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I Had My Brain Mapped: Here’s What Happened

For years I’ve struggled with migraines. Diagnosed at 4-years old, I can’t really remember ever being completely headache-free. You might be thinking, “Of course you feel fatigued. Who wouldn’t?”

But, it’s a little more complicated than that. I also had a few concussions as a martial artist, and in sports, like flag football. Perhaps most notably, I had a traumatic brain injury in my 20s when I was hit by a car on my bicycle — yes, a life-changing event. I’ve also had viral meningitis and Lyme disease twice — two more migraine triggers.

In the last year, I started wondering, “Is all of this affecting the way my brain works? Is it just one thing, or is it some combination of these potential brain-affecting ailments? How can I tease all of this apart?”

In comes Field, a wellness team currently located at Blum Center for Health in Rye Brook, NY, that offers brain optimization, or in their own words, “Much like computer software, you can think of brainwaves as code that we can train, tweak and reprogram.” 

They claim that by mapping the brain, actually seeing how the brain responds to stimuli (or lack of stimuli), they can help people rewire the brain to respond or fire differently. The treatment particularly helps people with ADD/ADHD, depression, concussions, stress/anxiety, PTSD/trauma, even insomnia.

Could this be the answer to my headaches? It certainly peaked my interest. 

I decided to give it a try.

Prior to my initial assessment appointment I filled out a questionnaire — basically, a brain health history. I elaborated on my reasons for the appointment, and although I was a bit nervous to have electrodes — electrocephalography (EEG) — attached to my head (this is my brain after all!), I felt reassured that they knew what they were doing.

On the day of my appointment I sat in a beautiful slightly reclined chair — I figured it was a way to get me to relax a bit. Co-founder Devon White sat behind a bank of computer screens, and Kitty Boyle, the technician, placed a space-age cap on my head and attached the electrodes to capture my brain’s activity. They explained everything that would happen. So far, so good.

Kitty instructed me to close my eyes and relax. I could hear the white noise of the computer working, a few whispers between Devon and Kitty and then, “Melissa, try not to blink.” Did you know that you can blink with your eyes closed? Evidently I blink a lot!

This first assessment probably only lasted a couple of minutes, but it seemed longer. Trying not to blink took a lot of concentration.

The second assessment was the same as the first — only this time, eyes open. And again, no blinking. 

The third assessment was math-related — counting down from 1,000 by 7s to see how my brain was firing when given a task.

And lastly, Devon and Kitty did a Traumatic Brain Injury Assessment to determine the impact of the injury.

Once all the data was in, all my brain images flashed up on the wall in front of me. Sitting in the comfy chair, it kind of felt like a movie screening — only it was all about me. I was so eager, and even though the assessment was in real time, the anticipation was palpable. What’s going on in there?

Devon and Kitty walked me through all the data. We looked at all the brain waves — gamma, delta, theta, alpha and beta. They took the time to explain what these meant in relation to my assessment. We looked at the Mental Math EEG and the Traumatic Brain Injury Discriminant Analysis.

Here’s what I learned:

  • I have a beautiful, fast-firing, high functioning brain. Phew!
  • One thing that popped out is that I have lots of activity at F7 — the front left of my brain — in fact, it never seems to turn off unless I’m keeping it busy with an activity. It makes me hyper alert — and it can make me exhausted if I can’t turn it off. This is so true! Now that it has been brought into my awareness, I’m noticing it all the time. During meditation, when I’m trying to fall asleep, when I just rest with my eyes closed. My brain NEVER gets quiet!
  • There is a pronounced lack of activity in the T4 region — the right temple. This could be the area of my Traumatic Brain Injury.
  • Lastly, there was a TBI, but the great news is: it’s effect is minimal. Hooray!

Devon and Kitty recommended neurofeedback, a type of biofeedback that focuses on the brain and its firing patterns. It utilizes real-time displays (EEG) of brain activity — in order to teach self-regulation of brain function. 

Here is what they recommended:

  • We would increase alpha waves while my eyes are closed in order to help facilitate daydreaming and quiet down my brain that never stops firing.
  • Give theta to T4 in order to take down headaches.
  • Use neurofeedback to find plasticity in the part of my brain that isn’t firing and discover if this is indeed residue from my TBI.

So, I’m going to give it a try! I’m hopeful and optimistic. And, I’ll keep you posted on my progress.

Interested in learning more about brain-mapping? Contact my friend Devon, at Field. 

 

Meet Melissa: Melissa Rapoport is the Manager of Health Coaching and Lifestyle Programming at Blum Center for Health in Rye Brook, NY. She combines her graduate work in Developmental Psychology with her education in nutrition, health and coaching to create highly individualized programs that result in lifetime change. A contributing author to three international bestselling books, Melissa’s greatest joy is her relationship with her two daughters. To learn more about Melissa’s coaching practice at Blum Center for Health, click here.

 

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Growing A Better Brain

We live in a culture that is increasingly obsessed with physical health. We understand the importance of having healthy bodies and eating well, but what about the health of our physical brain; that all important filter between you and everything you experience?

Thanks to modern neuroscience, we have ways to train our brains just like we train our bodies. In fact, done right it’s easier to train our brains. And when we train our brains we become more resilient, learn faster, and are generally more equipped to roll with whatever life throws our way.

Could it possibly be that easy? Yes. With advances in brain technology, living in a deeper state of calm and well-being, sleeping better, eliminating stress and anxiety, even increasing your IQ are all possible. Not just possible, probable.

You just need the tools and experience to make it so.

For those of you who haven’t met me, my name is Devon White. I’m the co-founder and CEO of Field, a brain optimization and neuro-enhancement company now operating at the Blum Center for Health. Today, I want to share a little bit about how your brain works and some practical tips for how to improve it.

