Research Myth 7: Brain Gym

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Can Brain Gym lead to optimal learning?

In a brilliant article, Charlie Brooker once warned us to, “Man the lifeboats, the idiots are winning.” Brain Gym is a classic piece of snake oil in education that has been mis-sold to thousands of schools and has been peddled by many in order to cash in on the neuroscience gold rush.

It has “bad science” written all over it “with a scientific explanatory framework that is barkingly out to lunch.”

Created by Paul and Gail Dennison in the 1980s, Brain Gym is the shop-front name for what they call Education Kinesiology or Edu-K. Brain Gym is a movement based programme based on the idea that  moving leads to optimal learning and “we empower all ages to reclaim the joy of living.”

The founders claim that laying brain-training games can help improve your memory, concentration or intelligence and the Brain Gym website makes lots of grand statements but these are backed by zero evidence.

Brain Gym do cite evidence on their site but the research they drew on has been widely discredited.

Of the few published studies one involved four participants, one of whom was the author of the study and the others were published in a journal that required the authors to pay for publication.

Another study had severe methodological failings. There is no evidence that Brain Gym improves academic skills, listening and thinking skills, or learning disability deficits (Hyatt, 2007)

Watson and Kelso (2014) found Brain Gym “does not produce clear and substantial differences in academic engagement” but “even with the inadequacy of empirical support, Brain Gym is still an often promoted intervention” and “those who buy into the program are either children who naively assume their teachers know what they are doing or teachers who are bamboozled by the pseudoscientific jargon or seduced by charismatic and enthusiastic believers.” (Carroll 2009)


Read the full Research Myths series.

John Dabell

I trained as a primary school teacher 20+ years ago, starting my career in London and then I taught in a range of schools in the Midlands. In between teaching jobs, I worked as a national in-service provider, project manager, writer and editor. I am the teacher without a tongue.

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