Handedness and Brain Development.

Your child’s hand preference can shed light on the progress of their overall brain growth.

Handedness is one of the easiest and most accepted way to prove that each brain may look similar, but can express individually. In fact, even most radiologists cannot look at an image of a brain and tell you a person’s hand preference. It has been suspected for years that hand dominance can play into someone’s skill set. These increased skill abilities can be as simple as being more inclined in art style activities (left handed people) or numbers (right handed people). Of course, this does not mean those are the only options, but can prove once again that each hemisphere is specialized in certain activities more than the other.

During the first year or so of life our brains are simply focused on growth and development. In these first days of life specialization has not even begun to emerge. This means that each task a child performs should be completed equally on both sides. This includes; rolling, swatting at objects, breastfeeding, grasping, and any other movements big or small. Towards the end of the first year, and heading into the second a child begins to gain a handed preference. This is a very important milestone to be completed, because it shows that their brain has developed to the point of specialization.

Besides just a handed preference we should have a dominant ear, eye, and foot! All of these should be on the same side in order to show proper differentiation. Now this instantly raises a red flag for many when they think about people that are ambidextrous. Some individuals, including myself, share skill sets with either hand or either foot. When it comes to sports these athletes are looked at as “lucky” to have the ability to throw with either hand or bat from either side of the plate to throw off a pitcher. Although these traits may come in handy when it comes to athletics or simple tricks, this actually is a bad thing to see. With a short review in the literature you will find that people who are ambidextrous have an increased chance of many mental diseases, MS, some chronic diseases, and even earlier death!

This should be truly eye opening to see that when the brain is not working in coherence with itself the issues that can potentially arise. Of course, many of these studies have smaller cohorts and at times are not reproducible in further trials. But just the mere fact that someone has made any kind of correlation shows that brain specialization and development is vital in order to live a long and happy life. This is true no matter if you or your child expresses issues like ADHD, SPD, ODD, dyslexia, or not. It can simply just show because they kick a ball with their left foot and throw a ball with their right.

This is not a scare tactic, but simply an idea to bring to light that most people are not aware of. Brain differentiation/development goes hand and hand with sided preference. If dominance does not show to be equal side to side then that means most likely their brain is immature in some areas, and they likely still have primitive reflexes or some areas in the brain that need to be worked on. Luckily our brains are “plastic” which means they have the ability to grow, develop, and repair themselves until the day that we die.

When these areas are helped through the development process or weaker areas in the brain are worked on, sometimes things will equal out to one side. The more I learned about this I realized that my own brain has some developmental issues, through performing therapy on myself my eye dominance actually changed! Most of the time in older kids and adults large changes in hand or foot preference most likely will not happen but sometimes in younger kids especially, these will be seen as specialization occurs.

Whether your children are young or old, keeping an eye on their overall development is the best way to ensure their success in life. This also includes being informed on signs to look for to track if issues arise. Remember, for the most part no one spends more time with your children than you. If you suspect something strange or potentially problematic, spend the time to find an answer from a licensed healthcare provider that will hear you out.

As always if you or someone you know is experiencing issues that they are looking for answers for do not hesitate to reach out to Dr. Jake to set up an appointment or free consult.

Dr. Jacob Boraas

Functional Healing Institute


Why therapy may not be benefiting your child (as much as it could).

Growing a brain is similar to growing a tree. A trees strongest, and most important part is usually the roots. The roots are where the nutrients come from, and without them, a tree would just fall over and die. This can be compared to a brain in the way that a brains initial growth and development begins in the brainstem (like the roots). The brainstem is mainly under control when we are first born it holds reflexes to keep us safe, and aids in proper development. At some point the brainstem needs to hand over the controls to the rest of the brain to take over during the maturation process. 

As a tree begins to grow, large limbs reach out and eventually blossom into leaves, but this is all dependent on proper supply from the roots. A brain is the same way, initially growing from the brainstem upwards into an area called the motor cortex and then blossoming in all directions into proper development of a brain through connections in our brain cells called neurons. This process of development and neurologic expansion is all dependent on the idea that initial growth has properly been achieved, but the fact your child is in need of therapy indicates that somewhere during development something did not go as planned. 

