A Boost of Brain Power: Q&A with the Brain Wave Center
May 31, 2019 03:33PM
by Mary-Elizabeth Schurrer
Within recent years, the wellness movement has transitioned from a cult following of sorts into a full-blown mainstream trend. It seems that all major outlets of information, from health gurus on social media to industry experts in peer-reviewed journals, are committed to educating the public on why it matters to care for our bodies.
This is a noble—not to mention, critical—mission too. We do need to be reminded of how imperative is it to maintain balanced nutrition and a consistent exercise regimen. We can benefit from the probiotics of kombucha, the curcuminoids of a turmeric latte or the antioxidants of an acai bowl. We are stronger when we take a HIIT class and more flexible when we practice a yoga sequence. These are positive strides toward physical health—but what about our brains? Why does cognitive wellness tend to receive much less airtime?
While some of us might not spend a ton of energy on our mental health and fitness, how our brains function is just as intrinsic to our well-being as how our bodies operate. If the brain is in peak condition and wired to absorb external stimuli in a schema that is constructive, then we can move through life with a robust, healthy mindset. But if the brain is weakened, obstructed and impaired to some degree, then we are less able to experience the vitality we are built for. This is why brain wellness is not just beneficial—it’s foundational.
To learn more about how to optimize the function of our brains and which modalities are the most effective to address brain health, I spoke to Gregg Sledziewski, a researcher and thought leader on a method of neural re-wiring called neurofeedback. Sledziewski is also the Executive Director of the Brain Wave Center which has locations in Sarasota, Bradenton and Lakeland. Below is a glimpse into our illuminating conversation.
Natural Awakenings: Why is it essential for both our physical and cognitive functions to maintain optimal brain health?
Gregg Sledziewski: The brain is the most complex organ we have and certainly one of the most important. The brain is involved in all that we do, from shrewd thinking to silly mistakes. In our lives, it is the brain’s job to oversee our daily operations to make sense of the world and identify our place within it.
As we embraced the concept of neuroplasticity over the past decade, we realized the brain changes in the course of our lives. It adapts to stimuli we have encountered and experienced—positive or negative. With a healthy brain, we create new neural pathways and repair old ones. So the importance of brain health refers to our ability to learn, remember what we learn, and then use what we learn in order to perform necessary actions, both at will and with ease.
An optimal brain can efficiently access all its major strengths which include the areas of judgment, wisdom, logic, perspective, information management and emotional adaptation. In other words, brain health is all about maximizing the potential of this multi-faceted organ to enhance the quality of our lives.
NA: What are some indicators that our brain health might be impaired, and how can this issue be effectively addressed?
Sledziewski: We can recognize the more visible aspects when brain health is impaired—severe head injuries, dementias, substance abuse and overt emotional traumas, for example. But over time, seemingly unrelated issues such as stress, anger, depression, unhealthy behaviors or habits, and minor injuries can take a toll on our brains too, just like our bodies.
Negative effects on brain health often result from long-term or chronic stressors like an unbalanced diet, insufficient exercise, lack of emotional or spiritual connection, tense relationships with family or friends, and a difficult career environment, among others. As you experience these challenges, you might feel overwhelmed, antisocial, fatigued, restless, anxious, lethargic, distressed or empty afterward. These emotions can indicate that your brain is not functioning at capacity and needs some attention.
NA: Which factors might contribute to a lesser degree of brain health, and how do these tend to affect our brain wiring?
Sledziewski: If we lack the basics of sensible nutrition, stress management, physical exercise, mental stimulation, and emotional or spiritual balance, then we could be minimizing our brain potential. When the brain’s health is obstructed, it cannot foster the right kind of environment for optimal wiring, both in the brain and body.
There is no part of our systems that is not influenced and regulated by the brain, so diminished patterns of brainwave activity will impact not only how our brains perform, but how we feel and process, respond to stress or illness, and heal from traumatic events. As we learn more about how the brain functions, we realize the maintenance of brain health contributes to our entire well-being. To summarize, when our brains function better—we function better.
NA: Can you explain what neurofeedback is, in simple terms, and what makes it a successful tool for optimizing brain health?
Sledziewski: Neurofeedback is a non-invasive and drug-free intervention that operates within a learning model instead of a Western medical treatment framework. This is a form of guided operant conditioning where the brain is rewarded as it makes positive changes. It allows clients to see their own brainwave activity on a real-time basis, while the brain responds to this stimuli and makes corrections. This is how the brain function is recalibrated over time.
Our main program at the Brain Wave Center is called qEEG guided biofeedback—or neurofeedback. This process starts with a qEEG, also known as a Brain Map, which is a painless, safe and accurate tool used to detect any problem areas of the brain. The qEEG is designed to both objectively and scientifically evaluate someone’s brainwave patterns. It does not identify specific conditions but shows a map of regions in the brain which need to be addressed. We then use this information to expertly develop a neurofeedback training program.
Once the qEEG has been reviewed, we begin neurofeedback which is a direct training of the brain in real-time. This helps the brain learn to function more efficiently, and the actual process of neurofeedback is quite simple. A computer will monitor the brainwaves while a client either watches a movie or listens to music.
When deviations from the normal brainwave activity occur, the computer will trigger an audio or visual cue which alerts the client their brain is outside a normal range. These cues are then received by the brain which subconsciously adjusts itself back into a normal pattern, so the cue will stop. This gradually teaches the brain to operate in a healthy range on its own.
Neurofeedback has been proven successful in the treatment of many disorders. We use it effectively to address emotional trauma, migraines, anxiety, depression, ADHD, PTSD, autism spectrum disorder and traumatic brain injury. We also use it to encourage peak performance with athletes, business executives and others who simple want to enhance their lives.
NA: In addition to neurofeedback, what other services, resources and treatment options do you offer at the Brain Wave Center?
Sledziewski: Aside from neurofeedback, we also provide nutrition counseling, psychotherapy, lymphatic drainage, craniosacral therapy and brain mapping, all of which are intended to help our clients rediscover their own wellness. More importantly, we are also partners with The Easter Seals of Southwest Florida, The Haven, The Thinking Center and Resilient Retreat.
Our investment is two-fold—first and foremost, we aim to improve as many lives as we can. Second, we participate in a number of research initiatives to further legitimize the efficacy of our programs. Finally, it is our mission to help as many children as possible with neurofeedback. Therefore, payment arrangements can be made for families in need. We are a dedicated team of doctors, psychologists, psychotherapists, technicians and advisors who offer both nationally and globally documented innovations in brain health for a better, more holistic life.
The Brain Wave Center is located at 1440 Main Street, Sarasota. The center is open Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. For more information and to schedule a free consultation, call 941-552-4500 or visit BrainWaveCenters.com.
Mary-Elizabeth Schurrer is the Managing Editor of Natural Awakenings Sarasota–Manatee. She also works as a freelance writer, blogger and social media marketer based in Southwest Florida. Her personal blog HealthBeAHippie.Wordpress.com features practical tips for embracing an active, nutritious and empowered lifestyle.