The providers at APEX Brain Centers are firmly committed to continuing education and clinical excellence. We pride ourselves on staying abreast of the latest developments in the fields of functional neurology, neuroplasticity, neuropsychology, functional medicine and nutrition, exercise science, biomedical engineering (specifically advances in technology for brain training), and many other related areas.
In mid-October, I will again attend the annual conference for the International Association of Functional Neurology and Rehabilitation (IAFNR). IAFNR was formed in 2010 to promote, protect, and advance interdisciplinary scientific and clinical functional neurology and rehabilitation sciences at the national and international levels. IAFNR also serves as a platform for the highly regarded interdisciplinary science journal, The Journal of Functional Neurology, Rehabilitation, and Ergonomics.
The IAFNR conference continues to garner the attention of advanced clinicians, researchers, teaching institutions, and product developers across the globe that have a passion for furthering brain science; particularly the much needed end of clinical applications for all brain and nervous system disorders, as well as human performance.
2014 IAFNR Conference Presentations
The list of presenters and topics each year continues to amaze me, and this year is no exception! What follows is a just a sampling of the talent, knowledge, and expertise that will span this four day sharing of brain-based knowledge across numerous disciplines:
- Jocelyn Faubert (Canada) – An Objective Functional Approach for Concussion Monitoring
- Ted Carrick (USA) – The Brain and Mind of Humankind: An Exploration of Consciousness and Empiricism.
- Martha Herbert (USA) – Connecting Brain Function & Brain Health: Challenges and Lessons from Autism
- Aristo Vojdani (Israel) – Food Immune Reactivity and Neuroautoimmunity: Challenging the Status Quo
- Datis Kharrazian (USA) – Cerebellum Neuroendocrine-Immunology
- Dan Siegal (USA) – Cerebellum Neuroendocrine-Immunology
- Lou Cozzolino (USA) – The Social Brain, Health, and Recovery
- Brandon Brock (USA) – Functional Neurology in the Military – PTSD
This sampling of topics gives you an idea as to the incredible scope of knowledge that learners and practitioners of functional neurology commit themselves to undertaking in order to serve those in their communities far and wide. Additionally, students from across the globe will be presenting papers and research posters throughout the conference on their areas of interest/study, making this a true learning opportunity for everyone, including the prestigious presenters mentioned above.
I look forward to feeding my passion for learning about all things brain, and to sharing with our clients the latest and greatest research in the ever-emerging field of brain training.
Dizziness and vertigo are at the top of the list of symptoms that lead individuals to seek medical attention. Some clarification of the differences between dizziness, disequilibrium, and vertigo may be helpful in understanding these symptoms and describing them to a health care provider.
- Dizziness – often described as “lightheadedness” or feeling as if one is going to faint. Spinning is typically not associated with dizziness.
- Disequilibrium – a loss or alteration in our sense of balance. Disequilibrium is often associated with the feeling of being on a boat, or the effects of alcohol on the way we walk (i.e. drunken gait).
- Vertigo – derived from the Latin “vertere”, meaning to turn. Vertigo is always associated with a sensation of turning or spinning. This is true whether the individual feels they are spinning or that the room is spinning.
Any of these symptoms can be frightening and debilitating. Dizziness and vertigo have many potential causes. Inner ear disorders, blood pressure issues, medication side effects, anxiety, and brain injury are just a few of the causes of vertigo and dizziness symptoms that I have seen in my clients over the years.
It is critical for anyone who is experiencing dizziness or vertigo to seek proper assessment and intervention to feel steady once again. Many people walk around for months and even years with mild to severe challenges in navigating their everyday world before getting adequate care. Even when care is sought, vertigo and dizziness often go under-treated because these symptoms are frequently overlooked or dismissed by many providers. Worse yet, they are often improperly treated.