Luckily this is nothing to be worried about, because proper development can still be achieved with the correct modalities. The problem is most therapies involve advanced tasks in problem solving, speech, advanced movements, and more. If a brain did not mature properly, areas of the brain that control these difficult tasks is not reachable. It would be much like trying to put leaves on a tree that has not grown limbs, it is simply not possible. 

Underdevelopment of the nervous system is many times held up by things called primitive reflexes. Some of these reflexes come online before birth, and help us in many ways to thrive when we are young. During the first two years of life our brains go through a specific sequence in growth with some reflexes going away, and new ones coming online. Many times abnormal development can be linked to just the persistence of these reflexes past their time frame. 

These reflexes may also return even if they did go away at their intended time initially. This is a protective mechanism that our brain goes through during trauma, both physically or emotionally. Our brains actually have the ability to “unhook” certain pathways in the brain to avoid remembering trauma or to salvage areas that are still functioning properly after physical trauma (I.e, concussion, stroke, etc). Similarly these reflexes need to be worked through again, additionally adding advanced therapies to promote growth of these pathways again. 

The goal of this write up, is not in any way to discourage therapy. Once proper bottom-up growth of the brain is achieved therapy is vital to continue growth and development of the brain for your child. This is simply to shed light on the fact that proper development must be ensured before working through issues, and can be a potential barrier if progress in care seems slow. Under development of the nervous system can cause more of a wrestling match then the synchronous harmony it should be and may cause; sensory processing, dyslexia, speech issues, behavioral problems, and nearly every other neurodevelopmental delay in children. Beginning with working through developmental milestones will lead to a smoother progression in learning advanced tasks, and overall progress. 

If your child or someone you know is experiencing issues in development, school, interacting with others, or have other concerns, reach out anytime for a free consult. We would be honored to come along side you in your child’s care to ensure they become the proper adults they aspire to be one day. 

Dr. Jake Boraas

Functional Healing Institute


Bed Wetting

A wet and uncomfortable way to wake up, and not your child’s fault 

A hidden epidemic sweeps across our cities each evening. It is usually kept secret and just assumed to be normal, or even told it is normal, but is it? Waking up to find a wet child in a wet bed is no easy way to start your day, but if you ask any parent they are certain it is just a phase and have been reassured “they will just grow out of it.” But what happens when they don’t? Looking around for help online many sources cite 5 years old as a “normal” time to still be frequently wetting the bed for children, and if they proceed to wet the bed later than 5, then maybe that is okay too. Your doctor may just choose to prescribe something to decrease urine production when they sleep. While this may help short term, this is not the best long term solution.

Digging into the anatomy of urinating there are two main centers in our brain entitled “micturition centers”. This is just fancy doctor speak for ‘pee centers’. They are located in our brain stem (pons) and in the frontal lobe, as seen below. 

Although these two areas are “primary” centers for urination, they have to work in accordance with the rest of our brain to fully fulfill their jobs, as well as communicate with the rest of our nervous system. Just like many other issues neurodevelopmentally that can be worked with, this simply means that there are potential imbalances or underactive superhighways in your child’s brain that are not functioning to their best potential. As a child grows much of their nervous system is not even present, your child is born with only about 20% of their adult brain. This means your child has no control of their sphincters which hold or release excrements until around 2 years of age. Depending on overall developmental progression, nutrition, etc. with your child individually, this can be a little sooner or later.

Overall this shows that frequent bed wetting into the late 2’s, 3’s, and older is not normal, however, it is common. Understandably, an accident every now and then after potty training is to be expected, and does not necessarily mean issues are present.

What can be done to help your children with bed wetting issues? There are specific ways to activate these parts of the brain or we can activate areas near their “pee centers” to increase blood flow and promote growth. A large majority of neurological underdevelopment in a vast majority of issues we work with can be caused by persistence of primitive reflexes. Primitive reflexes are training wheels for the brain, and although they are vital for our initial survival there is a point where they must also go away or they can hold us back. Our primitive reflexes reside in our brainstem when still present, and just working through these can make large changes in your children’s nightly activities. 

On top of primitive reflex remediation, we utilize therapies such as vibration, frequencies, smells, colors, chiropractic adjustments, and more to benefit overall health of your child specifically for their needs, and their body. We understand that this can be an embarrassing and incredibly frustrating time for kids and parents alike so we work to add as many extra modalities necessary to make this phase as short and sweet as possible. Like many other conditions that we work through, this may also include some at home exercises for mom and dad to perform with the child to promote neurologic change. 

