Work out your mind

June 12th, 2003 by Ben Goldacre in alternative medicine, bad science, brain gym, religion, water | 15 Comments »

Work out your mind

Ben Goldacre
Thursday June 12, 2003
The Guardian

Talk about bad science

· Children are so sweet, so trusting – those pseudoscientists just can’t help but prey on them. A reader writes about his experience at a primary school in northern England. He found they were employing a technique called Brain Gym. It’s from California. “Brain Gym appears to comprise a series of simple hand-eye coordination tasks which allegedly improve learning. Before doing these tasks, children are required to take a swig of water and hold it in their mouths for a few seconds until the teacher tells them they can swallow. When I asked why, the teacher, who had been sent on a Brain Gym course by the school, informed me that the water was partially absorbed through the roof of the children’s mouths and was absorbed by the brain, improving learning.”

In an ideal world, we would be teaching children enough science in school that they were able to stand up to a teacher who was spouting this kind of rubbish. Or perhaps I’m wrong: perhaps the teacher had misunderstood the course. Being a trusting soul I went to their website and had a peek: after all, if education authorities are going to spend my taxes on this stuff, there must be something in it. Here I learned that Brain Gym was a form of “educational kinesiology,” which “focuses on the performance of specific physical activities that activate the brain for optimal storage and retrieval of information”. “Focus is the ability to coordinate the back and front areas of the brain…Centering is the ability to coordinate the top and bottom areas of the brain… Brain Gym movements interconnect the brain in these dimensions.” On the off chance that it might not be rubbish I looked it up on the main public research databases. Nothing supported their assertions. Brain Gym do, however, run their own journal, although I’ve got a very strong feeling that it’s probably not peer-reviewed. Hungry for more? “A research report including over 10 years of information collected from field studies and experimental research is available for $25 (plus shipping) through the Foundation office.”

· Fans of Brain Gym aren’t the only ones targeting children: Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm has the distinction of being the only pseudoscience zoo in the UK. If you were hoping for New Agers in cages, you’ll be let down, but if the idea of Christian creationists making their last stand against evolutionary theory – quite literally amongst the horse shit – amuses you, I suggest you start with their website. “To a rational mind there are at least three proofs that a creator exists.”