Over the past 15 years in clinical practice, it has been my experience that the vast majority of these cases can be very successfully treated. Let me introduce to you one of the hundreds of cases of dizziness and spinning I have personally worked with that resulted in a complete reduction in symptoms. Please meet Bonnie:
Story: Bonnie was in her mid-50s when she presented to me for generalized dizziness that impacted her everyday activities. Bonnie had become socially withdrawn, could not drive, and had given up her greatest passion in life, knitting. She had been to numerous doctors and placed on the standard medications, which did not work and tended to make her feel increasingly anxious, nauseous and withdrawn.
Problem: The moment Bonnie walked through my door I instantly noticed two striking things that spoke volumes about her symptoms. Number one, her eyes jumped all around as she talked to me; number two, she could not walk a straight line. Neither of these issues had been addressed prior to my examination of her. Her inability to perceive the environment appropriately through her eyes was aggravating her balance system and causing extreme dizziness, among other symptoms.
Details: Through routine neurological examination and sophisticated testing of eye moments (VNG) and balance (dynamic posturography), it was quickly and easily uncovered that Bonnie had severe deficits in her balance due to the poor feedback from her eyes to her balance system. These deficits were as great as 85% as compared to standardized age and gender matches. It is no wonder she was so dizzy!
Results: Two days into a 5-day course of brain training designed to improve her eye movements and their impact on her balance system, Bonnie began to feel much less dizzy. She reported decreases in her symptoms of up to 75%. By the end of the 5 days her dizziness was gone, as was the anxiety that went along with it. Eye and balance re-testing after she completed training revealed no more than 12% deficits in the very functions that were causing her symptoms. To her delight, once the dizziness lessened, Bonnie was able to return to a happy and productive life that included socializing, driving, and knitting.
Although to Bonnie it may have seemed so, this was no “miracle story.” Her situation was as routine as they come for centers that deal with and understand the brain’s control over movement and balance, as well as the role the eyes and other systems play in maintaining equilibrium. We can only hope that others who are suffering from dizziness or vertigo find such a place for themselves.
My new blog on the NaturalNews Network discusses rising rates of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) among American adults and explores non-medication approaches to improving brain function in those with ADHD.
Many adults are seeking options to medications in the treatment of ADHD. As prescriptions are on the rise, so are the concerns about the side effects of common ADHD drugs including: addiction, sleep issues, headaches, loss of appetite/weight loss, nausea, and in some cases emotional disorders and movement disorders (i.e. tics). An increasing segment of our population wants to exert control over their behavioral challenges without relying on a “daily dose.”
Read the full article here.
At APEX Brain Centers we have seen many adults with ADHD enhance the quality of their lives without medications, by taking steps to improve their brain function. My blog offers three non-medication based approaches to controlling ADHD that can help anyone make a difference in their own life.
Read all of my NaturalNews blogs by visiting my profile.
Obsessions (repetitive thoughts) and compulsions (repetitive behaviors) that significantly interfere with one’s daily activities affect over 2 million American adults diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder, according to the National Institutes for Mental Health (NIMH). Millions more people are affected by these symptoms than that number suggests, because obsessions and compulsions are quite often associated with other conditions including eating disorders, tic disorders (i.e. Tourette Syndrome), addictions, and phobias.
It is extremely difficult for a brain that is “stuck” on a certain behavior to be productive in any way, shape or form. Although OCD traits are sometimes seen in “peak performers” such as high level athletes and CEOs, there is a point where the behaviors become the only focus of the affected individual. This, as you could well imagine, could lead to significant anxiety and distress, essentially crippling an individual psychologically (and sometime physically).
There are many well-known interventions for OCD and its associated disorders including: medications (typically antidepressant and antianxiety agents), Exposure and Response Prevention (a form of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) to desensitize individuals from their “problem” stimulus, psychological counseling, or some combination of the above.
As the numbers of those affected continue to grow each year, alternatives to conventional therapies are needed now more than ever and are in increasingly greater demand. Millions of Americans are now seeking therapies such as neurofeedback, transcranial magnetic stimulation, metabolic and nutritional therapies, chiropractic care, and acupuncture in hopes of decreasing, and possibly eliminating, their obsessions and compulsions.
