Neuroscience research and theory strongly support what we have long discovered to be effective in counseling and psychotherapy: Neuroimaging machines show that behavioral, cognitive, and interpersonal therapy are capable of functionally “rewiring” the brain. The coupling of counseling with neurotherapy is even more effective because the latter empowers individuals to achieve better self-regulation.
Brain-mapping: The qEEG
Just as counseling must be tailored to the individual client in order to be effective, neurotherapy protocolsmust also fit the client; in other words, one size does not fit all in neurotherapy! In fact, the protocol that serves one individual might set another person back.
This is where the qEEG–quantitative electroencephalogram–comes in. The qEEG, also known as the “Brain Map”, is a diagnostic tool used to visualize dysregulation in the brain and thus guide neurotherapy protocols. It is based on a normative database, meaning it compares brain function to a large sample of brains of the same age and gender. It can then be interpreted using the growing body of data that connects physiological brain functioning to emotion and to behavioral activity. Not surprisingly, it is common for clients to come in with a list of concerns or symptoms that are also reflected in their brain maps.
Our approach at the nCenter is to use the qEEG combined with reported symptoms to form an appropriate neurotherapy treatment protocol that meets the client’s goals. Brain Maps are conducted before initial treatment and again every 5-12 neurotherapy sessions in order to objectively measure progress and adjust protocols as needed. One wonderful thing about neurotherapy is that once positive brainwave patterns are firmly established, they tend to self-perpetuate–and even deepen–over time.
Interpretation of the qEEG
The brain is best understood as being at once a localized and a distributed system. Some regions of the brain are known to have specific function: Broca’s area, for example, is linked to speech production while Wernicke’s area, is linked to speech comprehension. These regions must also work together as part of a larger neural network that connects sounds to words and words to meaning. Additionally, a landmark 2007 study showed that sadness causes at least 77 different brain areas to light up. In other words, although some brain functions are associated with specific brain regions, many more are the result of deep connectivity.
The Human Connectome Project’s (HCP) goal, sponsored by the NIH, is to create a map of the brain’s neural connectivity, to better understand its structural and functional connections, and to facilitate research into brain disorders. Data obtained through HCP has contributed to the work of neurotherapy, shedding light on what network connections are out of balance and allowing practitioners to accurately modulate those networks to improve brain functioning and alleviate symptoms.
From connectome research we know that the key to brain efficiency is a set of large, highly connected network hubs referred to as “Rich Clubs.” These network hubs are characterized by synchrony when the hubs work in concert which each other and desynchrony when they work against each other. How well the brain activates the major network hubs and achieves synchrony among them is key to brain functioning and wellness.
Thank goodness for neuroplasticity, which is the ability of our brains to create new pathways and reorganize neural connections, so that we are not set in our ways once and for all but can change: We can functionally rewire our brains, and neurotherapy facilitates and enhances this process. Add counseling to neurotherapy and we have powerful tools for activating the brain’s innate plasticity.
We may best consider neurotherapy as physical therapy for the brain. By that we intend, that neurotherapy provides a series of rehabilitative interventions that strengthen brains that are dysregulated. The brain may be dysregulated because of head injury, emotional trauma, or environmental exposure to toxins; but it may also be dysregulated because of intellectual disabilities or other genetic conditions.
We are still learning the mechanisms by which these treatments work. One thing we do know, however, is that neurotherapy has the capacity to transform people’s lives. I see it in our office every day; individuals are excited to share that they don’t feel as anxious anymore, or that they feel less depressed, or that their concentration and focused has improved. The results are clear: Neurotherapy works.