Depression Treatment

This study of Deep Brain Stimulation for the treatment of depression failed to show an effect.  Unlike Deep Brain Stimulation, neurofeedback a non-invasive treatment that has a good record of treating depression.  Since long-term depression has been linked to risk of increased overall health problems and Alzheimers,  Early and effective management should be instituted.  For those who prefer a medication-free route, neurofeedback is an excellent alternative.

Neurofeedback in an Integrative Medical Practice

“Restoring the Brain:  Neurofeedback as an Integrative Approach to Health” has been published.  I wrote a chapter about successfully applying neurofeedback to treat patients with conditions that are not necessarily thought of as being primarily brain based.  These included chronic pain, fibromyalgia, diabetes, asthma, and gastrointestinal problems, as well as traumatic brain injury, seizure disorder, autism, ADD/ADHD, and headache.  It was an honor to participate in the effort that produced such a fine book.  For those who care to find out more about the history, theoretical underpinnings, and application of neurofeedback, “Restoring the Brain” is an excellent resource.

The Toll of Childhood Adversity and Stress Can Be Treated with Neurofeedback

As a family practitioner in the 1980s and 1990s, I would frequently encounter patients with symptoms that I could not explain or otherwise account for.  I would spend a lot of time trying to help them feel better, but often all I could do was to be a patient and supportive listener.  It was frustrating to realize that someone who I truly wanted to help had a brain that was wounded in ways that were difficult, if not impossible, to heal.

As the following article points out, the profound effect that childhood adversity and stress can have on brain and physical health is now well recognized.  I am delighted that I now have a wonderful tool, neurofeedback, for helping many who have suffered through adversity.

Neurofeedback and the Immune System

My fellow neurofeedback practitioners and I have long realized that many of our patients who had immune related conditions seem to have fewer symptoms after completing a course of neurofeedback.  I have been particularly impressed with how asthma seems to become significantly less severe and amount of time that symptoms are experienced decreases.  I have also seen this phenomenon is rheumatic conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis.  Eczema often clears up.

Today, a new connection between the brain and the immune system was announced.  It is interesting to see further proof of the brain’s regulatory effects over the rest of the body.

Researchers Find Missing Link Between the Brain and Immune System

ADHD and Drugs

The Washington Post ran an article on treatment of ADHD.  They discuss several alternatives including medications and their limitations.  Interestingly enough, one of the illustrations they use to show how medications seem to work in the ADHD brain, actually makes the case for why neurofeedback is such a great way to treat ADD/ADHD.  They show which areas of the brain seem to be involved in regulating ADHD and how they interact.  Neurofeedback is premised on teaching these various areas of the brain to function appropriately.  Othmer method neurofeedback also works on strengthening the communication tracts between these brain centers.  Neurofeedback does not discriminate between neurotranmitter and receptor sites–it trains all.  Medicines can also have unintended effects in the brain, like sleep and appetite disturbances.  These side effects are virtually non-existent in neurofeedback.

I am happy that the article discuss behavioral therapy as a part of ADD/ADHD treatment.  Learning to focus, organize, and see tasks to completion takes practice.  Parents, teachers, and therapists need to make behavioral expectations clear and then guide the person with problems through the learning process.  It is a lot of work, but the rewards can be remarkable.

Emotional Control and Neurofeedback

A recent issue of Psychology Today published this article that seems to advocate expressing more negative emotions:

I have some issues with this article. When most of us experience negative emotions, we are able to cognitively recognize that we need to process them in ways that are ultimately productive to ourselves and those around us. We use these emotions as a touchstone about the events in our lives and their relative importance to each of us as individuals. Then we prioritize getting ourselves into situations with more positive emotional results.

However in some instances, this article seems to be advocating letting at least some emotional reactions go unchecked. I largely disagree with that premise. Having unbridled negative emotions will quickly lead to trouble with interpersonal relationships. In our society, those who display strong and/or frequent negative emotions rapidly become marginalized. Many of us have experienced this in our own lives: the coworker who yells at everyone, the child who has frequent meltdowns, the family member who is always down and complaining about something….. We monitor our own, usually negative, emotional reactions to these people and then try our best to avoid interacting with them.

There is a good reason why people who express a lot of negative emotions are viewed as immature. Appropriate control of emotions is one of the ways that adults are different from toddlers–we have developed mature prefrontal lobes to our brains. The prefrontal lobes are some of the last areas of the brain to develop fully, and like just about every part of the brain, the more they are utilized in positive ways, the better they perform–especially in negative circumstances.

If you are concerned about whether your emotions are appropriately controlled, you should consult with a qualified therapist. Neurofeedback can play an important part in learning to maintain emotional control. Prefrontal control networks over the limbic (emotional control) system can be stimulated and strengthened. Practicing positive behaviors and control encourages positive experiences and lives!

Alzheimer’s Disease

These are succinct, accessible films that explain much of our current knowledge about Alzheimer’s.

Research is showing some promising results in animal models. The best of these are finding ways to reactivate metabolic and immunologic pathways that have broken down and caused injury and death of brain neurons.

In the meantime, neurofeedback seems to help many with progressive dementia stabilize their brain function.

Tips to Help Fall Asleep

These are great tips to help you fall asleep. However, like any behavioral skill, these need to be practiced consistently (read every night) in order for them to work. Neurofeedback can also enhance brain skill in winding down to fall asleep and help maintain normal sleep patterns to enhance good quality sleep through the night.

Chronic Stress

Evidence continues to mount that chronic stress takes a significant toll on the brain and body. Science News has a great overview of our current understanding:

Chronic stress can wreak havoc on the body

Even while we find ways as individuals and as a society to improve the circumstances that cause chronic stress, we need to recognize that for many it is difficult to avoid. Neurofeedback can help reduce brain stress and eventually help guide to a lifestyle that maximizes healthful, stress-reducing behaviors and practices.