Recent research from the Academic Medical Center in Amsterdam has demonstrated increases in the “feel good” neurotransmitter dopamine in the brains of those with OCD. Also singled out over the years is a decrease in Serotonin levels; which has a negative impact on mood, memory, and learning. Chemical regulation and improvements in the underlying “wiring” of pathways in the brain through Brain Training must be addressed to increase the effectiveness of the more common approaches to OCD mentioned above. Improvement in chemical regulation and brain “wiring” can occur safely and quite cost effectively through a number of approaches.
What follows are 3 examples of activities that can be done easily, inexpensively, and very likely more effectively than the standard interventions for OCD.
- Exercise. Physical exercise has been hailed by some of the leading scientists as the greatest medication on the planet. One thing is known for sure, moving our bodies productively can and will have an impact on neurotransmitter production and metabolism. In his groundbreaking book Spark, Dr. John Ratey of Harvard Medical School discusses the impact of certain types of exercise on specific brain chemicals. Exercise also helps to strengthen nerve connections, create new nerve cells, and improve fuel delivery to the brain.
- Meditation/Relaxation. Mindful meditation, breathing exercises, progressive relaxation, guided imagery, biofeedback, and many other relaxation techniques empower individuals with the ability to take the focus off of their problem thoughts and behaviors while engaging them in more productive behaviors. This can have a profound impact on brain chemicals and body systems as with exercise.
- Interactive Metronome. A bit more on the hi-tech end, training the brain’s internal timing mechanisms through repetitive body movements made in concert with sound commands, one can begin to dramatically improve their focus, attention, and cognitive control; critical brain “wiring” factors that need to be addressed when dealing with OCD.
From training the brain systems that govern control over our impulses, to improving the chemical interactions that are involved in these systems, there is hope for those under the stranglehold of OCD. If you or a loved one is battling OCD and/or any of its associated disorders, understanding that the brain can be trained and returned to a state of normalcy is the first step in beating this elusive disorder.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), between 2003 and 2011 the percentage of American youth ages 4-17 diagnosed with ADHD rose from 7.8% to 11%. The rate of medication usage among those diagnosed rose along the same continuum. For North Carolinians, what is even more alarming is the fact that our own state’s rates of ADHD and ADD diagnosis have been rising even higher than the national average. In 2011 the CDC’s National Survey of Children’s Health found that 14.4% of NC children were reported to have received a diagnosis of ADD or ADHD. In past years, North Carolina has had the highest rates in the nation of ADD/ADHD diagnosis and/or medication usage. These numbers do not account for the millions of children struggling with attention, focus, and concentration that have fallen through the cracks and never received appropriate assessments and interventions.
While there is no specific data for the incidence of ADD and ADHD in Asheville, NC, we are certain that it is very likely at or above the current conservative estimates delivered by the CDC. At our office in Asheville, there is certainly no shortage of adolescents and adults walking through our doors looking for Brain Training to improve their focus and attention.
While there are many theories regarding the ever-increasing diagnosis of this troublesome and costly neurodevelopmental disorder (in 2005 the CDC estimated the annual cost of treating ADHD to be between $36 and $52 billion), it is safe to say that it is here to stay. Both nationally and right here in Asheville, North Carolina, more needs to be done from an educational and interventional perspective to help reduce the impact of ADD and ADHD on our kids and our communities. Educating those in greatest contact with our children, including their teachers and counselors, about Brain Training and other progressive modalities to avoid costly and sometimes dangerous interventions should be of the highest priority if we are to turn the tide on these startling statistics.
As these are neurodevelopmental disorders and not organic pathologies (i.e. cancer, infection, etc.), medications very often may not be the best option for individuals plagued by the effects of poor attention and focus. There is certainly a time and place for all types of medical and non-medical interventions, but history shows that increased medication usage has not lowered the incidence of this disorder. A trip “back to the old drawing board” is necessary if we want to buck the current trends. Analyzing our children’s brains with cutting-edge technology like quantitative EEG and videonystagmography (VNG), among many other progressive tests for these disorders, can lead us to the answers for non-medical treatment options. Examples of such would be neurofeedback, transcranial magnetic stimulation, Interactive Metronome therapy, and countless other types of Brain Training tools designed for neurological rehabilitation. We need to fix the underlying “wiring” issues before we can control the behavior and learning issues. Medication does not fix the “wiring”!
