Achieving Better Brain BalanceSep 01, 2021 ● By Glenda Vosburgh
The brain is the most complex organ in the human body, serving as the command center for the nervous system, enabling thoughts, memory, movement and emotions. For that reason, maintaining brain health is critical to living a long and healthy life. However, according to medical experts, the fast-paced, high-stress lifestyles lived by many people can take a toll on the brain.
The COVID-19 pandemic has reportedly worsened what was already a serious brain-health problem. The added trauma of social and physical distancing, concerns surrounding under- or unemployment and fears about becoming ill or losing a loved one to the virus has caused physicians and mental health-service providers to see a significant increase in cases of depression, anxiety, substance abuse and cognitive decline among individuals.
“People are struggling today,” says Tricia Imel, owner of The Aligned Mind in Frisco.
Exercise, a healthy diet and counseling can improve brain health for some. Meanwhile, traditional neurofeedback – a noninvasive way to measure brainwaves and provide a feedback signal in order to retrain the brain – may also be used. However, these aren’t necessarily effective for everyone.
In some cases, IASIS micro current neurofeedback (MCN) therapy, developed by a company called IASIS Technologies International, may offer hope. Ms. Imel describes the therapy, which she performs, as “neurofeedback on steroids.” The treatment has been around for about a dozen years and aims to rebalance the brain, helping it to recognize itself and overcome some unhealthy patterns.
IASIS MCN is a nonmedical, noninvasive treatment that requires fewer sessions than traditional neurofeedback. It is purported to help with multiple disorders including anxiety, depression, addiction, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, addiction and memory and sleep issues.
The therapy involves attaching five electrodes connected to a device resembling a small computer to an individual’s head. The device returns a tiny impulse that is a virtual image of the brain’s own waves, encouraging new neuropathways to bypass areas of the brain that are described as being stuck. (The amount of current used is 1/100th of an AA battery for 1/100th of a second). The result is a changed brainwave state allowing for the brain and nervous system to regulate and balance themselves.
The effectiveness of IASIS MCN has been the focus of some promising research.In an ongoing study, a brain imaging research team at the University of California San Diego is examining the use of the therapy in individuals with traumatic brain injury. The study has reported a 53.6 percent reduction in abnormal brainwaves and a 52.8 percent reduction in post-concussive symptoms after 12 sessions. Study subjects reportedly showed improvement in headaches, insomnia, anxiety, sensitivity to light and sound, focus, concentration, memory, tobacco use cessation, stuttering and feelings of frustration. The research team published the study in the peer-reviewed journal Brain Injury.
IASIS MCN treatments typically take 20 to 30 minutes, with the first session lasting about an hour. The client sits quietly listening to calming music during the treatment. With their permission, Ms. Imel completes the sessions with hot towels placed around the neck and a gentle neck-and-shoulder massage.
Ms. Imel says that 85 percent of her clients show improvement within one to three sessions. Most typically undergo between seven and 15 treatments and may return for a “tune-up” appointment, if needed.
MCN therapy, which she explains is registered with the Food and Drug Administration, “doesn’t train the brain like traditional neurofeedback. It `retrains’ the brain and the central nervous system by allowing it to reorganize itself and shift from fixed, old patterns.”
The number of MCN treatments required varies from person to person. Generally, the longer an individual has experienced issues, the more treatments are required. “I ask my clients to commit to 10 sessions,” Ms. Imel says. “Everyone’s brain is different. Some people see improvements very quickly, while others require more treatments. I’ve had clients have a huge shift after the first session while others took longer.”
Ms. Imel’s professional background includes work as a licensed sports massage therapist, a registered respiratory therapist and educator at a trauma hospital, director of clinical education for a community college and manager of a hospital respiratory department. She says she had an interest in holistic medicine, but when she began to hear about the positive outcomes of MCN treatments, it sounded too good to be true. After investigating and trying the therapy herself, she wanted to share it with others.
