Corpus Callosum: Your Child’s Superhighway for Connecting the Emotional and Logical Sides of the Brain for Better Learning
This article provides helpful information for strengthening your child’s corpus callosum to encourage better learning development. Affiliate links are included for your convenience.
Most people know that music is a good thing in a child’s life, but do they know just how important it is for their child’s learning ability? Research shows music and the brain are often team players when it comes to speech, language, emotional grounding, auditory processing and sensory integration. Many studies show playing an instrument can actually strengthen structures in the brain and build neural connections to support weaker areas of the brain for higher learning concepts. Plato once said, “Music is a more potent instrument than any other for education,” which is reinforced in Good Music Brighter Children.
It is also commonly known that taking music lessons at a young age can bolster connections between the two brain hemispheres in children. What are these connections or pathways? In 1995, a neurologist by the name of Gottfried Schlaug studied that musicians who started playing an instrument before the age of seven have an unusually thick corpus callosum. Gottfried and his colleagues saw this as evidence that music training can increase connections within the brain. As they investigated further, they found that children who practiced a musical instrument substantially showed a 25 percent increase of growth of the corpus callosum relative to the overall size of the brain. Children who averaged much less practice each time per week or who stopped playing an instrument showed no increase of growth with the corpus callosum. So why is building and strengthening your child’s corpus callosum so important and how can it enhance or hinder your child’s learning ability in the classroom?
Corpus Callosum: The Superhighway for Learning
The corpus callosum is the connection between the two cerebral parts of the brain. This important structure is a huge band of myelinated fibers that is responsible for transmitting neural messages between both the right and left hemispheres of the brain. As we all know, the right side of your child’s brain is used for creativity (coloring, art, music, drawing, imaginative play) and the left side of their brain is used for higher learning concepts (reading, writing, language, problem solving, critical thinking). If the two sides of the brain are disconnected or if they are not wired to “talk” with each other, a child can struggle with learning challenges, speech and language delays, emotional grounding problems, attention and focus issues, and lack of communication. Your child’s corpus callosum is the “superhighway” of the brain that ultimately connects and wires your child’s brain for higher academic performance. This is why we consistently engage our students in crossing the midline activities because of the results it produces for children with learning challenges and attention issues in school. These types of exercises rewire and engage both the body and the brain for reading, writing, spelling, speech, attention and math.
A former Nobel Prize winner, Doctor Roger Sperry, famously performed split-brain research on patients with surgically cut corpus callosums. His discoveries with this study proved that the right and left hemispheres had different functions.
The Well Balanced Child discusses the dual functions that the corpus callosum performs and how its first function is to facilitate communication between the two hemispheres of the brain, which creates a superhighway of information. Its other function is to occasionally screen one side of the brain from the activity of the other (for example, if your child lives too much on the right side of the brain you may notice behavior issues, tantrums, meltdowns and anxiety). This screening action prevents too much interference from one side to the other (it stops the right brain from emotional outbursts and engages the left brain for more rational thinking). If interference is allowed to occur in your child’s brain, it decreases the ability of one hemisphere specializing in its primary or preferred functions (the brain can’t learn to read and write if it first can’t attend and focus in school).
To give you an even better example, let’s look more closely at classroom learning. In the early years of development, your child’s understanding and learning of language is a bilateral process. This means language involves both sides of the brain. However, each hemisphere has a different job to perform. The left side is involved with decoding sounds, tone and timing of each letter. The right side is responsible for the non-verbal and emotional aspects of language including body language, meaning behind words, expression and communication. If your child’s corpus callosum is underdeveloped and has no “screening” process when language development occurs, your child may experience a disconnect with learning their letters and sounds, they may lack communication skills with peers and teachers, they won’t be able to express their thoughts on paper and they may have difficulty with visual perception for reading or fidget in class. What has happened is the brain is now open to interference, which prevents the other side from performing its role.
