What we Treat
One of the most remarkable successes of brainwave neurofeedback is that we can use it to sort out the chaos associated with today’s ridiculous treatment of children with attention difficulties. ADD and ADHD are “waste basket” diagnoses. Children who are inattentive or boisterous are often labeled AD(H)D and then drugged, whether or not they are truly AD(H)D. Children are normally boisterous and it is sadly clear that as a society, we are sedating the normal age appropriate behavior of children. Children can be inattentive for many reasons; perhaps they are bored, frightened, uncomfortable, insecure, or confused in addition to, or instead of, having a neurological condition. We use precise, proven brainwave biofeedback neurotherapeutic techniques to pinpoint the exact nature of the child’s difficulty.
The elegant precision of neurotherapy in identifying the exact cause of a child’s inattentive or hyperactive difficulties makes neurotherapy the primary care choice for the treatment of children’s learning problems, without the use of dangerous drugs that can severely harm the child both physically and psychologically. Neurotherapy identifies the exact location of brain function inefficiencies. Armed with this precise data, the neurotherapist can correct brainwave anomalies, permanently. During the neurotherapeutic treatment of ADD, ADHD or LD, we engage the child in tasks such as reading, writing or mathematics while the neurotherapist treats the relevant brain locations. Neurotherapy is an extremely efficient and safe method for treatment of ADD, ADHD or other Learning Disorders. Neurotherapeutic treatment can elevate children with poor reading skills to be able to confidently read at grade level, with very few visits to our clinic.
There are many different types of AD(H)D and they each have their own definitive brainwave patterns. Some AD(H)D children are daydreamers who show excessive slow frequency (Theta) amplitude on top of the head. Some are the “fidgety kids who just can’t sit still” and often lose focus and/or concentration when it is very important to maintain them, such as while the child is in a learning environment. These children’s brainwaves show a marked deficiency of slow frequency amplitude in the back of the brain. Other children are the “little socially precocious chatterboxes” who can drive their teachers crazy with their inappropriate “socializing” during class time, and can be disruptive to the entire classroom. This type of AD(H)D shows brainwave patterns with an excess of Alpha amplitude in the front of the brain.
We always remind the parents of an ADHD child before the end of neurotherapeutic treatment for ADD or ADHD, that their child will behave in an age appropriate manner. He or she will be boisterous, nosey, stubborn and trying, as all children are at times. The child will not be sedated, as these are normal childhood behaviors.
For more information on parenting a child diagnosed with ADHD, we recommend reading Parenting the Child with ADHD: 10 Lessons That Medicine Cannot Teach, by Dr. Vincent Monastra.
Learning Disorders, such as dyslexia, also show brainwave deficiencies that can be corrected with neurotherapy. The treatment of children with these difficulties includes, in addition to neurotherapy, skill remediation during the brainwave biofeedback treatment. Thus a child having problems with written output would be engaged in writing tasks while the relevant brain center is being stimulated. The combination of neurotherapy and specific skill remediation results in a very efficient and precise method to enhance skill development because the area of the brain responsible for the specific activity is being activated during the treatment of the Learning Disorder.
Dr. Swingle’s podcast Traumatic Brain Injury in Children offers an enlightening discussion on how mild TBI is often misdiagnosed as ADD in children.
There are many contributory causes of addictive behavior. People may “self-medicate” to avoid unpleasant feelings, so often we find that persons who abuse psychoactive substances such as alcohol and marijuana are clinically depressed. Feelings of failure can also be associated with escaping into alcohol and drug induced mental stupor. Hence, adults who have untreated ADD frequently are substance abusers because of their experience with failure in their careers and their relationships.
Anxiety can likewise be related to addictive behaviors. The classic example is the adolescent who experiences social anxiety and finds that things go easier in social gatherings if they drink some alcohol before the event. They find “liquid courage” in the alcohol and become dependent. Similarly, persons with anxiety related sleep disturbances often come to rely on alcohol to help them sleep. The problem with dealing with anxiety by using some mind altering substance is that the person can become dependent or addicted, using increasing amounts over longer periods of time. Sadly, we frequently find elderly people who are lonely or depressed after the loss of their partner who become dependent on alcohol to help them through their unhappy waking hours.
