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Brain Injury Awareness

Brain Injury Awareness Month – 2017

It’s All About Resources

Every March, Brain Injury Awareness Month, led by the Brain Injury Association of America, kicks into high gear to educate the public on this major public health crisis. From concussion and mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) to severe brain injury and stroke; all of these conditions have a far-reaching impact. An impact on the individual who has suffered the injury, families and caregivers, communities, and our ever-burdened health care system.

The greatest challenge for those affected by these unfortunate, and often preventable, events is access to resources. Educational and treatment resources beyond the initial stage of injury is often hard to come by and folks are left to their own devices to put the pieces together for the most productive life possible. This, while being told by so many (including their doctors and family) that there is not much hope for further recovery.

Where to Look For Answers

What follows are links to a host of resources exploring many aspects of brain injury. Content related to understanding why so many continue to experience the symptoms they do. Some resources will explain symptoms in detail and why they occur, and others will look into what tests you can have done to determine what path of treatment is best for you. Most importantly, these resources demonstrate a clear message of hope for so many to get beyond their daily struggles. Be sure to watch the videos of those who have done just that!

We understand that those who have injured their brain digest information in different ways, therefore the content is made available in written (blog), audio (podcast), and video formats. Please enjoy, learn something, act on something; and pass the Brain Injury Awareness word on to others who can benefit and renew their hope.

Brain Injury Awareness Links

 

5 Important Tests to Consider When Seeking Treatment for Addiction

Addiction way out problem sign. Prevention and cure addiction problem concept.Addiction or, more appropriately, substance use disorder (SUD) is defined as one’s recurrent use of drugs and/or alcohol leading to significant clinical and functional impairment. This impairment may be reflected in the areas of physical and mental health, employment, school, relationships, finances, and more.

One thing is for certain – the vast majority of those struggling with SUD also have underlying challenges with learning and behavior, and may have one or more mental health disorders. While the reasons for these underlying challenges are likely as many as the number of challenges themselves, this shifting of perspective away from the genetic view of addiction offers great hope for those seeking progressive therapies that, in many cases, can have a profound impact on the underlying disorders and the problem behaviors and outcomes associated with SUD.

Newer thinking also dictates that addictive tendencies can be due to factors such as concussion and traumatic brain injury, and metabolic imbalances caused by food allergies, environmental toxicities, nutrient deficiencies, and the like. And let’s not forget stress…  

In order for progressive brain-based modalities to be delivered effectively, which provide a tremendous complement to standard mental health strategies implemented during both in-patient and out-patient programs alike, one needs to understand that SUD is not a disease as we would normally think of one (e.g. cancer, Parkinson’s, etc.), and it is not a moral failing or a character flaw on the part of the user. SUD can affect anyone… of any class, race, gender, and ethnicity.

SUD is in fact a ‘brain problem’ that, in many respects, can be measured and needs to be approached as such for maximum gains. Let us consider 5 areas of measurement related to brain function that reveal a great deal about learning, behavior, and mental health status; and, more importantly, let us realize that something can be done to improve upon function in any or all of these areas:

  • Brainwave Activity (EEG) – In our brain we have networks related to attention, vision, sensations, relaxation, emotions, vital functions, and more. How much delta, theta, alpha, beta, and gamma brainwave activity we have under different circumstances dictates how well various parts of these networks perform. Quantitative EEG (qEEG) is gaining popularity in select mental health circles as an extremely viable diagnostic tool that can enable us to peer into the inner workings of the brain and these brain networks that make us uniquely human.  
  • Cognitive Testing – Executive function, cognitive flexibility, simple and complex attention, and processing speed are just a few of the tests of higher cognitive function that can reveal a great deal about how one’s brain interacts with its environment. They are also excellent diagnostic tools for monitoring progress when treating the various subsets of learning and behavioral issues underlying SUD.
  • Metabolic Function – Blood sugar, amino acids, urine organic acids, food antibodies, heavy metals, environmental toxins, hormones, neurotransmitters, vital nutrients, genetic variants, and so much more are a mix of both classic and progressive ‘biomarkers’ of brain function. How our bodies handle fuel, utilize nutrients, process hormones, and react to toxins in our environments determines how well our brains handle what is presented to them on a moment to moment basis.
  • Eye Movements – Generally ignored in the mental health arena from a diagnostic perspective, eye movements of all types are directly related to the brain regions that control them. From primitive abilities of finding visual targets that involve parts of the brainstem and emotional centers like the amygdala (fear response), to fast eye movements controlled by our higher functioning frontal lobes; eye movements deliver a wealth of information related to SUD and its underlying causes. Videonystagmography (VNG) is one type of diagnostic tool used to measure these types of functions.
  • Balance and Coordination – More and more, addiction based programs are implementing movement based activities such as Tai Chi and yoga. From both balance and relaxation standpoints, there is good reason to do so. Our sense of self is largely influenced by our ability to physically interact with our environment. When one has severe balance or coordination impairment, as is seen in conditions like schizophrenia, mental function and behavior will likely be impaired. Measurement tools such as dynamic posturography and standard tests of movement and coordination can be utilized to measure these abilities.

