Neurofeedback Defined – By Dr. Terry Rondberg

Neurofeedback has evolved from a fascination during the ‘60s and ‘70s to the current mainstream methodology for improving certain health conditions and human performance. Neurofeedback, like chiropractic, was considered a radical type of health care approach, but as the years have passed, it has become more mainstream. Now it is accepted as another form of health care.

This evolution has been driven by years of scientific research demonstrating that the mind and body are connected, and that people can be taught to harness the power of this connection to improve physical activity and health.  Interest in neurofeedback is growing, and the need for an answer to: “what is neurofeedback and why is it a perfect fit for chiropractic?” The leading professional organizations representing the field have provided the following definition:

“Neurofeedback is a process that enables an individual to learn how to change physiological activity for the purposes of improving health and performance. Precise instruments measure physiological activity such as brainwaves, heart function, breathing, muscle activity, and skin temperature. These instruments rapidly and accurately “feed back” information to the user. The presentation of this information — often in conjunction with changes in thinking, emotions, and behavior — supports desired physiological changes. Over time, these changes can endure without continued use of an instrument.”

The patient is strapped to sensors that provide real-time readings of internal bodily processes, such as muscle tension, blood pressure, heart rate, skin temperature and brain-wave activity. Then, they are taught strategies to gain better control over those processes, which can help achieve certain health goals.

Neurofeedback is like using computers to listen to your body and displaying that information so you can see it and decide how to change it. We think of this as an emotional exercise. You use your head instead of your muscles.

It is directly training the brain to function more efficiently. We observe the brain in action from moment to moment and share that information with the patient. Then we reward the brain for changing its activity to more appropriate patterns. This is a gradual learning process. It applies to any aspect of measurable brain function. Neurofeedback is based on electrical brain activity, the electroencephalogram or EEG.

Practitioners apply electrodes to the scalp to listen to brainwave activity. The signals are processed by computer, and we extract information about certain key brainwave frequencies. (All brainwave frequencies are equal, but some frequencies respond differently). We show the ebb and flow of this activity to the patient, who then attempts to change the activity level. We promote some frequencies but other frequencies, we hope to diminish. We present this information to the person in the form of a video game. The person is effectively playing the video game with his or her brain. Eventually, the brainwave activity is “shaped” toward more desirable, more regulated performance. The frequencies we target, and the specific locations on the scalp where we listen to the brain, are specific to the conditions we try to address, and to the individual.

About the Author – Terry A. Rondberg, DC
Terry Rondberg, known worldwide as an expert on chiropractic and wellness, is publisher of The Chiropractic Journal and the author of several books on the medical field, including Chiropractic First and Under the Influence of Modern Medicine.

Can a Stressful Job Hurt Your Heart?

It’s true. According to a study conducted by researchers from University College London and published in the European Heart Journal, people with more stressful jobs have a higher risk of developing heart disease.

For 12 years, researchers monitored a group of British civil servants by gathering data related to their heart rates, blood pressure, and cortisol (stress hormone) blood levels.  Participants were asked about their jobs, diet, exercise, smoking and drinking habits.

Researchers found that participants who reported a high degree of stress, were 70 percent more likely to develop coronary heart disease than those who reported no stress. The effect held for men and women and was strongest for people under age 50.

Among people of retirement age, those with less exposure to work stress, the effect on coronary heart disease was less severe.

Researchers also noted that people with more stress reported having less time to eat healthy or exercise properly, which would increase their risk of heart disease. But the stress itself was also associated with biological factors that increased risk.

People who reported more stress also had higher levels of cortisol in their blood, even after awakening. This suggests that stress interferes with the body’s ability to properly regulate the neuroendocrine system, which releases hormones.

Long-term exposure to stress hormones will damage the body. Those reporting more stress also demonstrated poor functioning of the part of the nervous system which regulates the heart beat.

The British Heart Foundation welcomed the study results, and said it is vital for people to make the time to exercise. Being physically fit helps relieve stress and is one of the most important factors for reducing the risk of heart disease.

About the Author – Terry A. Rondberg, DC
Dr. Terry Rondberg is a chiropractic visionary who writes and speaks worldwide on the subject of wellness. He resides in Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., where he enjoys running several businesses, pursuing yoga and martial arts, and spending time with his family.

Some Facts About So-Called “Alternative Medicine” – By Terry Rondberg, DC

According to a recent national survey by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than one in nine children and teens use herbal supplements or some type of alternative medicine.

This is the first time children’s use of such remedies, including meditation and chiropractic care, has been measured. Adult use of alternative care remains about the same as it was in 2002 — more than one in three.

Given that children are generally healthy, the finding that one in nine uses alternative medicine is astounding.

The study is based on a 2007 survey of more than 23,000 adults who discussed themselves and more than 9,000 adults who spoke on behalf of a child in their home.

The adults most likely to report using alternative care were women, college graduates and those who live on the West Coast. Among most adults, alternative care was used equally by those with private health insurance and those without.

