Thursday, February 14, 2013

Mind On The Matter

Last week Lucy had her Neuro-Bio Feedback testing and this week she went to get her results. It was a rather eye-opening experience to learn so much about her brain and the way she is currently functioning. Presented to all company at the session, was a binder filled with pages of brain activity images and information on what the tests revealed. Everything was explained in great detail and included many real-life examples, since some of the information was very technical and comprehension can be varied between individuals.

So it is clear that Lucy’s symptoms correlate very well with the results of the brain mapping. There is no doubt that she has been under tremendous stress and although many people can just bounce back after a trauma, severity and duration play huge factors. “I feel like I've been traumatized for a very long time and it just took one more event to send me over the edge.” It’s interesting to note that Lucy had excellent functioning in certain areas of the brain, while other parts had impairment, or rather over activity. Lucy told me that “It was a relief to know that I’m not totally broken, I just need some tweaking.”

Below I will highlight some of the points that were discussed in the session. It was over 2 hours long, and so I've tried to compile the main ideas. Keep in mind that everyone’s results will differ, but certain patterns of behaviour are evident when you suffer from mental distress.

Brain Mapping show 3 basic ranges: under activity, normal activity, and hyper activity

There are 4 different types of brain waves:

Alpha – these waves are emitted when we are in a state of physical and mental relaxation, although still aware of what is happening around us. Frequencies are around 7 to 13 pulses per second.

Beta- these waves are emitted when we are consciously alert, or when we feel agitated, tense and afraid. Frequencies range from 13 to 60 pulses per second

Theta – a state of drowsiness (otherwise known as somnolence) with reduced levels of consciousness. More or less 4 to 7 pulses per second.

Delta – when there is unconsciousness, deep sleep emits between 0.1 and 4 cycles per second.

*Lucy had quite a bit of hyper activity in the theta, which corresponded to the rear part of her brain. This translates to the idea that when she wakes up in the morning, since theta is relative to sleep and there is a lot of hyper activity going on, she can feel symptoms of panic and agitation.

  • The computer program filters out noise and unwanted frequencies to focus on problem areas and to obtain the most accurate results
  • Results are compared to people Lucy’s age, who have complete healthy brain functioning in all areas
  • Obtaining reliability (measuring consistency) and validity (measures accuracy) are always at the forefront of this type of research.
  • Every Neuro-BioFeedback program is customized based on individual results.

So how does Neuro-BioFeedback help in getting, what is known as the “dysregulated” parts of the brain, back to optimal regulatory levels?

During the actual sessions for Lucy, less EEG is used on the head now that areas of concern are pinpointed.
It was described as if you are watching a bar graph (once connected to the computer) which will show the elevated levels. The main focus is to trying to bring the bar down. During Lucy’s session, she was given an example. If you want to touch a table, you basically envision doing so and then do it. Whether you actually touch it or not is irrelevant to the point, it is the envisioning that remains the same and that is what is being worked on, in essence.

According to the doctor, Lucy needs around 25 sessions of Neuro-BioFeedback, which will be done twice a week, for 1 hour each and then tapered to once a week, for 1 hour each. She is going to start off with 10 sessions, and see how she feels. When I asked Lucy her thoughts, she told me that “It’s a big investment, both mentally and financially, but I want to get better, so if that at least gets my life somewhat normal again, I would be thrilled. I have such support from my loved ones too, so that makes a world of difference.” With the economy the way it is, as well as her own mental health, she’s just been doing odd jobs here and there, so the financial commitment will definitely tighten up the household’s belt a lot more now.

Neuro-BioFeedback therapy is rather expensive, and insurance plans only cover a certain amount and then you’re on your own. It’s a tough call for people who want the help but cannot afford the high price tag, but it has been proven to work. It is paving the way for many individuals to get their psychological well being in order, without always relying on medication. Children with ADD/ADHD are especially great candidates and success rates have been high.

Lucy’s story is not unfamiliar. There are thousands of people here in Windsor, Ontario who are suffering from a variety of illnesses and are left undiagnosed or sadly, misdiagnosed. The impact felt when you cannot function is strong, as I learned by going with Lucy to her meeting. Family, relationships, careers, and of course the actual self are in jeopardy and so it is amazing to know that we have a service like Neuro-BioFeedback.

Realistically speaking, both Lucy and I realize that there are no guarantees and her anxiety may never fully go away. What we both hope though is that through these sessions, she will learn to control her anxiety, stress, painful memories, and move forward in her life as a confident, successful and more relaxed human being. “I just want to reduce my stress, I know that life is not always happy….I just never thought it would be this sad for me.”