The first thing to know is that your brain is responsible for every perception, sensation, and experience in your life.  No matter what’s happening, it’s being filtered by your brain like a Hollywood production. But in this case the biases of the production team are determined by the way your brain has developed throughout your life. If you’re living in a horror movie, a rom-com, an adventure, or are the star of a movie about Woody Allen type with low-grade anxiety who can’t seem to ever catch up – that’s all being produced by your brain, which means you can change it.

You see, your brain is highly plastic. That’s a fancy way to say it’s flexible and ready to change and adapt. And because it’s connected to every other dimension of your body and mind, any change in the brain affects the system as a whole. And I mean you can change just about anything: pain levels, memory, focus, coordination, mood, energy, IQ, creativity, even your sense of self!

You’re doing it all the time already, but probably just in a less intentional way.

A good rule of thumb is that anything that changes the way you feel is changing your brain’s firing patterns. If you’re at the gym running on a treadmill, your brain looks different than if you’re enjoying a book in your favorite reading nook. If you spend every day meditating, your brain will change to accommodate the new neurochemistry of calm and relaxation. Following this logic, good habits make for a better brain. Since any habit you develop is also a habit in the way your brain is firing, it’s important to develop the best possible habits to support the life you want to be living.

Here are four habits for a healthy brain that you can start right now:

  1. Identify your best relationships and shower your attention and love on them. At the same time, cut the amount of time you spend with people who leave you feeling drained or unsupported.
  2. Do an accounting of your life over the next week.  Write down each activity you engage in and how much happiness and energy it brings you. At the end of the week, notice the things that suck the joy and motivation from your life and cut them out.
  3. Eat well, hydrate, and exercise. Why? Because all of these things support good brain health and longevity and will lead to every other system working better.
  4. Practice gratitude. As hokey as this may sound, gratitude is one of the greatest and most profound ways to develop happiness and well-being.

As for direct brain training, I can’t overstate its power and profound benefits and I’ll get into how it works in future posts. For the moment, just know that there are safe and incredibly effective ways to exercise your brain for balance, health, and overall well-being. Also, training your brain has some effects that just can’t be beat, and anyone who has struggled with addiction, depression, anxiety, insomnia or a host of other concerns knows that it can be really difficult to update the way you feel directly.

Finally, since this is our first blog post at The Blum Center for Health, we’d like to offer you $250 off of your initial consultation and Know Yourself Better ReportTM if you schedule an appointment and mention this post before September 23rd. If you want to find out more visit our website or contact the Blum Center for Health at 914-652-7800.

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Dr. Jay Lombard: Wire Your Brain for Optimal Health

We sat down with Blum Center for Health’s Internationally-acclaimed Neurologist, Dr. Jay Lombard, to discuss how we can improve our brain health.

Question: What is most overlooked when it comes to brain health?

Dr. Lombard: Connectivity! How the biological, emotional and sociological functions of the brain are connected is fundamental to the health of both the body and the brain. We need to help all the circuitry work better!

Let’s take Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as an example. From a biological perspective – PTSD is a psychiatric disorder of disconnected pathways in the brain that are not functioning harmoniously. This leads to imbalances and behavioral problems.

Research in PTSD shows a disconnection between the rational prefrontal cortex and the limbic system, which is more emotionally oriented. Patients suffering from PTSD don’t have the ability to override involuntary emotions, such as fear and anxiety, leading to an over-exaggeration of symptoms, and an inability to reduce them through rational and coherent interventions and processes.

We are learning more and more about how all kinds of stress, not just PTSD, interrupts our circuitry.

Question:  How can we improve this Connectivity?

Dr. Lombard:  The good news is that technologies are now being developed that can help reconnect the circuits and balance those two parts of the brain so they work in coordination, not opposition. For example, we can personalize specific supplements that enhance and stabilize brain biochemistry.  One of my favorite non-pharmaceutical options is magnesium taurinate.

Question: Can you tell us more about the impact stress has on the brain and what can be done about this?  

Dr. Lombard: Stress can be a neurotoxin. Biological components of stress, like the hormone cortisol, is a very simple measure of one’s stress response. If cortisol is too high in the evening it can lead to sleep problems, changes in appetite, mood changes and even conditions such as metabolic syndrome and heart disease.  

Elevated cortisol as a result of stress is a measurable biomarker that can be used in clinical practice.  This is helpful because there are approaches we can use to bring balance such as the ability to self-regulate cortisol through exercise, or by reducing certain foods that produce fight or flight responses, such as sugar and salt.  

Question: What foods can I eat to promote brain health?

Dr. Lombard: There is no one diet that fits every situation and sometimes I prescribe specific plans like a ketogenic diet for neurodegenerative diseases.  However, for the average person, I generally recommend eating a diet is as close to the Mediterranean diet as possible. This is a well-balanced food plan filled with healthy fats, antioxidants, and polyphenols from fruits and veggies. Also, sesame oil for cooking is my particular favorite at medium heat, and so delicious. In other words, make your meal as colorful as possible!

Question: How can a consultation with you help me?

Dr. Lombard: My focus in clinical practice has been to help patients find answers to complex medical issues. The typical patient who has been referred to me in the past have been ” diagnostic dilemmas” where there is an overlay between neurological and behavioral problems.

My approach is not ” functional or Integrative”- it’s based upon systems biology.  

Systems biology means having a deeper appreciation for the connection between sub systems such as between the brain and immune system. The good news is that by recognizing these connections clinically we can develop a more patient-centric approach regardless of what a specific diagnosis a patient may or may not have.

The areas of clinical research that I am most familiar with are patients with neurodegenerative disorders. These include ALS, Parkinson’s, MS and early dementia.

Question: What’s your Motto to live by:

Dr. Lombard: Live Your Purpose!