We should also reexamine our approach to ADD and ADHD, not only for our young people, but also for the adult population. Although statistics are cloudy, diagnosis of adult ADD/ADHD is clearly on the rise as well. Previously, when an adult had problems with focus and attention they were commonly labeled as having anxiety, and medicated accordingly. We now know that the systems that govern attention are often the real culprits. Many adults with ADD or ADHD may have gone undiagnosed in childhood because these were not “priority” diagnoses when they were children.
What can you do? If you or a loved one is suffering from a disabling lack of focus or attention, explore what Brain Training has to offer. Training your brain for improved attention, focus, and timing has been shown to be an effective alternative or supplement to medication.
Read my new blog that explores the reasons why schools should offer programs to screen students for concussions and mild traumatic brain injuries (mTBI) on the NaturalNews Network.
Approaches to assessment and intervention of concussion and mTBI in youth vary widely from school to school, provider to provider, and state to state. It is no secret that in many schools the prevailing wisdom is to “sit and wait” to see if a child’s symptoms go away after he or she has sustained a head injury. This approach can have severe, long-term consequences. Behavioral and emotional issues, headaches, and learning disabilities are common after concussions and mTBI. Despite the dangers of head injuries among children, concussion screening programs have not been widely adopted by school systems.
Read the full article 3 Reasons Why Your Kid’s School Should Have a Concussion Screen Program here.
At APEX Brain Centers we have witnessed the dramatic improvements that proper assessments and interventions can make in the lives of young people and adults who have suffered head injuries. My blog discusses the alarming statistics on concussions among American youth and the role that schools can play in improving care for students.
Read all of my NaturalNews blogs by visiting my profile.
Whether they are running, cycling, swimming, auto racing, playing ball sports, or participating in weekend warrior contests; athletes of all shapes, sizes, and abilities have one thing in common. They all want to WIN!
The road to excellence in sports has changed quite a bit over the past several decades. The vehicles that bring athletes to their peak today look nothing like the horse and buggies that used to get them there. Sports performance is a high-tech, fast-paced, ultra-competitive industry where new advances in training the human body are popping up around every corner, in every discipline.
Today you may commonly choose to enhance your athletic performance through strength, agility, and endurance training specific to your sport, metabolic therapies, and possibly indulge in cross training and sports psychology therapy. But something is missing from this list. Something BIG. Something that could make all the difference in the world. Brain Training can help you achieve peak athletic performance. Training your brain to perform at a peak level is shaping up to be the biggest, and likely most important, aspect of training for ANY athlete. Brain Training can also amplify the effects of other training methods.
If you answer yes to any of the following questions, then you are ready to take the next step in your athletic training program:
1) Do I want to be faster?
Most sports require speed and endurance, and training your brain to be faster can be a game changer. Balance, coordination of movement, core stabilization (shunt muscles) and voluntary movement (spurt muscles), all controlled by your brain, are key factors in determining how fast your muscles will move your body. The more “tuned-up” these systems are, the faster you will be.
2) Do I want to increase my reaction time?
Advanced applications like the Interactive Metronome were designed to improve timing abilities in key areas of the frontal lobes of your brain that govern your ability to react appropriately to stimulation coming from your environment (i.e. sight, sound, etc.). Training your brain’s ability to react to various types of stimulation, and to block other types out, can significantly speed up your reaction time and overall accuracy of thought and movement.
3) Do I want to improve my focus?
Focus, Flow, Concentration, The Zone… whatever you prefer to call it… is one of the most complicated of all brain abilities, and very likely the most crucial brain function when it comes to success at sports. Many abilities come together to create focus, most notably vision combined with your brain’s attention network. These abilities CAN be trained to achieve higher levels of concentration and attention. This is what creates the effortless focus on the task at hand – The Zone – that most athletes crave.
