Home | In The Classroom | The brain, multimovement therapy, neuroscience, pedagogy and education: part 6
John Famechon at the 2018 unveiling of a statue in Frankston for the anniversary of him winning the World Featherweight Championship on January 21st 1969. Picture: David Crosling

The brain, multimovement therapy, neuroscience, pedagogy and education: part 6

During the entire four-year period, where John experienced what would have been hundreds of ‘event horizon’ episodes, he never asked to stop. Each time I asked John to stop, he would then inevitably present and say a variety of things, such as: “Have you had enough?” Other times it was “Is that the best you can do!” And there was also, as noted to already, the oft presented phrase of: “What’s the matter, can’t you hack it?” John never let up.


There were other times that John would say: “I really appreciate your help.” This then was immediately followed by the words: “sort of.” I then always thanked John. And when I did, he would smile again and say: “I don’t know why I said that; you must be punchy.”

There were also times where John would ask the question: “Have I thanked you for your help?” To which I always replied: “Yes, you have John.” And the response from John was another knock out: “Good, I don’t have to say anything then.” John would smile and nothing was said. (For similar work on the importance of lessons from failure, hard work, and success see Arden, 2010; Arrowsmith-Young, 2012; Coyle, 2009; Doidge, 2015; Suzuki, 2015.)

Click here for part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4 and part 5.

Additional comparative MMT case studies

The case of Mr P

At the age of 54, in April of 1994, Mr P suffered a stroke in the right hemisphere of his brain. He was discharged from hospital in August of 1994. He was left with a pronounced limp and no use of his left arm. His left hand and fingers, as described by his wife, had become rigidly tonal and “clawed”.

Mr P continued his medical treatment as a hospital outpatient for the next 18 months. During this time, according to his wife, there was no noticeable improvement in Mr P’s condition. He commenced MMT, mid-December, 1995. After some four weeks he was able to stand, roll, crawl, walk and run. At the conclusion of the MMT intervention, which continued on a weekly basis, for one hour of physical therapy followed by one hour of debriefing and talk therapy over 12 weeks, Mr P’s wife presented the following testimonial:

During the last 10 months, the most dramatic and obvious improvements have been in my husband’s physical improvements and his associated confidence and willingness to attempt new things, both inside and outside the house. There has also been enormous improvement in his concentration and social communication. He is now alert, happy, enjoying many new experiences and enjoys socialising. He looks well and his eyes sparkle. His self-esteem has improved markedly, from what was taking place prior to [Mr P] starting this new form of therapy. Ragnar’s program is not just an exercise program for a specific part of the body, it is an overall program to stimulate the mind, and therefore the body. We have called it our ‘Program for Living’.”

The case of Master J

In May of 1997 14-year-old Master J was hit by a car. Along with a fractured femur, a lacerated mouth, missing teeth and various cuts and bruises, Master J received a severe closed head injury. This head injury was diagnosed as a “grade three injury” in accordance with the Glasgow Coma Scale. According to medical convention the recovery from a Glasgow Coma Scale grade three injury was not considered to be very high. Therapy began in October 1998, some 18 months after his accident. Prior to this, Master J was receiving treatment, however, even for this treatment, his mother informed there had been no discernible improvement in his status.

Master J presented as being bent over, and he moved with a shuffling, same leg forward, gait. His overall movement abilities were very limited as was his talking ability. The therapy began with seven one to one-and-a-half sessions. Then there was a break. In April of 1999 Master J had a further seven one to one-and-a-half-hour sessions. These sessions seemed to advance Master J further again. Master J was now walking upright, could run and was able to ride a bicycle. He was also talking. Master J’s mother presented the following testimonial at the conclusion of the MMT intervention:

We saw you for a total of 14 sessions. From the 1st session we were impressed with your totally unique method of bombarding the brain and body at one time. [Master J] said he enjoyed the work and responded well to your approach. When we returned home, family teachers and friends all noticed a huge improvement in [Master J]. One of his teacher’s said the following: ‘He is walking so much quicker and steadier than before the holidays.’ The improvements [my husband and I] noticed in his day to day routine just sprung up at us!"

He generally came home [from school] with much more confidence in his balance and in himself. Even his reading improved. All of the improvements speak for themselves.”

