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Mike Maddock, General Manager
2008-09-05 / Front Page

Retrain the brain

Photo and story by Pamela Edwards

Dr. Bob Phillips points out the computer's analysis of data received from brainwaves and the procedure to retrain those brainwaves. Dr. Bob Phillips points out the computer's analysis of data received from brainwaves and the procedure to retrain those brainwaves. Quantitative Electroencephalographic Neurofeedback… what does it all mean?

If you're a mom at your wit's end wanting to know what to do about your child's behavior or learning capabilities, those three, really long words, might just be what you're looking for.

Dr. Bob Phillips, of Brain Bright Neurotherapy Center in West Columbia, offers a program to help adults and children who have ADHD, ADD, LD, Autism, or Asperger's. These disorders all involve how the brain is functioning.

Dr. Bob uses EEG biofeedback procedures and equipment to find out what is not working properly in the brain and to change the dysfunctional activity.

Neurofeedback training is a kind of biofeedback therapy. But instead of controlling your breathing and temperature, as with traditional biofeedback, you learn to control your brain waves.

Neurofeedback began in the late 1960s with cats and rocket fuel. Dr. Barry Sterman, a UCLA sleep researcher, discovered that a certain kind of brain wave - called SMR - was associated with the reduction of muscle tension in cats. He taught the cats to increase this brain wave. After that study, NASA commissioned him to research the toxic effects of rocket fuel. Among the test cats were some who'd been trained to increase their SMR waves. Those were the ones who didn't have seizures after being exposed to the rocket fuel. Further research showed that humans could benefit too.

Dr. Bob Phillips demonstrates the patients role during neurofeedback. Electrodes are pasted to the patient's head and ear clips are fastened to the lobes to connect the patient to the computer.  Dr. Bob Phillips demonstrates the patients role during neurofeedback. Electrodes are pasted to the patient's head and ear clips are fastened to the lobes to connect the patient to the computer. What is Dr. Bob looking for?

"The Stuck Brain vs. Normal Functioning Brain"

Symptoms such as attention and focus problems, learning and memory difficulties, and mood disorders (anxiety and depression) often occur when the brain's processing ability is dysfunctional or damaged. Its ability to function efficiently is inadequate to do the required or desired job.

Based upon the brain's natural ability to adapt, a damaged brain will attempt to survive by releasing neuro- inhibitors to protect its limited resources. In doing so it locks itself into a particular electro- chemical pattern in order to not make matters worse. This is often the root of an overwhelming sense of helplessness, hopelessness, and tends to drive us to mood extremes, such as depression, anxiety, anger, and uncontrollable rage.

When it is not functioning properly, the brain produces symptoms. Some symptoms become specific problems such as Attention Deficit Disorder, learning disabilities, Asperger's Syndrome, and other forms of Autism.

The brain works in an electrical and chemical interaction that allows storage and processing of information. When it is not operating with the levels of control and efficiency needed, it is said to be in a "stuck mode" of either too much or too little activity.

What does Dr. Bob do to find out if the brain is working properly?

The first step is an assessment. A history and symptoms checklist is completed. Then a 19 site EEG recording of brain wave function is taken.

The next step is training the way the brain is functioning. Sensors are attached to the trainee's head and auditory and visual feedback are used to train the brain to move back toward normal activity.

QEEG (quantitative electroencephalograph) data is compared to a database of 600 matched individuals with no symptoms. The results show where the brain function is high or low. This step shows what is wrong and where it is located.

As the brain function changes, symptoms begin to diminish. While results vary, Dr. Bob says most people will find good to very good improvement.

When would QEEG be appropriate?

• QEEG's are initially performed to determine the presence of focal or generalized cerebral dysfunction.

• Following a closed head injury, stroke, heart attack, or pulmonary dysfunction following hypoxia (diminished availability of oxygen to body tissues).

• When seizure disorders or tumors are suspected.

• In suspected cases of Attention Deficit Disorder.

• In suspected cases of specific learning disabilities.

• In suspected cases of cerebral dysfunction related to substance abuse.

• When pathological alterations in vigilance (narcolepsy, confusion, coma) or acute nervous system processes (acute headaches, vomiting, aphasia [loss of ability to produce or comprehend language]) have been observed, to investigate cerebrovascular (blood vessels supplying the brain) disorders. What is the QEEG procedure?

1. Patient will be seated in a recliner.

2. Head measurements are taken.

3. The locations on forehead are marked and abraded prior to putting on the electrodes.

4. The backs of the ears are also abraded and ear clips are placed.

5. The QEEG cap is placed on the patient's head.

6. Through 20 sites in the cap, a gel is injected using a blunted (no point) needle.

7. The clinician works to assure a good contact at each of the sites prior to the procedure.

8. Data is collected for six minutes from each of the following: a. Eyes closed b. Eyes open c. Reading or math exercise

Then the cap, electrodes, and ear clips are removed and the procedure is over. Does it hurt?

No. The QEEG does not involve any needles or electrical shocks. The procedure is completely non- invasive.

How does it work?

The patient simply sits in a chair and a computer analyzes the brain's electrical activity, decomposes it into its component parts or bands, then presents the patient with a simplified visual and auditory form together with a series of hints showing the brain waves how to "communicate" properly with one another.

In virtually every area of our lives, we are able to improve our performance when we get clear and immediate feedback about how we are doing. When we exercise our muscles, for example, they become stronger. Neurofeedback enables our brain to have a "workout" to improve its functioning capabilities.

For more information, contact Dr. Bob Phillips at Brain Bright Neurotherapy Center in West Columbia, 360-9698.

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