4) Do I want to outsmart my competition?
Training various aspects of memory, essentially increasing your intelligence, will provide invaluable assistance when stacking up against your competition. Working and procedural memory can be improved through intensive Brain Training programs that combine “brain games” and metal tasks with physical exercises and various types of sensory input shown to improve cognitive abilities.
5) Do I want to decrease my risk of injury?
The brain controls your muscles as well as the tone of your tendons and ligaments. Muscles, tendons and ligaments that are controlled by a well-functioning brain are more resilient, faster to respond, and less likely to be injured. In turn, if something has been injured it tends to send “faulty” feedback to the brain, further increasing risk of injury. Training brain-body connections is critical for any high performance athlete that wants to stay off the sidelines.
When you cram the night before an exam, do you ever stop to think that your brain cannot hold the mountains of information you are trying to squeeze into it? Or, that it won’t be able to process what you tried learning before the big test? As amazing as they are, our brains are not wired to devour and process massive amounts of information in short periods of time. Further, for some us, our brains are not ‘wired’ efficiently enough to effectively learn what we are studying.
Take the individual who pays attention in class, studies regularly in small doses, has a tutor, and seems prepared to do well on a test. He fails. His friend waits until the last possible minute, pulls an ‘all-nighter’ and she passes with flying colors. What gives?
Obviously these two brains are not wired similarly, and not just because they are male and female brains. That discussion is for another day! There are a host of reasons why your brain might not be able to process and retain information, and why you might not be able to access what you learned when you need it the most on test day. Here is a list of four common challenges to effective test preparation:
- Developmental challenges – ADHD, autism, vision or hearing loss, cerebral palsy, and learning disabilities like dyslexia all impact the way one learns and can have a profound impact on test taking ability. Oftentimes, given the right interventions, many of these disabilities can be overcome and what was once a disability now becomes a strength.
- Stress and anxiety – The sheer number of tests and responsibilities faced by students today can be quite overwhelming. Even ace students can easily become stressed. Stress can lead to significant difficulty in one’s ability to effectively prepare for tests or perform well on exam day. The problem of text anxiety and academic stress often compounds over time (I have seen this with my children’s friends during the dreaded end of grade testing).
- Metabolic issues – Food is fuel. Imagine trying to drive a Ferrari fueled by lawnmower gas that’s been sitting in the garage for two years. When your diet consists mostly of refined and processed foods you make exam preparation much harder for yourself. You cannot expect good test performance when you tank up on lousy fuel.
- Poor sleep – While you were so busy cramming for that test you forgot to do the single most important thing that will help you pass it…SLEEP!
Whether you are in grade school or grad school, the vast majority of times it is not about how much you study that gets you good grades on tests. Your academic performance also depends on your level of brain function, the quality of the fuel you put in your tank, and environmental factors that are well within your control. You have the power to improve your test scores and Brain Training can help. What would it mean for you, your family, your career, even society, if you were able to improve your test performance and achieve the grades you desire?
Train your brain for better test performance. It really works!
A young woman in her late 20s, who I will call Karen, came to our Asheville NC office in mid-2014 for adult attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Oftentimes, as with many in her situation, a chronic lack of attention, constant distractibility, obsessive thoughts, and anxiety related symptoms forced her long ago to seek out medications that would keep these symptoms under some sort of control. Also, as with many individuals that walk through the door at APEX Brain Centers, Karen seemed to be functioning well in her day to day activities and was, for all intents and purposes, quite successful. But she knew she could do better, and that she might one day be able to control her thoughts and behaviors medication free!
The Brain Training Process
Prior to coming in for her intensive Brain Training program at APEX, Karen was required to complete a battery of baseline cognitive tests and comprehensive physical, psychological and metabolic histories. When she arrived for her first day of training, Karen underwent a head-to-toe neurological evaluation and several hours’ worth of diagnostic tests, including tests of brainwave activity (qEEG) and eye movements (VNG).
