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Retraining the brain
29 Jan 2009
Janet van Eeden

When my daughter was diagnosed with Post-Viral Malaise, a branch of the chronic fatigue syndromes (CFS), I was determined not to go with the standard allopathic method of treatment with antidepressants. I’d heard from people whose children had suffered CFS for anything from six months to four years. The usual treatment of antidepressants hadn’t helped them much, it seemed to me.

My trusted homeopath prescribed large doses of vitamins and as much rest as my daughter needed. She slept most of each day and missed the last term at school. The spectre of concerned parents whose children suffered for years haunted me. When I heard that a technique called Neurofeedback helped CFS sufferers, I leapt at the chance to try it.

Gail Kynaston and Delia Miranda run a Neurofeedback clinic in Scottsville. At the first session they explained the process. The therapist attaches electrodes to specific points on the client’s head that are connected to the Neurofeedback computer. It is very similar to an electroencephalogram (EEG). The client sits in front of a computer screen and has to “play” specifically designed games by using the eyes to focus on a vehicle on the screen. The focus of the brain waves makes the vehicle move and enables background music to play. It’s intriguing to see how the game grinds to a halt when the client loses focus. The brain waves are measured while the client plays the games, and a reading is taken to observe the state of the brain.

With CFS, the brain waves show largely suppressed activity with a very low level of arousal. The pronounced reading of Theta and Delta waves, which indicate unfocused and sleepy thoughts, disproves those who believe CFS is just psychosomatic.

“The reading of the EEG shows the state the brain is in,” Miranda says. “If the brain’s functionality is low, as in CFS, ADD and so on, then the low-frequency waves will be dominant. If the brain is stressed, the dominance of the high-frequency waves will show the hyperactivity of the brain. The range of brain waves is measured in hertz. Neurofeedback teaches your brain to function in an optimal way again. When it does this, a reward is given to the brain through the senses (auditory and visual) as the volume of the music increases and the game speeds up.”

The game shows exactly how the client’s brain is working. If a client is unable to focus, the vehicle in the game veers off the road. The brain is trained to refocus by getting the car back on the road, Kynaston explains.

“We set the reward band on the arousal curve and the system rewards the brain with a successful game to encourage it to stay in the optimal arousal level,” says Kynaston. “When people have ADD, the brain can’t access the optimal arousal level naturally. After a couple of sessions, we’ve seen children able to go to the optimal level more often than when they started.”

“The beauty of Neurofeedback is that the therapy creates a permanent solution,” Miranda continues. “The brain has learnt a new way of working. It’s used new pathways and it gets better and better at using them. We’ve had parents report six months after the therapy has stopped that their children are performing better and better.”

Miranda and Kynaston speak of a bipolar client who was suffering extreme distress. He’d been on seven different types of medication, which weren’t effective in relieving his symptoms. Neurofeedback allowed him to come off all medication and removed all his symptoms. He is able to cope with normal life again. They insist, however, that a medical doctor must be consulted before changing any medications.

After the first session, my daughter was exhausted and collapsed completely for the rest of the day. By evening though, she brightened up and went to her room to make beaded dragonflies. She hadn’t done anything creative in four months. After another session, I saw such a marked improvement that I have no doubt that the therapy was the cause of the change. She has now recovered to almost full strength. I am convinced that Neurofeedback helped her enormously.

• To contact Miranda and Kynaston phone 083 661 1396 or e-mail kynaston@eject.co.za

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