A Quick Peak Into My Brain

If you ever wondered why my blog is titled well call me crazy, here is a small example. I feel compelled to post a random thought that just crossed my mind. I was reading an email that included a link to another article. Left clicking on the link would open a new tab and take me directly to the article, but being the contrarian I am I always right-click and hit open link in new tab. This allows me to read the article after I have finished reading my other emails. As I was doing this, I was struck by the little arrow continuously circling in the new unopened tabs. The arrow circle just kept going and going and going. No matter how much time passed, the page in those unopened tabs just would not load all the way…..not until I clicked on the actual tab. And my strange thought on this? Well, this is a fine example of Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle and the existence of the Quantum Field. Why you ask? Because the page did not truly exist until I looked at it directly. I had to observe the tab before the article materialized. Intriguing. Curious. Strange. Have a glorious day!

What The Bleep Is Neurofeedback You Ask?

Brain, computer art

Brain, computer art (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

I have been wanting…..okay attempting…..to write a post about the internship I was doing in neurotherapy. Specifically, a post that would explain what neurofeedback is and its use in treating brain disorders of any kind. The post would be easy to understand, comprehensive without being overwhelming, with a bit of humor thrown in for good measure. I was on draft number four of writing said post when a peer emailed me the article below and I thought, “Wow,this guy just took the words right out of my mouth…..and did it better than what I was imagining!” So, of course I have to share it with all of you. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did and that it spurs you on to learn more and share with others.

 

 

Neurofeedback: Alternative Health Care for Robots?

 

by John Anderson, M.A

 
Many people interested in alternative health react to the word “EEG biofeedback” with hesitation. It doesn’t sound very organic. It doesn’t even sound holistic. Talk about bodywork, herbal medicine, homeopathy, spiritual healing or any of the other approaches usually associated with alternative health care, and most people have some sort of feeling level response. That response is probably positive. These approaches seem nurturing and familiar, low tech, not part of the electronic age. They are from a calmer age, an age when life was slower and more natural.

Biofeedback and, more recently neurofeedback (brain wave biofeedback), seem to be high-tech, electronic. Sort of what a robot or an android might use for a health problem, not something that could help a person trying to simplify his or her life. Being attached by wires to an electronic gadget (a computer no less!), and learning to control brainwaves sounds like a science fiction story, not a method of natural healing.

Neurofeedback is actually one way that technology is truly holistic. Many people all over the world devote a great deal of time and energy learning to regulate their brainwaves. They just call it different things. Some call it trance work, some call it meditation, some call it psychic healing. Zen monks, yogis, Sufis, Qigong masters and others spend 20 years or more learning to reach certain states of consciousness. Some do it because these are thought to be healing states. Some are trying to reach a state of freedom, a release from pain or suffering. Some are just trying to find a better, more calm and centered way to live.

Neurotherapy practitioners throughout the world are using neurofeedback with adults and children who have learning problems, anxiety, headaches, depression, sleep problems, ADHD and more. Let’s use the common example of the ADHD child. The typical western medical treatment for these children is medication. Ritalin, antidepressants, and anti-seizure medications are routinely given to children as young as 3 or 4 years old with the prospect of continuing these medications into adulthood. Neurofeedback is an effective alternative that teaches these children to alter brain wave states in a way that usually results in a significant change in their conditions. Of course medication may be necessary for some individuals but many prefer to try this simple, non-invasive approach first and use medication as a last resort. Others have tried medication, have not found relief and are interested in trying something else.

So how does it work? The effects of Neurofeedback are similar to those of medications. Only it is not habit forming, has no “side effects”, does not cause long term problems, and doesn’t mask or cover up underlying causal factors. It provides a lasting learning experience that the children can take with them throughout their lives. Neurofeedback is a learning process just like meditation. The child learns to sit still and pay attention, first to an external indication of how his or her brain is functioning, and then to an internal awareness that becomes as easy as breathing.