Some of her clients are referred by local mental health counselors and medical professionals while others learn about it through word of mouth. Kim Muse, of Muse Counseling in Frisco, specializes in couples counseling and trauma. She has referred several of her clients for the therapy and says the results have been “shocking and wonderful.”
“Micro current neurofeedback works so much faster than traditional neurofeedback,” Ms. Muse says. “People who really struggle with anxiety benefit because it calms the brain, and those who have difficulty expressing emotions benefit equally as well. Those who experienced trauma at early age often have bursts of memory (connected to the trauma) that aren’t cohesive. Micro current neurofeedback helps them put the pieces of their memory together so they can better understand why they feel the way they do.”
Michelle Zor turned to the therapy to help her overcome lingering after-effects of a mild case of COVID-19, including anxiety and depression. “I felt like it was stuck in my brain,” she says. “I was experiencing anxiety and depression and I wasn’t able to focus. I’m a small-business owner, so that was a big problem for me.”
After receiving five treatments. Ms. Zor says she felt noticeably better and has continued the sessions. Her marked improvement prompted her mother and stepfather, Janet and Steven Houser, to begin treatments as well. Like Ms. Zor, they were dealing with effects of COVID-19. The results have been amazing, according to Mrs. Houser. “I used to cry all the time and I thought I was going to die,” she says. “After my first treatment, I stopped crying.”
Brain health is also the focus at Cereset Plano, where the technology employed uses a patented BrainEcho neuromodulation process that supports the brain in healing itself and restoring its natural balance. It is founded on the principle that the brain is capable of correcting itself when it can see stuck neuropathways and unbalanced communication between the lobes of the brain, owner Sonya Howeth explains.
Also nonmedical and noninvasive, the technology does not diagnose, treat or cure conditions. However, having a
balanced brain may help people overcome issues such as insomnia, sleep apnea, chronic stress, post-traumatic stress, persistent COVID-19 symptoms and post-concussion symptoms, among others.
Stress and trauma often cause stuck neuro pathways and unbalanced communication in the brain, Ms. Howeth says. They can play havoc with the brain’s health, resulting in poor focus or memory, increased worry and anxiety, or poor quality of sleep. The technology recognizes the brain’s ability to rebalance itself and return to a healthy state.
“The brain activates in response to the stress or trauma and it should come back to a relaxed state, but it doesn’t,” she explains. “There’s a lack of neuroplasticity.”
Ms. Howeth says, “We recognize that the brain is the master control of the body and it can do miraculous healings on its own. We start with a five-session program. We do sessions on four consecutive days, then take a three-week break and do the fifth session.”
The break is designed to allow an integration period during which newly created neuropathways strengthen and new neuropathways continue to build. A client’s progress is graphed during the first, fourth and fifth visit, and changes related to how they feel are monitored. The number of treatments required varies according to the individual. Ms. Howeth explains, “For example, someone who has a concussion might need more sessions than someone who has not had a concussion.”
Her clients range in age from 6 to 84. Sessions typically last 60 to 90 minutes. Upon arrival at the center, clients undergo an interview and are shown to a session room where they’re made comfortable in a zero-gravity chair, covered with a blanket and asked to close their eyes and to think about something pleasant. The room is darkened, and EEG sensors are placed on their head. Earbuds are placed in the ears, through which a client hears their own brain frequencies in real time. When the brain repeatedly hears its own rhythm, it self-balances.
Cereset’s parent company, based in Arizona, has received a $2.8 million grant from the U.S. Department of Defense to be used in a clinical trial for military veterans with mild traumatic brain injury at Fort Bragg in North Carolina, and Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. Research is also being studied in the department of neurology at Wake Forest School of Medicine in North Carolina, where several clinical trials have been conducted.
The consequences of having an unhealthy brain – whether due to stress, trauma, illness or a variety of conditions – can be devastating. Advances in treatments to restore the brain’s health may offer new hope to those affected.
Glenda Vosburgh is a freelance writer, animal lover and American history devotee who also is writing her first historical thriller.