There can also be a genetic basis for addiction. Commonly, we find that the addict has a severe deficiency of slow frequency brainwave amplitude and/or a marked elevation of fast frequency amplitude in the back of the brain. Basically, these people can’t find peace in their own head and use alcohol, drugs, sex, gambling or other distraction to get some relief. Alcohol and some drugs increase slow frequency brainwave amplitude so the person experiences a sedating effect that continues until they fall asleep or pass out. Focusing activities such as sex or gambling distract the person by narrowing the perceptual field so the brain chatter is quieted. Such narrow focus can also distract the person from feelings of guilt, shame, social anxiety or sadness.
It is clear from the above that there are many contributory factors to addiction including both the physiological and the psychological. Treatment of these conditions includes the normalizing of brainwave activity with neurotherapy coupled with behavioral and/or cognitive therapies. Neurotherapy has the highest success rate of any therapy in the treatment of primary (genetic) alcoholism.
There has been a huge increase in recent years in the incidence of children with Autistic Spectrum Disorders (ASD). Recent studies have suggested a threefold increase has occured in the incidence of these disorders in the last ten years. As the term ASD implies, autism is not a unitary disorder. There are many forms of ASD that can vary in terms of behavioral characteristics and severity. Some ASD children can have severe delays in terms of intellectual development whereas others can proceed to higher learning. Some autistic children show no awareness of others as emotional beings and therefore absolutely no interest in social interaction. Asperger’s children, on the other hand, often are well aware of others but lack the social skill development to engage in age-appropriate social interaction.
The treatment of ASD children is one area in which unqualified therapists can do considerable harm. Treatment must be guided by a brain map. Some ASD children have a considerable excess of brainwave amplitude over the entire brain. Reduction of that excess can be very effective in the treatment of these children. However, there are many locations that must be avoided or calmed during treatment to prevent the exacerbation of the autistic behaviors while other brain areas are being treated.
Our clinic is one of the few centers in North America that can treat severe cases. Often ASD children cannot participate in the regular forms of neurotherapy that require some degree of volition. Our clinic is the leading center in North America in the development of the nonvolitional braindriving technologies that are used for ASD children.
Some very interesting books by and about individuals with ASD include: Songs of the Gorilla Nation by Dr. Dawn Prince-Hughes; The Speed of Dark by Elizabeth Moon; The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon.
There is a condition referred to as “adolescence”. Neurotherapists will often joke with parents that they will treat adolescents but not adolescence. The point, of course, is that defiance and other strivings for independence and self-worth are normal expressions of child development. Guiding this oppositional energy is the key to responsible parenting. No therapy, neurotherapy included, is a substitute for responsible parenting. Unfortunately, we see many children with behavior problems that result from parents who are too afraid or, on the other hand, too self-absorbed to be responsible parents. They abdicate the parental role with the result that the child is severely deficient in acquiring social learning. When such conditions are encountered, family therapy with an emphasis on responsible parenting is always required. Neurotherapy may help in such conditions if the child (or parent!) is facing some neurological inefficiency, such as an attention or a stress tolerance deficiency.
Recognizing that family/parenting issues are always critical, there are neurological conditions that are associated with behavior problems in children. Oppositional and Defiance Disorders (ODD) are usually associated with problems in the frontal regions of the brain, and often a deficiency in the back of the brain as well. The problem in the front of the brain can be thought of as the brain not being efficient in acquiring or accessing social skills. Also, we often find an imbalance in the frontal cortex that is associated with impulse control problems. Correcting these inefficiencies with neurotherapy in conjunction with strengthening parental skills can make a marked improvement in the child’s behavior. Drugging the child will simply compound the problem.
Severe behavior problems can also be associated with frontal brain injury. It is noteworthy that most imprisoned violent offenders show evidence of frontal lobe damage. Fortunately, neurotherapy can be effective in the treatment of traumatic brain injury with associated improvement in socially appropriate behavior. Hence, in the treatment of defiant and aggressive children, the complex of factors that are potential contributors to the problem must be isolated. Such treatment usually includes family therapy, parental skills training, behavior therapy for the child and neurotherapy to correct any neurological inefficiencies associated with the socially problematic behavior.
