Did you know, your brain can be rewired, just like a faulty lamp? That’s the power of Neuroplasticity.
What happens when a lamp in your home no longer works. Do you discard it? Or do you fix it? Sometimes, all it takes to make the lamp as good as new is a simple re-wiring. It’s the same sort of scenario with our brains. Just because your brain isn’t working as well as it could be, it doesn’t mean you should give up on it. It’s not your mind that’s the problem, it’s the brain. Just like it’s not the lamp that is broken, it’s the wiring.
The good news is, a brain can be rewired, just like a faulty lamp, and the brain’s ability to do so is as a result of Neuroplasticity.
Rewiring the brain!
The brain is made up of billions of cells, called neurons, and the simplest explanation of how our brains work is that these neurons talk to each other. In some brains, the communication between different parts of the brain is entirely in sync, like an old married couple that knows what the other is thinking by just looking at them. In other people, the brain communicates the way teenagers do. Poorly at best. This can result in negative outward behaviors and internal thoughts and feelings as are often exhibited in people with ADHD.
However, the brain has the ability to change. Every time you learn something new, your brain cells make new connections. This brain change and learning is called neuroplasticity.
The concept of neuroplasticity has been popularized in recent years by distinguished scientist, medical doctor, and psychiatrist, Norman Doidge. In his popular book, The Brain that Changes Itself, he talks about how the brain is a plastic, living organ that can actually change its own structure and function. It can self-repair and heal itself by conscious habits of thought and action, ultimately teaching the brain to “rewire itself”. Doidge describes how a greater understanding of ways in which circuits of neurons in the brain function has led scientists to be able to demonstrate that as learning occurs, the connections among nerve cells increase, and that our thoughts can, in fact, ‘switch on’ genes that change neural structure and brain anatomy.
Neuroplasticity gives hope to those struggling with disorders such as ADHD. In his book, Doidge references many case studies, including the healing of entrenched depression and anxiety, and the altering of lifelong character traits.
How is the brain rewired?
So we know that the brain is capable of “rewiring” itself, and changing its neural structure. But how is that done? That’s where neurofeedback therapy comes in. Neurofeedback therapy is the process of brain learning. It’s how the dysregulated brain learns to correct itself, to make new, positive connections, and encourage better communication between the different areas. There’s a saying in neuroscience: “neurons that fire together wire together.” which means the more you run a neural-circuit in your brain, the stronger that circuit becomes. In other words, “practice makes perfect”.
Where this can be tricky, however, is that most times the patient does not know what changes they need to make. They know they need to change their brain waves, but from what and to what are a mystery. In the initial stages of neurotherapy treatment, a map of the patient’s existing brain patterns is created using painless sensors placed on the patient’s head. Once the current pattern of brain waves can be seen, it’s a case of skillfully determining what must change to result in the desired changes to behavior or thoughts. Neurofeedback practitioners are highly skilled at doing this.
Specialized FDA approved equipment is then programmed to respond to the patient’s brain waves. During the training sessions, the patient watches a movie. Only when they are exhibiting the right type of brain wave patterns can the movie actually be seen. If the patient slips back into their old brain wave patterns, the movie darkens and can no longer be viewed. This feedback—the movie only being visible when the patient’s brain is in the correct state—creates positive reinforcement and learning. In the initial stages, the patient may not be able to see the movie for more than a few minutes at a time, However, with continuous practice, they will eventually be able to set their brain into the correct state almost automatically, without difficulty. This indicates that the brain has learned how it is supposed to function, and has changed itself to be able to exhibit the desirable brain waves easily.
At St Louis Neurotherapy, we work with patients to help rewire their brains, and train them to function more normally. We combine brain training programs like neurofeedback with counseling to heal the whole body, holistically, which has a better chance of success than any one treatment in isolation.
If you haven’t booked your free consultation yet, we encourage you to do it now.