Asymmetric Tonic Neck Reflex (ATNR)

In infants, this reflex is activated by turning the head and moving it to the side. This causes the limbs on the same side as the turned head to extend, while the limbs on the other side bend.

Explanations Asymmetric Tonic Neck Reflex (ATNR):

This reflex supports one-sided homolateral movements and the development of various cognitive systems, such as auditory and visual perception, spatial orientation, and perceptual memory. It is particularly responsible for the left hemisphere and for the speech and language center. It aids in the development of the STNR and can already be felt during pregnancy as a kicking movement. During birth, ATNR movements support contractions. Birth is triggered by the child and is always a collaboration between mother and child! The ATNR opposes the Perez reflex and provides the child with a breather during birth.

If the ATNR is not fully integrated, the activation of all extensor muscles from the head to the feet on the facial side becomes hyperactive due to the head rotation. This includes the scalp, facial muscles, tongue, shoulders, and the entire body down to the foot. On the back of the head, the flexor muscles from top to bottom become hypotonic. This is very straining, as it prevents the individual from experiencing a sense of balance.

If the reflex is not fully integrated, the following abnormalities can occur:

  • Auditory and visual perception are impaired.
  • Orientation in space is limited.
  • Difficulty switching from focused to peripheral vision or hearing may occur.
  • Impaired memory and retentiveness are observable.
  • Homolateral movement patterns predominate.
  • The horizontal body centerline cannot be crossed.
  • Turning the head triggers co-movements of the extremities.
  • Balance problems may occur.
  • Difficulties in spelling, grammar and arithmetic are to be expected, as well as difficulties in expressing one’s own thoughts in writing.
  • When reading, the head is moved along, letters and words are omitted.
  • The body’s momentum causes a lot of emotional stress and low frustration tolerance.
  • ADD and ADHD may develop as a result.

Origin: 13th week intrauterine
Duration: 4th – 6th month of life
Integration: 6th – 7th month of life

Descriptions of recurring incidents:

At school

The ATNR is often referred to as the fencing position. If it remains active after the first year of life, this reflex will significantly impact school performance and social interaction. The paper’s position will be turned to the side while writing, depending on the degree of integration of this reflex. The more the sheet is rotated – sometimes it even ends up upside-down – the less integrated the reflex.

Consequences for adults

The tonic patterns that become apparent include: On the side where the arm and leg are bent, the tension in the body is much higher than on the other side. This results in the leg being turned outward later in adulthood, causing the body to lean slightly to one side. Full alignment is also difficult for adults.

Observations in togetherness

In a social setting, a child on the playground may suddenly turn around and inadvertently touch another child with their hand. This can lead to the child feeling attacked and the “striking” child being harshly scolded. A supervising adult may see this and say, “I saw exactly how you hit your friend,” and sanction the child. The child may not even realize that they touched their friend because the head turn automatically made the arm move, leading to the collision.

What helps with Asymmetric Tonic Neck Reflex?

Again, the BalanceHIRO® exercises can help integrate this reflex. All exercises in this program contribute to the normalization of muscle tone, as it is either too tense or too relaxed when early childhood reflexes are not integrated. Thus, there is no need for specific exercises for each reflex; just doing one or two exercises regularly will suffice. The attention problems, outbursts of anger, and daydreaming will gradually decrease, helping the child truly come into themselves.

More interesting knowledge…

… über frühkindliche Reflexe, sowie konkrete Übungen zur nachträglichen Integration und Zentrierung gibt es in meinem Kurs BalanceHIRO®