The case of Ms M

In July of 2015, at the age of 65, Ms M became ill with neck soreness, numbness in arms and fever. Ongoing testing and medical examinations of the presenting condition ultimately discovered that a staph (staphylococcus bacteria) infection had entered her spine. This immediately led to Ms M having three spinal area surgeries (to eliminate the staph infection). This surgery also led to the circumstance where there was a need for the insertion of a metal rod and supporting screws to now help keep her spine intact, stable and completely secure. Ms M’s spine was now fused from C2 to T3. Following this surgery, Ms M was then hospitalised for a period of four months. During this time she spent ten weeks convalescing and totally immobile on her back. Added to this, Ms M was also was diagnosed as having the condition of “being 80 per cent numb from the neck at C2 down to T3”.

When sufficient hospital based medical recovery had taken place, Ms M underwent what the hospital described as sub-acute, then acute rehabilitation. In late November, 2015, Ms M was formally released from hospital in a wheelchair to return home. Ongoing and regular home nursing, home-based physical therapy and occupational therapy then took place for a number of undisclosed weeks. Through this home-based rehabilitative process Ms M was eventually able to sit, then stand, and, with the aid of a supporting walker, was eventually able to walk. However, Ms M was still diagnosed as being significantly incapacitated. She informed that no more overall physical or mobility improvements were now taking place. Ms M now describes what followed:

In my ongoing search for therapeutic physical improvement rehabilitative potentialities, circumstances eventually arose where I became aware of what I would describe as the exciting physical therapy of Dr Ragnar Purje. However, even though excited, there was a significant problem. I was living in the United States and Dr Purje was in Australia. However, and again, circumstances thankfully came together where an initial Skype meeting was arranged. From the very outset, Dr Purje immediately informed me that he did not know if anything that he had to offer could or would ever help. However, he told me he was of the mind (which he described as follows): “If you don’t try, and do nothing, there is only one outcome, nothing happens.” With that the therapy of Dr Purje began. For the next 20 months I met with Dr Purje once a week through the Skype process. Each session lasted anywhere from an hour to two hours of physical therapy. This included immediate post physical therapy feedback and counselling. As time went on I found that I was improving in my overall movement capacities. I was also improving in my outlook, and also in overall feelings and general wellbeing. My personal confidence in my walking potential increased. My confidence in moving around and keeping my balance increased. I began taking a leashed dog on my outside excursions. After a year, I began driving again – much to the stunned amazement of those who knew how ill and debilitated I had been. Even my medical doctors were amazed by my recovery. In July 2017, I visited one of my therapists who was absolutely stunned at my over movement presentation. She informed me that in her decades of therapy work, she never expected me to regain this level of mobility. The look on her face was priceless.


The evidence suggests that a commencing presenting condition may change with associated levels of recovery. That includes physical, cognitive, intellectual, emotional, psychological initial, almost passive intervention that then slowly progresses (which is contingent on the individual) into very demanding, intense and extremely complex physical, cognitive and emotionally demanding actions.

Brain-body (hólos) intervention through MMT, with its hard goals and stretch goals and accompanying talk therapy, as the research suggests, also causes neurological firing, rewiring and restructuring that leads to hólos improvements – a recovering to recovered state if you will – that is described by participants and their friends and family as life changing. Whereas, prior to MMT interventions occurring, they had little or no major and/or life-changing improvements taking place at all. The question that must be asked is: Would MMT (and the associated brain-based information) be useful to consider by those affected by an acquired brain injury and similar neurological issues, as well as for the disabled person, their family, friends, as well as health practitioners who may be interested, but also, as examined in this paper, in areas of teaching, learning, pedagogy and education?

Further to this, the processes underpinning MMT with its hard goals and stretch goals and taking the person (learner) from where they are at and seeing what they likely can do using complex multimovements and talk (with it associated physical, mental and emotional intensity, frequency and duration) could also be, as the research suggests, of direct relevance to teaching situations. The research also indicates that the MMT process may also help to foster resilience and success in learning through failures as well providing the means of understanding that mistakes and failures can and do have positive outcomes that help to promote wellbeing and achievements (Purnell, 2020) of the individual and those who work with them. Mistakes, errors and failures – these are the cobblestones that build the road of knowledge and success.

Dr Ragnar Purje is adjunct lecturer in the School of Education and the Arts at Central Queensland University. Under the supervision of Professor Ken Purnell, Purje’s doctoral dissertation focused on the success of his neurologically focused acquired brain injury rehabilitation therapy.

Professor Ken Purnell is from the School of Education and the Arts at Central Queensland University.


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