Don’t Bypass Your Brain Health this Year: Q&A with The Brain Wave Center
Jan 01, 2020 12:30PM
by Mary-Elizabeth Schurrer
As we look ahead with enthusiasm and anticipation to what the New Year has in store, many of us resolve for a healthier lifestyle. We recommit to our exercise goals. We fill our kitchens with nutritious food. We break habits that are no longer sustainable and build new ones that make us feel active, energized, nourished and strong.
But with all this emphasis on our physical wellness, how much attention do we give to our mental health? How often do our resolutions focus on transforming our attitudes or perceptions, confronting our narrow beliefs and critical inner voices, healing from the wounds of emotional trauma, boosting our sense of awareness or concentration, and becoming mentally resilient overall? Around this time of year, we tend to fixate on how to improve our bodies when, in reality, we should be just as intentional about our brains.
Since physical and mental well-being are inextricably connected, in order to make substantial and permanent changes in our quality of life, we need a holistic approach to self-care that does not gloss over the important role of brain function. So with 2020 underway and resolutions being kicked into gear, I spoke with Gregg Sledziewski, Executive Director of The Brain Wave Center in downtown Sarasota, to understand why brain health belongs at the forefront of our wellness pursuits throughout this New Year.
Natural Awakenings: What direction do you plan to take The Brain Wave Center in 2020—any new developments, expansions or partnerships coming down the pipeline?
Gregg Sledziewski: Much of what we have planned this coming year revolves around our continued work with children, especially those who are underserved. Our mission is to help as many children as possible with neurofeedback, so payment arrangements can be made for families in need. To fulfill this mission, we developed strong partnerships with several 501c charity organizations, namely The EasterSeals of Southwest Florida, The Haven and, most recently, The Florida Center for Early Childhood.
In fact, by the end of 2019 we served about 50 children, without a charge to their families, through our partnership programs. We expect this number to significantly increase in 2020, and we also will be concluding a research initiative to help survivors of abuse or trauma managed by our partner Resilient Retreat. This study has sought to determine the effectiveness of neurofeedback as part of a complete wellness plan for survivors. We are also expanding our work to support veterans with an organization called Healing our Heroes.
In addition, we have partnered with the Psychological Associates of Central Florida (PACFlorida) to create a new comprehensive assessment program that identifies and verifies the potential for ADHD. Defining ADHD is not simple—it cannot be diagnosed with a physical examination, laboratory test or observation alone. Our new platform combines standard tests and rating scales traditionally used to detect the presence of ADHD, but it adds electrophysiologic measures to validate these findings and to identify other potential problems too.
This initiative will also expand to include screening for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). The Brain Wave Center helps children and adults with a diagnosis of ASD, and based on our experience in the community and with friends or family, we have realized the need for a centralized center for practical research and actionable treatments for ASD. Therefore, we plan to develop that center right here in Sarasota this year.
NA: What specific modalities do you offer at The Brain Wave Center, and can you summarize how they benefit cognitive function and mental health?
Sledziewski: Our base program includes qEEG brain mapping and Neurofeedback. Aside from neurofeedback, we also offer IV therapy, nutrition counseling, psychotherapy, lymphatic drainage, craniosacral therapy and more, depending on a client’s unique requirements. We can also refer out to massage therapists, energy workers and even a law firm that advocates for families with special needs children.
All our services are designed help clients rediscover their wellness. Extensive research has shown the brain can reorder itself and learn adaptive patterns at any life stage which means that brain function can improve. Neurofeedback changes brainwave imbalances and neural pathways, so regardless of how these imbalances occurred, our combined modalities—starting with neurofeedback—can ultimately strengthen these brainwave patterns to enhance function and optimize health.
Generally, our clients tend to report improved moods, restful sleep, mental clarity, decreased impulsivity, restored control of depression or anxiety, and a host of other benefits—all without medication and harsh side-effects.
NA: How does neurofeedback work, in basic terms, and why is it important to rewire the brain by creating different neural pathways?
Sledziewski: At The Brain Wave Center, we specialize in the detection of issues with brain health, mental focus and age-related conditions that range from ADHD, stress, anxiety, depression, autism, memory loss, and trauma or PTSD. With the use of nationally recognized brain mapping techniques, we quickly establish brain function and initiate positive outcomes with non-invasive, customized neurofeedback programs.
We all understand those daily bumps, bruises and repetitive tasks which take a toll on our bodies. But some don’t realize that, over time, seemingly unrelated issues like stress, anger, depression, negative habits or small head injuries can affect our brains too. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 90% of all diseases have a mental or emotional component.
The brain regulates all our thoughts and behaviors, so when overburdened or injured, symptoms can manifest throughout the body—often in surprising ways. Most of us are aware, for instance, that a blow to the head can result in pain and dizziness, or a concussion might lead to disorientation, memory loss and nausea.
However, it’s a lesser known fact that unwanted mood changes, impulsive actions or sleepless nights can also be indicators of an overtaxed brain. The brain does not have to experience severe injuries, trauma, genetic issues or toxin exposures to suffer damage. Neurofeedback is a form of biofeedback that specifically targets the brain. While there are different types of neurofeedback, the most common is brainwave training.
Brainwaves refer to the naturally-occurring electricity that flows through our brains all the time. These waves—known as Delta, Theta, Alpha and Beta—range from slow to fast, and changes in the wave patterns can impact how we feel. For instance, too many slow waves can contribute to focus issues, while too many fast-moving waves can lead to anxiety.
Frequently, neurofeedback starts with brain mapping. Sensors are attached to the scalp in order to produce a real-time EEG reading of the brain. This EEG shows both how and where these waves occur in the brain. Neurofeedback then is the process of training those waves to operate differently which results in more optimal brain function.
Neurofeedback can be effective on its own, but continued research has determined that, when combined with traditional therapies such as cognitive behavioral therapies, exercise, nutrition and restful sleep, the outcomes are generally superior. Neurofeedback is not a “quick fix, but it is an effective, drug-free and natural approach to enhance mood, concentration, memory and overall cognition.
The Brain Wave Center is located at 1440 Main St., Sarasota. The hours are Monday–Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. For more information, to schedule an appointment or to inquire about 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. Her personal blog HealthBeAHippie.Wordpress.com features practical tips for embracing an active, nutritious and empowered lifestyle.