The results of these critical tests of brain function helped guide Karen’s Brain Training program and allowed us to address very specific brain regions that were causing her symptoms. Some examples of training utilized in Karen’s 5 day intensive program are EEG directed neurofeedback with transcranial magnetic stimulation to assist her in regulating her brain wave activity and reducing aspects of anxiety, and the Interactive Metronome training program for improving sequencing and planning abilities within the more developed frontal lobes of her brain that helped her to significantly improve her focus and attention.
When her Brain Training program was complete, we retested Karen so we could compare results and assess key functional improvements made in her brain. Below is a summary of gains she made in critical brain functions:
- Gains in attention, problem solving and decision making as great as 76%
- Gains in 5 aspects of memory as great as 52%
- Gains in brain processing and sequencing abilities as great as 48%
- Improvement in temporal processing (brain timing) of 33%
- Normalization of fast eye movements associated with the same brain regions that govern attention and focus
- Positive shifts in alpha and beta brain wave activity consistent with improved attention and focus, as well as decreased anxiety
What do all these numbers really mean? Well, to Karen these numbers mean a great deal. Immediately after completing her Brain Training program, Karen was able to perform a routine computer related task for work that typically took her over an hour in just 45 minutes. To a multi-tasker that has difficulty with attention, focus, and anxiety, these 20 minutes translate into an eternity! She also reported having a clearer, more focused mind, better sleep, and a general sense of calm and relaxation that was typically not present from day to day.
What would it mean for you to have improvements like Karen made? To be able to focus and engage in life more efficiently with decreased distractions and a clear mind? Or, to possibly get away from life-long medications that are aimed at controlling the very symptoms that destroy your quality of life?
Your brain can take a beating when your head gets shaken around during a whiplash injury. The effect of the head, which weighs as much as a medium sized bowling ball, forcefully snapping your neck in various directions can cause a lot more than just neck pain and headaches. Mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) is often not the first concern when someone experiences a whiplash injury in a car crash, sports injury or other traumatic accident. But certain whiplash symptoms indicate that the brain has been injured. Some examples of brain-related problems after whiplash and mTBI include:
- Brain fog
- Dizziness or vertigo
- Sleep disturbances
- Attention, focus, and memory issues
- Fear and emotional struggles
- Blurred vision and more
Many of these potentially disabling whiplash symptoms can be directly related to the impact of your brain against the bony vault known as your skull, and the many sharp edges, shelves, and protrusions on its inner surface. Further, nerves that exit the brain (cranial nerves) can be tractioned, sheared, or even severed depending on the degree of whiplash. Some of these symptoms can also be related to injury to the muscles and joints in the neck that feed information that is vital to our sense of balance and equilibrium to the brain. When our equilibrium or sense of our external environment is altered, other brain systems begin to degrade as a result.
It is critically important to address the obvious physical aspects of pain, muscle spasm, and loss of motion due to whiplash through modalities such as chiropractic care and physical therapy. What is often neglected and equally important to address are the other physical, cognitive, and emotional after effects of mTBI due to whiplash. The following is a list of potential testing procedures and assessments you should seek out in the event of a whiplash injury leading to any of the above mentioned symptoms:
- Head to toe neurological evaluation
- Testing of eye movements with videonystagmography (VNG)
- Testing of balance with computerized dynamic posturography
- Cognitive testing
- Quantitative EEG (qEEG)
- Psychological evaluation
No symptom should be taken lightly in the event of a whiplash injury. Remember that some symptoms may not develop until weeks after the accident. Pay special attention to the changes in your brain, or the brain of a loved one, after a whiplash accident. If you develop any symptoms that indicate mild traumatic brain injury, seek immediate attention with a functional neurologist. The quicker these brain related whiplash symptoms are addressed, the quicker they will likely resolve. By the same token, based on the principles of neuroplasticity, the longer they are around, the more difficult they will be to resolve.