Much of what is taught in meditative traditions are techniques for eliciting the kind of balanced awareness that the children learn to reach through neurofeedback. Sensors are attached to the head and ears, and brain wave information is given to the child through a simple “ pacman” or similar computer game. The only difference is, the child plays the computer game with his or her brainwaves. When brainwaves are in a balanced pattern and the child is relaxed, the pac-man turns bright yellow, moves along eating dots and beeping. When the child “drifts” away from this desirable state, the pac-man stops, turns dark and no beeps are generated. The child learns to reach this balanced state by getting immediate “feedback” or information about what works and what doesn’t. Self-regulation skills that take a meditator years of trial and error to develop, the child learns more easily because of accurate feedback.

The neurofeedback process is using something most kids and many adults are already attracted to, namely computers and computer games. In this case though, the technology helps them learn the ancient arts of self-regulation. The body/mind is an integrated whole that has lots of self-regulating mechanisms. These mechanisms get out of whack in our modern world as they did in the old days, only now more severely. That is what natural healing methods try to correct. Neurofeedback is one of those methods that try to enlist the person’s own self-regulatory mechanisms to create a state of optimal health. It works on a very subtle level and leads to remarkable changes.

The process is similar whether the individual is trying to become more alert and energetic or whether s/he is learning to reach a calm, centered, meditative state. The feedback is specific to the brainwave frequency patterns typical of the desired state. The feedback is instant and accurate and makes the learning process significantly more effective.

So why haven’t I heard of it, you say? Well, it doesn’t fit very well into the natural or alternative-healing arena, although it is often mentioned in this context by the mainstream media. It is not well accepted by the mainstream medical community either because it is hard to prove what is happening and how it is helping in a way that western medical personnel are willing to accept, (sort of like acupuncture and homeopathy!) It is also cutting edge technology, and that turns some people off who would normally be natural candidates for this approach.

Neurofeedback or neurotherapy is being used successfully for treating addictions, chronic pain, PMS, bulimia, anxiety disorders and a whole host of other conditions. This also doesn’t sit well with the regular medical community because it sounds like a “cure all,” and that is an instant red flag in medicine. “The more things you claim to help with one technique, the more likely it is to be quackery”, said one prominent psychologist about neurotherapy.

So what can you do to find out about neurotherapy? You can read the book A Symphony in the Brain by Jim Robbins. You can also log on to the Association for Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback (AAPB) web site (www.aapb.org) and the Society for Neuronal Regulation web site (www.snr-jnt.org) to find information and a practitioner in your area. The field is growing fast and more people are requesting neurotherapy from their doctors, their schools and from their HMO’s. If enough people want neurotherapy for themselves and their children, it will become a part of mainstream medicine as a viable alternative to medication management of illness.

 

What Is Going On With This World? The Need For A Paradigm Shift

I had a very restless night’s sleep. I awoke feeling unsettled, but unable to figure out why. I dressed, ate and headed to my internship position, arriving at 9 AM EST. I had clients to meet and research work to do, keeping me busy all the while feeling an ever-increasing sense of despair and dysregulation…..still not knowing why.  My duties at my clinical internship completed, I emerged from the building and slumped into my car to head home. That is when I heard the news. That is when I cut the engine to the car and just bawled. I physically shook. I cried and wept. And like so many of you, I tried to make sense of what I had just heard on the radio…..20 kindergarten children, mercilessly gunned down in their classroom in Connecticut, had died.

My heart truly breaks for the families, friends, and loved ones of all of this morning’s victims of this terrible mass shooting. But my sympathy is not enough. What is going on with this world? Why all the senseless violence? Why this steady stream of mass shootings? What will it take to make it stop? When will we learn? What can we do…..you and me…..to help end this horrific , tragic, loss of life?

I want to offer my opinion on this, and urge all of you to do the same. Sure, there is the ultimate personal responsibility of the perpetrator of this shooting. Certainly we can rail against the easy access to deadly weapons and guns. Yes we can investigate the mental health of this perpetrator and the awareness of his family and friends. But is that really the final answer? We have security cameras, metal detectors, and protocols in place to help prevent incidents of this nature…..but it didn’t stop this incident from taking place.

No, we have to look deeper. We do have to look at the family…..the human family. The family each and every one of us belongs to. The constant daily violations we commit against each other’s rights on a daily basis. The sense of isolation and powerlessness that so many of our family members feel that we give only a casual acknowledgement to. We need to somehow, someway, finally realize that although we are all unique…..we are all integrally connected. What we do to one, we do to all and even to ourselves.

