Friday, February 1, 2013

Mapping The Brain

Talking to Lucy the night before she was going in for her Quantitative Electroencephalography (QEEG), she was relatively calm. Washing her hair with baby shampoo, as advised, brought her back to a time where she truly felt nurtured. “I felt like I was a new-born baby, being gently caressed and protected, without a care in world,” stated Lucy.

The next day, I was out of the house around 8:30 am to meet up with Lucy for her appointment at 9 am. I must say that having staff that are friendly can make a world of difference, especially to those who suffer from a variety of conditions. The simple “hello” is often taken for granted and I wish that more places were so reassuring and caring. The receptionist had a smile on her face and even though she could have been having the most miserable start to her day, she treated Lucy like a person, not just another number. It was awesome to see.

So what is QEEG? Digital technology is used to measure electrical patterns at the surface of the scalp (called brain mapping), not the structure (like in an EEG), which reflect cortical electrical activity or what is known as “brain waves.”

In a nutshell, it’s an assessment tool that clinicians use to detect and identify areas of dysregulation in a person’s brain. So if you’re suffering from sleep problems, emotional or even behavioural difficulties, this helps to understand the cause of symptoms and ultimately puts a plan of action in place to get you back on track.

Next, a full statistical analysis is done comparing the person’s brain wave profile to the norm for his/her age and gender. This is where stats is handy and the dreaded course that everyone wants to avoid taking at university. However, in this scope of work, it’s a must.

The concept is interesting and according to Lucy, all the electrodes that were hooked up to her head, “made her feel like Frankenstein’s monster.” She also said that, “we joked about putting my photo on Facebook.”

When I asked Lucy about any discomfort, she said that it wasn’t painful at all, the baby shampoo just allowed for the electrodes to activate and function on the screen properly, since any other shampoo contains problematic chemicals that could interfere. She just had to follow some specific tasks, but a majority of the process kept her in a relaxed state.

It also helped that she was told what would go on every step of the way, a little background history on the procedure, and of course, some comic relief to lighten the mood. If she needed to stop for any reason, she was welcomed to. With two clinicians in the room making sure everything was accurate and running smoothly, the whole session took about an hour. “It’s great to find people who genuinely want to see me get better,” said Lucy.

After the session, Lucy seemed to be in fine spirits. Unfortunately, her post-traumatic stress seems to come back at very random times. Sometimes it’s the abuse she suffered from for countless years, other times, it’s the medical trauma she’s endured. It takes a toll on her physical and mental wellbeing, not to mention her loved ones.

“I keep trying to push forward and not let all these memories consume me, but sometimes it’s a losing battle and I just want to scream, but the only thing I can do is cry,” she says.
It took quite a few days to settle her down and so I wanted to give her all the support and time she needed. She’s still pretty on edge in general, but trying to do her best to realize that she’s not going to be abandoned and no matter what, as Maroon 5′s song goes, “She will be loved.”

It takes several hours to analyse the results and then compile everything for discussion, so Lucy will be back next week to figure out the results and where to go from here.