. 

Improve Motor Control

Learn how to use primitive reflex inhibition to reduce tone and muscle tightness, improve movement and coordination.


Earlier Event: October 21
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Later Event: November 19
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