Children with dyslexia or visual processing issues often show signs of a weakened corpus callosum. Because dyslexic children struggle with poor visual motor control as well as attention issues, it can be attributed to poor connections in the corpus callosum. Your child’s superhighway regulates and controls certain types of eye movements used for reading, tracking and processing information through their visual system. When your child’s corpus callosum has the right input and is firing those neural connections correctly, their oculomotor skills become prepped and ready for smooth tracking, ocular dominance and matched focus as they read and write.
How to Strengthen the Corpus Callosum
Corpus Callosum development normally begins in your baby when they are between six to 12 months old. It is sometimes referred to as the “crawling” stage. During this timeframe, crawling becomes the building block for all other motor and cognitive skills in your child. During this stage, your baby’s muscles are strengthened in preparation for walking and your child begins using limbs on either side of the body in coordinated movements, which develops their bilateral coordination eventually used for taking notes, logical thinking, writing, coloring, cutting shapes and playing sports.
By the age of three or four, your child should master the skill of using both sides of their body together, which is bilateral integration or cross laterality. This skill of crossing the midline is your child’s ability to seamlessly move one hand, foot, or eye into the area of the other hand, foot or eye. Your child crosses the midline when they read left to right, kick a soccer ball for a cross to another player, scratch an elbow or cross their legs.
When a baby begins learning to crawl, this essential building block is one of the most important skills for future learning. The importance of these essential developmental milestones is to build pathways in the brain. Because the corpus callosum is the main superhighway in your child’s brain, crossing the midline exercises will transmit signals and information between both hemispheres. As a child practices midline activities, it strengthens this superhighway in their brain. Crossing the midline skills are prerequisites for the appropriate development of various motor and cognitive skills. If a child misses the opportunity to build the superhighway in their brain (corpus callosum), we may see learning delays or other learning challenges that may have resulted from critical milestone delays such as crawling or they may not be able to cross the midline.
Activities to Build the Corpus Callosum
To further build and strengthen the connections within your child’s brain and corpus callosum, try some of the activities below. In addition, you can also join our video membership for more crossing the midline activities, bilateral coordination exercises, hand-eye coordination movements and emotional grounding tactics.
For more superhighway building activities, here are a few of our favorites:
Have crawling races with your child or baby to encourage crawling and bilateral integration for longer periods of time.
Place toys on the floor or out of arms reach for a child that is six to 12 month old to encourage crawling, reaching and crossing the midline.
Play flashlight tag. In a dim room, shine a flashlight over the walls and have the child trace your light with their own flashlight.
Blow bubbles and have your child only pop the bubbles with one hand. Encourage your child to cross the midline by using the opposite arm to pop the bubbles on their opposite side. Also have your child pop the bubbles with both hands together (clapping) for bilateral coordination.
Practice Hand Dominance
Place a bucket of stuffed animals or balls on the opposite side of the child’s dominant hand so they have to pick up the object by crossing the midline. Then have your child throw the ball or stuffed animal at a target.
Pass a soccer ball back and forth with your child using the non-dominant foot first and then switch to their dominant foot.
Corpus Callosum: Fun Facts
To understand the corpus callosum better, here are a few fun facts to remember:
- It is the largest bundle of nerves in the entire nervous system
- Until around 1950, the function of the corpus callosum was a complete mystery
- In rare occasions, it is completely absent at birth
- Occasionally, the corpus callosum is surgically cut to treat epilepsy
- It was originally thought to physically hold the two hemispheres of the brain together
Integrated Learning Strategies is a Utah-based center dedicated to helping mainstream children and children with learning disabilities achieve academic success. Our services provide kids with non-traditional tutoring programs within the Davis County, Kaysville, Layton, Syracuse, Farmington, and Centerville areas. Areas to find Integrated Learning Strategies include: Reading tutors in Kaysville, Math tutors in Kaysville, Common Core Tutors in Kaysville, Tutors in Utah, Utah Tutoring Programs
10 Jan 2017