Nowhere is the sheer joy of being a neurotherapist more pronounced than in the treatment of the elderly. In our society, we treat our elderly badly, very badly. We lead them to expect to become demented, dependent and irrelevant as they age. As we age there are some brainwave patterns that start to change. As these patterns progress we experience losses in cognitive efficiency (e.g., memory, word retrieval), UNLESS we actively use the important brain areas and STAY COMPLETELY OFF PSYCHOTROPIC MEDICATIONS.
When a despondent elderly person arrives at our clinic, we usually find that they believe that they are becoming demented and they are also on ridiculous amounts of brain deadening medication. Our treatment involves normalizing any brain inefficiencies and especially doing “brain brightening” neurotherapy. The latter is a procedure that strengthens a particular brainwave band. Research from many prominent universities and clinics has shown that the brain brightening protocol delays and reverses dementias, likely delays Alzheimer’s, and enhances the immune system. The second part of our treatment involves SLOWLY removing all medications. The changes that one observes in these elderly clients is startling – their interests surge, their eyes regain life and sparkle, their humor returns and they become respectful of their own wisdom.
Dementias associated with developmental lags or brain trauma likewise respond to neurotherapy. Generally, neurotherapeutic treatment results in an average IQ gain of about 15 points so virtually all clients with these conditions experience at least that amount of improvement. Sometimes we can dramatically improve such conditions when improved intellectual functioning results in increased intellectually stimulating activities such as reading.
There are many factors that contribute to depression and mood disorders. Events such as loss of a job, death of a friend, family member or a pet, break-up of a relationship, dissatisfaction with one’s performance, etc. can all cause periods of depressed mood states. These event-related disturbances in mood are generally transient and one gets on with life. Neurologically-based mood disorders, on the other hand, persist and predispose one to have more prolonged or more intense reactions to emotional events. Some depressed mood states are characterized by intense feelings of sadness or hopelessness, others by burn-out and fatigue and still others by feelings of disinterest, emptiness and flat emotional states. Bipolar conditions, on the other hand, often involve periods of intense depression alternating with periods of hyper-arousal. The hyper-arousal periods can be problematic episodes of uncontrolled spending, unrealistic projects or abrasive interpersonal engagement.
All of the mood disorders have identifiable brainwave patterns that permit very precise diagnoses and more importantly point out precisely how the neurotherapist should proceed to correct the problem. Some forms of depression are associated with imbalances in the frontal regions of the brain such as when Beta amplitude is considerably greater in the right frontal cortex relative to the left. Other forms of depression are associated with deficits of slow frequency brainwave amplitude in the back of the brain. Bipolar conditions are usually associated with brainwave anomalies in both the front and the back of the brain. A brain map by a qualified neurotherapist is the first step toward treating depression without dangerous drugs.
Many clients with fibromyalgia report that they have been treated badly by the conventional health care system. Often health providers give the impression to these clients that they consider the ailment bogus or a psychological need for dependency. These clients also usually arrive at our clinic heavily medicated and suffering from the serious side effects of these medications. Fibromyalgia clients are usually worn-out, depressed, sleep deprived and feeling abandoned.
Fibromyalgia is a connective tissue disorder that results from a serious emotional trauma, a physical injury (such as a head injury), and/or a viral infection. Generally, these clients admit to more than one of the above causes so generally there is a psychological dimension to the client’s condition. For example, if emotional or physical trauma has been experienced, the post-traumatic stress symptoms may require some psychotherapeutic intervention as well as correcting the brainwave abnormalities.
Treatment of fibromyalgia always requires that the client be weaned off the medications that are sustaining the condition. A typical brainwave abnormality one finds in cases of fibromyalgia is an excess of slow frequency brainwave amplitude in the front of the brain. Persons without fibromyalgia who have recently experienced a viral infection also usually show this same pattern in the frontal cortex. Likewise, a side effect of some medications is this same excess of slow brainwave amplitude in the front of the brain. These complications in the frontal regions of the brain are the cause of the cognitive inefficiencies usually reported by clients with these conditions; “fibrofog” as the fibromyalgia clients call the condition.
Fibromyalgia is generally associated with very poor sleep quality. Pain interferes with sleep and poor sleep in turn worsens the fibromyalgia condition. So these patients are caught in a self-worsening pattern which leads them to become dependent on sedating medications that in turn worsen the cognitive inefficiencies. Neurotherapy breaks this cycle by correcting the neurological conditions associated with the symptoms.