Remember that phrases like; “your child is just a late bloomer,” “they will grow out of it,” or “it’s just a phase” are not really diagnoses of any kind, and better answers can usually be found. 

If your child or a child you know is suffering from bed wetting issues and are interested in setting up a free consult to discuss further or an initial neurologic exam with Dr. Jake, schedule an appointment today.  

Dr Jake Boraas

Functional Healing Institute

The Trouble with Technology.

Upon a quick survey in the world around us you will see adults, teenagers, and kids buried in their phones, tablets, and laptops. Technology has totally changed the way we see the world and our ability to access information quickly. This is not another article talking about the evil of social media, countless apps, and hours in front of a screen because frankly I do not believe that is true. Technology still as a whole, has been an incredible blessing for us we literally have the world in our finger tips or in our pockets. This is written to bring some more concerns to light that you should consider, before using your phone to keep your child quiet at dinner. 

            It is hopefully of no surprise that more and more children and adults are being diagnosed with neurologic based issues from ADHD, sensory processing, anxiety, depression, and more. Each year these numbers become more and more greater, but no one seems to bat an eye. After all there is an easy “fix”, pop a pill, and move on. This is also not a bash on the pharmaceutical companies either, because in fact these drugs save hundreds if not thousands of lives each year. However, they are not fixing anything neurologically they are just putting a patch on a larger problem. Imagine that you broke your leg and all you were given was a band aid. This is exactly what is going on, and although it sounds much more extreme, in all reality it is probably the exact opposite. I was speaking with a man the other day describing neurologic based therapies, and stated “the brain controls everything.” The man simply replied “well duh everybody knows that,” and my rebuttal was, “well why does a majority of healthcare forget to address it so much of the time?” The fact is as a population we are sicker then ever but have access to some of the highest technology health care in the entire world. One issue that needs to be addressed is technology.

            First concern that has begun to take ground better is the issue with blue light. For those of you that do not know what that is, blue light is a wavelength of light that is emitted by most forms of technology or light bulbs, and can potentially be hazardous to our health. Blue light is a stimulatory form of light because it releases something in our brain called dopamine, and also shuts off another part that is responsible to secrete something called melatonin. Dopamine is an excitatory hormone and melatonin is the opposite, what this means is technology before bed is not going to be a good idea for any of us. Since the creation of the light bulb our days have been extended into the evenings because we are now able to see even after it is dark. But our recent ancestors did not have this pleasure and our brains still are not evolved for this, and our sleep wake cycles are left askew. One hack that may be beneficial to help your sleep cycle (because most people still are not going to go to bed just because its dark) is to utilize “night mode” on your devices, or download f.lux™ an app to help dampen blue light, and do not turn on any extra lights in your home that are not needed. Do not fall under the impression that blue light is evil, because it is also important in regulating our wake cycle and making us more alert. The biggest concern is the amount or dosage that we are receiving, especially with the rise of LED lighting. The best thing you can do for yourself and your child is limit technology and light as much as possible 1-2 hours before bed. Also consider utilizing blue light blocking glasses to help your body wind down in the evening, they can be an inexpensive extra tool to add as well. 

Shown above is the rise of ADHD (aged 5-17)  in the past 20 years or so taken directly from the CDC website. If you look closely there is a very steep rise around 2009-2011 for some of the cohorts, with a minor fall after. One of the most significant things that happened technology wise was the release of the Ipad in 2010. Now, this is pure speculation and correlation with certainly no causation, but interesting to see the potential influence these technologies have on our kids. Although technology is a blessing for many things, it can be potentially detrimental in healthy development of our children for many reasons. 

  1.  Nearly all stimulus that comes into our brain is from our muscles and joint receptors. This means that total brain growth and development is based largely on how much we move, especially when we are younger.
  2. The area of our brain called our frontal lobe is one of our most important assets in decision making and defining who we are as a person is largely inhibited while using technology, especially video game style technology. 
  3. Building a strong brain also means an equal brain side to side. The left side of our brain is more based in short term reward reinforcement, and it is tapped into with video games, and Facebook scrolling to keep your eyes fixed and wanting more. Right brain is largely weak in ADHD and other attention based issues in kids, and is more based in long term reward reinforcement. This can be one of the explanations when parents are shocked that they cannot have their kids focus at a family meal for more then 10 minutes, but are able to play video games for hours and hours. 

