Brain Organization

Brain Organization and Maturation

The brain is not made up of isolated individual parts dedicated to a single function, such as speaking language or doing math. The brain is actually comprised as a set of cognitive functional systems or networks that work in conjunction with each other. Each system or network  interacts with other contributing brain systems enabling the brain to process information and draw conclusions. In other words, the ability to do math or speak a language require many parts of the brain working together, instead of only one part of the brain working in isolation.

As we age, each part of the brain undergoes an expansion and contraction process. This natural developmental cycle occurs approximately every four years until the day we die. This is a key reason it is important to obtain an accurate assessment of the brain in order to know which systems of the brain need to be trained or developed.

So What Does This Mean?

  • The brain matures in a cyclic fashion.
  • As the brain matures specific functional systems develop at specific times.
  • The different parts of the brain understand life based upon its developmental ability.

We set thresholds within the brain, which our nervous system naturally “modulates” based upon our “perceptual” understanding of the stimuli. Our understanding about life is “colored” or biased by the developmental stages we have completed as well as those stages we have not completed.

Brain Processing Organization

The brain develops and organizes itself along three vertical planes; the brain stem, mid-brain and cortex. In addition, it contains five functional systems; arousal unit, primary motor and sensory areas, secondary sensory and motor areas, tertiary sensory input area and tertiary output/planning unit. The brain matures, develops, and maintains it’s organization around each functional system, which in turn, develops at key developmental ages. Injuries, lack of development, insults to the brain due to substance abuse or other life events often will cause one or more of these functional systems to not operate properly and can often be the source of misperceptions or bad behaviors.


Brain System Brain Area Age
Arousal Unit Reticular System Birth to 12 mo.
Primary Motor or Sensory Visual Auditory Somatosensory Motor Birth to 12 mo.
Secondary Sensory Motor Secondary Sensory Mortor Region Birth to 5 yrs.
Tertiary Sensory Input Parietal Lobes 5 to 8 yrs.
Tertiary Output Planning Prefrontal Lobes 12 to 24 yrs.

Development Phases

There are typically 7 phases that a child must achieve for neurological balance.  Based on where each client lies on the neurodevelopmental spectrum determines which phase or phases need to be worked on in order to attain proper balance. When a person has skipped critical brain development, or has not completed a phase of development, or has been injured it may be necessary that they go back to that phase to “catch up”, develop, and strengthen those brain connections.

As an analogy, this can be compared to building block structures. If certain blocks are missing or slightly askew, then the foundation is not very strong and might collapse under duress or stress. Sometimes it is only a minor imbalance, which requires minimal strengthening of the brain connections. Sometimes there are numerous disconnects or developmental delays that will impact the connections more severely. Checking each phase or milestone will ensure the connections are strong and complete. Once we measure each phase and are assured of balance we know the next “building block” or phase can be achieved.

Phases: Each phase or step needs to be strongly in place prior to the next phase so that each will be equally strong and can build from the last phase or stage.

Phase I Receptive Abilities: Garbage in, garbage out. Undistorted input leads to clarity output. Focus: The attention system moves cognitively to be present.
Phase II Processing: Cognitive flexibility. Balanced processing – Smooth and uninterrupted connections from information received. Substance: Gives one a sense of reality through subjective interpretation of what is being experienced or received.
Phase III Expressive: Input received and processed equals our expression.  If input is distorted or processing incomplete or interrupted, then expression may be non-reality based. Form: Makes it real to the individual and more importantly their expressions make it real to others.  Therefore, their reality matches the form of others.
Phase IV Integration: The ability to combine receptive and expressive abilities smoothly Determination: Requires one to relate to their environment and develop proper relationships.
Phase V Skill Set Development: (Academics) Based upon integration of processing receptive and expressive abilities. Understanding: Ability of skill sets to take place because underpinnings (building blocks) are in place.
Phase VI Mastery Skills: Individual is receptive to mastering and accelerating tasks based upon solid foundation of processing receptive and expressive input/output. Imagination: Confidence and ability to dream and create the life one wants.
Phase VII Personality: The individual’s positive expression through appropriate integration of immediate environment. Freedom: Ability to achieve the full potential of who you are.