The inherent beauty of any of these tools, that can reveal a wealth of information about cognitive, behavioral, and mental functions, is that they can in turn be utilized to track progress when one enters into a collaborative treatment program with their mental health specialists and qualified functional neurologist. The blending of the ‘brain’ and the ‘mind’ sciences is long overdue and is proving to be clinically effective with regard to its impact on addiction and SUD, and the underlying disorders that are being shown with greater clarity to be the root cause of them.

Case Study: Post-Concussion Syndrome – Jackie

concussion ep 43Jackie’s Story

At the time of presentation to APEX Brain centers in Asheville, NC in late 2015, Jackie was a 55-year-old, soon to be retired professional female. Post-concussive symptoms of debilitating headaches, memory loss, learning and behavioral issues, fluctuations in heart rate, and difficulty handling visual stimulation such as driving, busy public places and computer screens were preventing her from leading a normal life. Prior to traveling to APEX from Charlotte, NC, Jackie had sought care from several different doctors in her area. Vestibular therapy and chiropractic care had given her some relief of symptoms, although her other experiences were not so positive. At one point a provider told her that she was mentally ill. Jackie was outraged and, as many with post-concussion syndrome report similarly, she offered this statement: “I’m not crazy. I didn’t have any of these symptoms before I had the injury and I am definitely not making them up”. This is the unfortunate reality of many who suffer with brain injury.   

Intervention for balance and cognitive decline

Jackie underwent comprehensive Brain Training at a frequency of 3 times per day over the course of 15 days (with 2 days off between each week for much needed rest and recovery). Her brain function was carefully monitored throughout the training process with measurement of EEG brainwaves, vital signs, eye movements, balance, mental and physical timing, and more to ensure she was receiving the proper amount of therapy to be effective without exceeding fatigue limits that could potentially promote worsening of her symptoms. Modalities implemented included, but were not limited to: neurofeedback, Interactive Metronome, vestibular rehabilitation, metabolic/nutritional therapies, eye movement and neurological rehabilitation, electrical stimulation, breathing exercises and home care therapies.

Outcomes after Brain Training

Jackie reported prior to brain training that she would have a constant headache of 6 on a 0-10 scale (0 being no pain and 10 being the worst possible pain) that would escalate into an 8-9 of 10 by the end of the day. The week after her program she reported the headaches were finally manageable at a level of 3-4 of 10 and would not escalate. Jackie has had continued success and reported at 3 weeks after her program that she is headache free, unless she spends too much time in front of a screen or in a busy public place. She also reports that when this occurs, her ‘at home’ brain exercises will relieve them. Aside from headaches, Jackie has reported that she no longer feels like she is in a constant brain fog. Her heart rate has also normalized and no longer fluctuates or spikes. 

Actual, measurable objective improvements recorded with post-intensive diagnostic testing include, but are not limited to:

  • Cognitive Testing: Jackie showed an increase in her Neurocognition Index of 11%. This is a standardized overall score of cognitive performance. Significant improvements in specific areas of memory (one of her biggest concerns) are as follows: 65% in composite memory, 33% in verbal memory, and 67% in visual memory.
  • Interactive Metronome: 56% improvement in motor timing accuracy and normalization of hyper-anticipatory timing tendency with motor tasks (i.e. premature response to a specified reference tone).
  • Videonystagmography (VNG): Significant improvements in numerous aspects of oculomotor (eye movement) functionality including: gaze holding, slow and fast eye movements, optokinetic responses, and spontaneous/involuntary eye movements.

Implications for others:

Diagnostic and functional tests can be used to direct an effective Brain Training program and improve post-concussion symptoms. Increased sensory and environmental sensitivities are common symptoms of post-concussion syndrome. There are several areas of your brain that process information from your environment and from your body. If these areas are damaged then it becomes difficult for the brain to process sensory input, resulting in fogginess, memory and cognitive issues, impaired processing of pain, and the many other symptoms seen after concussions. The frustration felt by individuals being made to feel they are “crazy”, as Jackie noted, is entirely unnecessary and driven by a health care system that is largely focused on diagnostic testing and lacking significantly in functional treatment options. There is great hope for partial and full recovery in most cases of concussion given a thorough investigation and functional interventions addressing the physical, cognitive, metabolic and lifestyle factors that influence brain health.

If you or someone you care about is experiencing ANY of these symptoms, or anything out of the ordinary related to a head or brain injury, call APEX Brain Centers now at 828.708.5274. You may also email us at [email protected] for more information and to set up a free consultation. 