With the intelligence, technology, and advancements that we have made in our world…..why do we still have members here on planet Earth that feel so totally and utterly alone? Where has our sense of community and brotherhood gone and how do we ever get it back? Desperate people do desperate things…..a saying as true today as it was when first spoken.  I say to you that each one of us has the ability to reach out to others and help end this widespread sense of desperation. It takes a village, but it starts with just one person. It starts with me. It starts with you. We need to eliminate the worldwide cultural paradigm of control and power and shift to one of non violation….. a soul centered model in which every living being is valued and honored as part of the whole.

We are all imperfect creatures. We all have our strengths and our flaws. But at birth, we are all equally deserving. We have to instill a culture where that birthright never goes away. Tragically, sadly, the 20 children of Sandy Hook Elementary school in Connecticut will never get to realize this birthright. Let’s band together and try to root out the causes of powerlessness and isolation and prevent this from ever happening again.

My heart and prayers are with those suffering today, all of you.

The Internet:Changing Healthcare In A Radical Way

I’m a “baby boomer”, so I did not grow up with a cell phone attached to my thumbs. I was fortunate enough to have access to rudimentary computers in elementary school and instructed in programming languages like COBOL and FORTRAN when I was in high school. I even won first place in a science competition for programming a computer to play Monopoly with me.  As a society, we have made tremendous advances in computer science and related technology. One of the crowning achievements is the advent of the internet. And as with all advances, we have witnessed great change. One striking change is how the internet, social networking , and advanced technology has affected the field of healthcare.

Take a moment to think about this. Centuries ago, people worldwide relied on their religious leaders for all spiritual instruction and guidance. Of course, there are plenty of tales of those leaders abusing their influence over the masses. People did not yet have access to Bibles or religious material of their own. But that all changed in a huge way with the invention of the Gutenberg printing press. For the first time in history, common people had access to religious texts. Gospel was no longer knowledge closely held by the few élite. People were empowered to question, to study, to interpret on their own.  Now, think of how this situation parallels what we are experiencing today in the healthcare industry.

Social media has proven that there are great benefits to the collective consciousness of groups of people. For the first time in history, connecting with others that have the same diagnosis as you is as simple and quick as logging in to the web. Research, information, and even some (although not all yet) scholarly articles are available for anyone with internet access to view. Dr. Eric Topol…..Director of the Scripps Translational Science Institute…..has stated that in some cases, patients now trust their online peer group MORE than their own doctor when it comes to accurate and cutting edge medical issues. It seems that the era of doctors as gods is over. But that isn’t a bad thing. As with the Gutenberg press and the revolution it created in religion and knowledge, so too the internet and our revolution in healthcare will go. Religions still exist. Religious leaders are still sought for guidance. Doctors and healthcare professionals still exist. We still need them for guidance and healing. What we now have is more power…..consumer driven power.

There will absolutely be bumps along the way of this revolution. Some healthcare professionals will suffer from social smack downs at the hands of their patients. Some patients will run to their doctor armed with their ominous internet diagnosis and information provided to them by the big pharma company ad campaigns as to the “new pill” that will cure this condition…..after ten minutes of online research. Even so, I see this revolution as a very positive development. Take for example the Institute of Medicine’s report that published and compared shopping for healthcare with various other consumer driven experiences…..this report points out problems, but also urges all of us to pay attention. It challenges us to be empowered in finding our own solutions. Here is a bit of the report…..

“If banking worked like health care, ATM transactions would take days. If home building were like health care, carpenters, electricians and plumbers would work from different blueprints and hardly talk to each other. If shopping were like health care, prices would not be posted and could vary widely within the same store, depending on who was paying. If airline travel were like health care, individual pilots would be free to design their own preflight safety checks – or not perform one at all.”

Online access to our personal genomic sequence, complete with recommendations about what medicines to avoid. Ultrasound, EKG, and blood glucose levels straight from our smartphones. Databases that rank and rate hospitals, doctors, other treating professionals based on real data and not anecdotal accounts. Access to the leading experts worldwide in varying specific areas of medicine. All this…..and much more…..is at hand for us as consumers.

Knowledge is power. Let’s all shop smarter.