Pain is a normal response signaling that something is wrong and needs attention. Pain patterns differ markedly depending on which body systems are involved. For headache, we may find that brainwave treatment is not the most effective and that the client responds more favorably to regular biofeedback such as muscle tension reduction, increased body surface temperature or improved respiration. The treatment of pain, such as headache, also usually requires changing the client’s habits or life style patterns. Tensing the body when stressed, for example, may lead directly to a tension headache so learning how to recognize and correct body tension may be critical to averting the headache. Backache, on the other hand, may be relieved by sitting in a less “comfortable” chair that reduces tension in the large muscles in the back.
Generalized pain and specific pain such as migraine headache that does not respond to other forms of biofeedback can usually be improved by brainwave treatment similar to that used for seizure disorders. The latter has the effect of calming the body which has a beneficial effect on perceived pain. The treatment of pain is very complex. It usually involves determining if the pain can be eliminated or if one can only hope to reduce the distress associated with continuous unrelenting pain. The treatment of both of the above classes of pain further requires that the client be taught methods for increasing stress tolerance and reducing body tension. Finally, the physiological and neurological conditions that are associated with the pain symptoms are corrected with the goal of keeping the client drug-free or on very minimal dosages of analgesics.
There are two phases to optimal or peak performance training. The first is to correct any brain efficiencies that might be interfering with performance. The second is to optimize brain functioning. During the process of correcting brain inefficiencies, the IQ increases by 10 to 15 points. We find this routinely, for example, when treating children with ADD.
The second phase of treatment involves optimizing Alpha brainwaves. Alpha is a ready state in the brain. The average frequency of this resting and idling brainwave is an important determinant of cognitive efficiency. For example, as we get older this average dominant frequency slows down and is associated with age-related declines in cognitive functioning. Optimal performance training is exactly the reverse of this process in that we increase the average dominant frequency of Alpha.
In addition to increasing the average dominant frequency, optimal performance training increases the strength of the Alpha brainwaves and speeds up the transition time from one Alpha state to another. The effect of this training is an increase in brain efficiency with attendant improvements in cognitive and motor performance. Many CEOs of large companies have continuous neurotherapy to maintain optimal performance just as an athlete would routinely work out in a gym to maintain optimal physical performance. Many professional athletes likewise have routine neurotherapy sessions for exactly the same reason – to maintain peak performance in their sport.
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Neurotherapy is ever expanding as a treatment for many serious conditions. As we gain more knowledge of brain functioning and the expected normal ranges of brainwave activity, serious conditions can be treated by normalizing brainwave activity. New brain imaging techniques based on the Quantitative Electroencephalograph (QEEG) show the functioning of deep brain structures and most importantly how neurotherapy can normalize the functioning of those structures.
There are many structural changes in the brain that researchers have reported in patients with schizophrenia, for example. However, to date there is little consistency in these findings and more importantly the differences found are usually not more pronounced than one would find normally in the general population of people without psychoses. This is where neurotherapy really stands out. Neurotherapy is based on the Electroencephalograph (QEEG) which measures brain function rather than brain structure (the various scanning procedures). Hence, neurotherapists look for areas of inefficiency in brain functioning which may be contributing to the unique symptom pattern for a particular client. Although patients may have the same diagnosis, the QEEG reveals the unique brain functioning pattern of the person and correcting those specific inefficiencies experienced by that person restores the brain to normative functioning. At present, cooperation between neurotherapists and psychopharmacologists offers the most promising treatment options for clients with psychotic symptoms in that the neurotherapy can stabilize individuals who at present require medication maintenance of their condition.
The treatment of drug resistant epilepsy was one of the first applications of neurotherapy. Discovered quite by accident, Dr. Sterman of UCLA School of Medicine found that increasing the amplitude of a specific brainwave (the Sensory Motor Rhythm) over a specific brain area (sensory motor cortex) increased resistance to seizures. Since his discovery more than three decades ago, increasing the amplitude of the SMR has become a basic treatment for many involuntary movement disorders including seizures, tics and tremors.
SMR training is particularly valuable for children and pregnant women with involuntary movement disorders because of the serious side effects of anti-seizure medications. In addition, some self-administered acustimulation procedures have been found to be very useful to reduce seizures when used in conjunction with the Attention™ CD from the SoundHealthProducts.com store.