Case Study: Young Mother With Multiple Concussions Finds Relief Through Brain Training

Ali’s Story

Ali presented to APEX Brain Centers in August of 2015 in search of concussion relief. She was struggling with a host of debilitating complaints due to multiple head injuries and concussions over the years. Headaches, brain fog, memory loss, anxiety, emotional distress, restless legs, tightness in the chest, tingling in her limbs, postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS), dizziness, spatial awareness difficulties, loss of muscle mass and hair, gastrointestinal (GI) difficulties and more were all part of her normal daily experience. She was in a constant search for concussion relief. She had been to a host of specialists with limited outcomes; including osteopaths, naturopaths, ENTs, cardiologists, allergists, chiropractors, physical therapists, acupuncturists and massage therapists. She was an exceptional student and athlete prior to her injuries.

Ali traveled from Virginia to seek care at APEX Brain Centers in Asheville, NC in late August, 2015 on referral from a friend who had similar problems with exceptional outcomes at APEX. She underwent an intensive course of Brain Training where she was admitted into in an individualized program directed by extensive diagnostic testing, and led by clinicians highly experienced in functional neurology and functional medicine. What follows is a sampling of some of the cutting-edge clinical interventions and amazing functional gains Ali experienced during her time at APEX.

Intervention for Concussion Relief

Ali underwent comprehensive Brain Training at a frequency of 3 times per day over the course of 10 days (with 2 days off between each week for much needed rest and recovery). Her brain function was carefully monitored throughout the training process with measurement of EEG brainwaves, vital signs (particularly important in those with POTS), eye movements, balance, mental and physical timing, and more to ensure she was receiving the proper amount therapy to be effective; but not too much so as to reproduce/amplify symptoms. Laboratory tests were ordered to evaluate for suspected food reactivity, markers of inflammation, altered stress responses and amino acid insufficiencies; among other factors. Modalities implemented included, but were not limited to: neurofeedback (NFB), Interactive Metronome, vestibular rehabilitation, metabolic/nutritional therapies, eye movement and neurological rehabilitation, whole body vibration, electrical stimulation, cognitive training, breathing exercises and home care protocols.

Ali’s Outcomes after Brain Training

Subsequent to her initial Brain Training program, Ali reported subjective improvements in all areas of pre-intensive complaint. What follows are a sampling of Ali’s words describing outcomes in several of these areas:

  • My heart rate is down significantly and I have fewer palpitations
  • I rarely feel unbalanced anymore
  • The tingling in my hands and feet is gone
  • Brain Training has greatly decreased my widespread pain
  • Since leaving APEX I have only had a few minor headaches, and none that have turned into a migraine
  • Now I can really engage with my children for long periods of time
  • My emotions are on a more even keel
  • I can recover from a workout and exercise again the next day
  • My immune function is improved
  • I expect all of my capabilities to return and even excel beyond what they used to be in light of the new and better lifestyle I’ve adapted!

Measurable Changes

  • Cognitive Testing: Increase in her Neurocognition Index of 13%, which is a standardized overall measurement of cognitive performance. Executive function (reasoning) scores were improved by 35%. Increases in various aspects of memory, attention, processing speed and more were as high as 13%.
  • Interactive Metronome: 43% improvement in task average with motor timing and 15% improvement in  hyper-anticipatory timing tendency with motor tasks (i.e. responding prior to a pre-set reference tone).
  • Computerized Assessment of Postural Stability (CAPS): 8.2% improvement in balance on an unstable surface with eyes closed; which brought her from a moderate to mild reduction in balance compared to her age and gender matched peers.
  • Videonystagmography (VNG): Significant improvements in numerous aspects of oculomotor (eye movement) functionality including: gaze holding, slow and fast eye movements, optokinetic responses, and spontaneous/involuntary eye movements.

It should be noted that due to the overwhelming success of her first program Ali returned for a second intensive Brain Training program in November of 2015. She experienced further objective and subjective benefit and continues to update us on her progress.

Concussion Relief IS Possible

An alarming number of individuals do not seeking care for head injuries. It is important to recognize the symptoms of these debilitating injuries and that something can be done about them. The ‘wait and see’ approach to concussion and mild traumatic brain injury is no longer acceptable. Early intervention is key! The longer one waits, the more difficult it is to recover and have full engagement with life!

If you or someone you love is experiencing ANY of these symptoms, call APEX now at 828.708.5274. You may also email us at [email protected] for more information, or to set up a free consultation. 

APEX Brain Centers is leading the way in neuroplasticity-based brain enhancement programs that are opening new doors for those struggling with addictions, learning and behavioral disabilities, test performance, athletic performance and more.

2 Walden Ridge Drive (STE 80) ~ Asheville, NC 28803 ~ 828.708.5274
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