These are some of the most crucial but certainly not an exhaustive list help emphasize the importance of controlling your kids screen times for proper development especially if they are starting to show any kind of issues in temperament, attention, etc. Understand that although technology is a blessing it was never designed to be a baby sitter to keep your child quiet all day long, and needs to be limited for their own health. I remember back to when I was a kid getting incredibly upset with my parents when they limited my screen time, but persistently I was limited to my allotment for the day. This was a time before all of the new cool technologies we have today, so it is going to be an uphill battle, but will be beneficial for your entire family. One thing that will always be constant and beneficial for your child is something called gravity, and I am sure you have heard of it. Gravity has been proclaimed as the one thing that will forever be constant no matter the circumstance, and it is highly beneficial for us all. 

In closing, monitor your blue light intake especially 1-2 hours before bed and watch in amazement as you and your family wake up in the morning feeling more rested then you have felt in years. Also limit screen time, and this goes for just about everyone especially the kiddos with developing brains. Less time on the screen will give you more time to grow as a family, and connect. Although the fight will not be easy, understand it is a gift you are giving to your child and one day they will realize it.

Terrible twos. A tough but necesary time in childhood development.

Building a brain is much like building a house. Our brains are built from the bottom up, and growth needs to happen in a specific order for everything to be “structurally sound”. At birth we are pretty much run by the right side of our brain. Our right brain is much like the brake pedal of the brain, and its primary goal is to keep us safe. Your right brain also controls interoception, which is simply the ability to understand you’re internal perception, and how your body feels and functions. This means that at birth, although your child is beginning to interact with the environment, they are mainly focused on themselves and how they feel at any given point. We are born with only about 20% of our total adult brain, and this means that every inch we start with needs to be useful. At birth and through year one and two we have one single goal, and that is to survive. Although in todays world for most infants this is not a super difficult task. Our ancestors had a much more difficult time with this and that is why it is genetically coded within us. Once we have reached the second year of life an amazing thing happens to us, our left brain begins its growth process and becomes more active.

Our left brain is the “excitatory” side of our brain, and could be more considered as the gas pedal. The left brain controls something called exteroception, which is just our ability to interact with and understand the world around us. This also means that your child is going to want to be a lot more independent suddenly. It is time for your child to learn, and this is why many of them have endless questions. Although age two is the average timeframe for this process to begin, it can vary, occurring earlier or later. It can be a very strenuous time for parents seeing your child’s mood go from a bright eyed toddler asking about everything to suddenly turning into a screaming monster at the blink of an eye. Each child goes through this brain development period slightly different, and may have varying degrees of outbursts, if any. 

Behavior from your child can be mood changes, temper tantrums, meltdowns, or screaming the word “no.” Sometimes your toddler wants to bite you, and maybe sometimes they want to kiss you, best bet is to flip a coin. Understand although this is an incredibly frustrating time for some parents, this is a time when your child is expressing themselves and learning. This will not be the first time your child begins to “test the waters”, but can potentially be the most important time to teach your child how to properly interact with the world around them. In essence, you are shaping their exteroception. Angrily yelling back or talking down to them at this point overall will not be a productive solution, nor will sweetly asking to please quiet down. Depending on the strength of your child’s outburst, the best solution may be allowing them to calm down before confrontation (essentially ignoring them), or sternly inform them this is not how we ask for things. Overall your child does not understand what they are doing is incorrect or improper, and it is your job to show them the way. 

This is also a time where issues can show more clearly neurologically. Keeping an eye on your child that may decide they hate wearing clothes with tags because of excessive sensitivity may become more apparent. Depending on diet, you may find a bumpy rash on the back of their arms if they are having food sensitivities. Excessive jumpiness, inability to sit still, sound/light sensitivity, food addictions primarily to sweets or carbs, trouble potty training, and many more can become more apparent with your kiddo. These problems can all be caused by abnormal development causing a “functional disconnection.” This just means as your brain is forming there can be certain areas that are underdeveloped, or immature. The good news is with proper dietary and neurological stimulus intervention many of these issues can be helped. Proper monitoring and quick intervention by someone trained in these areas will get your child back on the fast track to health in no time.

 Dr. Jacob Boraas D.C.

Functional Healing Institute