Children with Tourette syndrome and other tic disorders also respond well to the same form of treatment used for seizure disorders. In such cases, in addition to increasing the amplitude of the SMR over the center of the brain, we usually find a deficiency of slow frequency amplitude brainwaves in the back, or occipital regions, of the brain. The latter deficiency is usually associated with problems quieting the mind and is normally treated first followed by the SMR enhancement part of the neurotherapeutic treatment.
So much depends on sleep. If sleep quality is not good, we are vulnerable to fatigue, depression, mood difficulties, illness, cognitive inefficiencies, anxiety and accident proneness. Sleep quality does not only depend on how long one sleeps. Often we can sleep for long periods of time, but waken not refreshed because sleep quality is poor. Worry can affect our sleep and if we can’t sleep, we fret which further reduces sleep quality.
There are many factors that can affect sleep. Poor sleep habits, poor nutrition, depression, worry and other arousing circumstances are obvious factors that can reduce sleep quality. Neurologically, we find that many people are predisposed to sleep disturbances. These are individuals who have very specific brain inefficiencies that affect the brain’s self-quieting capability or are associated with brain “chatter”. Such individuals may have poor stress tolerance so any stressful situation immediately impacts their sleep. Other inefficiencies are associated with one wakening prematurely and not being able to return to sleep. Some individuals sleep for long periods of time but wake up tired. All of these conditions are associated with specific brainwave anomalies that are correctible with neurotherapy.
More than simply a sleep problem, chronic fatigue is a condition in which the person cannot sustain normal levels of activity even though they may sleep for many hours each day. Similar in some respects to fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome often is associated with a physical injury, viral infection or a traumatic emotional event. Considered by many health care providers as purely a “psychological” disorder, these patients are often treated with antidepressant, antipsychotic and/or anti-anxiety medications and are referred for psychotherapy. In such cases, the condition further deteriorates and the clients become dependent on sedating medications with the result that they see themselves as disabled.
Nowhere is the notion that “It’s all in your head” more relevant than in the case of sleep disturbances and chronic fatigue. Routinely treated as psychological, one meaning of “in your head”, such conditions show very specific brainwave anomalies, the second meaning of “in your head”, which when corrected, resolve the problems.
We see many clients who are many years post injury. Generally, they have resigned themselves to being incapacitated. They had been told that significant recovery is impossible after about eighteen months following the brain injury. We now know that is incorrect. What we were taught, until very recently, in medical and graduate schools that the brain is relatively inflexible and concrete, is simply wrong. The brain is remarkably adaptive and plastic so significant improvement is possible long after the brain injury, although the earlier we start neurotherapy the better. In his book Synaptic Self, Dr. Joseph LeDoux discusses some of the important research on brain plasticity.
Brain injury from head trauma, such as would be sustained in an automobile accident, inevitably affects the frontal lobes in the brain. Frontal lobe injury is generally associated with problems related to anger, impulse control and personality. Hence, one region of neurotherapeutic treatment for traumatic brain injury is usually to correct problems in the front part of the brain. Injuries can be at other brain regions as well that cause other problems such as orientation, cognitive processing and motor activity. The first step in the treatment of these conditions is to obtain a full brain map of all brain locations. Treatment is guided by the results of the brain map which show precisely where in the brain the inefficiencies reside.
Although there are many different symptoms associated with anxiety, often the root cause is an inefficiency in the back of the brain. This inefficiency results in the client not being able to find “peace in their head”. Sometimes the specific symptoms are also associated with other areas of brain inefficiency such as the frontal cortex. Neurotherapy is a very effective treatment for the anxiety disorders because it corrects the root causes in the brain. In some cases behavioral treatment is also required to correct the habit patterns that have developed in response to the anxiety. Such conditions as nail-biting, eating disorders and phobias respond well to this combination of neurotherapy and behavior therapy.
Exposure to traumatic conditions such as interpersonal violence, automobile accidents, or natural catastrophes can have a disabling effect on many people. The response to exposure to these stressful conditions is associated with the person’s stress tolerance, a condition directly related to the anxiety disorders. The same conditions that make a person prone to anxiety symptoms are those that make a person vulnerable to being disabled by traumatic stress. The treatment of traumatic stress likewise is most efficient when neurotherapy is combined with behavior and cognitive therapies.