Children were five times more likely to use alternative care if a parent did. Those covered by private health insurance were more likely to use alternative care than children who were uninsured or covered by public programs.

In 2002, adult use was 36 percent, compared to 38 percent in 2009.

In this decade, many academic medical centers and other mainstream health care providers have integrated alternative care into their research and patient services. Chiropractors can be found in general hospitals. Insurance coverage and licensing of alternative care is on the rise.

There were differences in how the 2002 and 2007 surveys were conducted. Regarding herbal remedies, the 2007 study asked participants whether they had used such a product in the previous 30 days, while the 2002 study asked if they had taken it in the past year.

In both studies, herbal remedies were the most popular form of alternative care for adults. In the latest survey, nearly one in five adults reported taking a supplement in the previous month.

For adults, pain was the primary reason for seeking chiropractic care.

About the Author – Dr. Terry Rondberg
Terry A. Rondberg, DC, is a nationally recognized author, speaker and publisher on chiropractic care and wellness. He’s an outspoken proponent of chiropractic and drug-free healthcare.

The Amazing Human Brain, Part Two – Dr. Terry A. Rondberg

Part Two of a Two-Part Series.

The dominant anatomical feature of our brain is the undulating surface of the cerebrum – the deep clefts are known as sulci and its folds are gyri. The cerebrum is the largest part of the brain and is largely composed of the two cerebral hemispheres. In terms of evolution, it is the most recently developed brain structure, dealing with more complex cognitive brain activities.

It is often said the right hemisphere is more creative and emotional while the left deals with logic, but the reality is more complex. Nonetheless, the two sides have some specializations, with the left focusing on speech and language and the right focusing on spatial and body awareness.

Further anatomical divisions of the cerebral hemispheres are the occipital lobe at the back of the brain and the parietal lobe positioned above the occipital lobe. The former lobe is devoted to vision, while the latter controls movement, position, orientation and calculation.

Behind the ears and temples lie the temporal lobes, dealing with sound, speech comprehension and some aspects of memory. To the fore are the frontal and prefrontal lobes, often considered the most highly developed and most “human” of regions, controlling thought, decision making, planning, conceptualizing, attention control and working memory. They also deal with various social emotions such as regret, morality and empathy.

Another classification is the sensory cortex and motor cortex, controlling incoming information and outgoing behavior, respectively.

Below the cerebral hemispheres, but still referred to as part of the forebrain, is the cingulate cortex, which directs behavior and pain. Beneath it lies the corpus callosum, connecting the two sides of the brain. Another significant area of the forebrain is the basal ganglia, responsible for movement, motivation and reward.

Beneath the forebrain lie more primitive brain regions. The limbic system, common to mammals, deals with urges and appetites. Meanwhile, the brain structures of the amygdala, caudate nucleus and putamen are most closely linked with emotions. The limbic brain also houses: the hippocampus – vital for memory formation; the thalamus – a sort of sensory relay station; and the hypothalamus, which is reponsible for regulating bodily functions.

The back of the brain has a highly convoluted and folded swelling called the cerebellum, which stores movement patterns, habits and repeated tasks – actions we perform without much thought.

The most primitive parts, the midbrain and brain stem, control the bodily functions we conduct subconsciously, such as breathing, heart rate, blood pressure, and sleep patterns. These parts of the brain also control signals that pass through the spinal cord between the brain and the rest of the body.

Though we have discovered an enormous amount of information about the brain, crucial mysteries remain. For instance, how does the brain produces our conscious experiences?

The majority of the brain’s activity is subconscious. But our conscious thoughts, sensations and perceptions, which define us as humans, have yet to be explained by brain activity.

About the Author – Terry A. Rondberg, DC.

Dr. Terry Rondberg received his Doctor of Chiropractic (DC) at Logan College, and has gone on to found the World Chiropractic Alliance, The Chiropractic Journal, and author several books on chiropractic and wellness.

The Amazing Human Brain, Part One – Dr. Terry A. Rondberg

Part One of a Two-Part Series.

The brain, it is said, is the most complex organ in the human body. It produces our thoughts, actions, memories, feelings and experiences. This jelly-like mass of tissue, weighing about 1.4 kilograms, contains one hundred billion nerve cells, or neurons.

The complexity of the connectivity among these cells is mind-boggling. Each neuron can make contact with tens of thousands of other neurons, via tiny structures called synapses. In fact, our brains form a million new connections for each and every second of our lives. The pattern and strength of the connections is continuously changing and no two brains are identical.

In these changing connections, memories are stored, habits are learned and personalities are shaped, from reinforcement of certain brain activity patterns and losing others.

While most people know about “gray matter,” the brain also contains white matter. The gray matter is the cell bodies of the neurons, while the white matter is the branching network of thread-like tendrils, called dendrites and axons. They spread out from the cell bodies to connect to other neurons.

Another cell is the glial cells. These outnumber neurons ten times over. Once thought to be support cells, they are now known to amplify neural signals and to be as important as neurons in mental calculations. There are many different types of neurons, only one of which is unique to humans while the other is unique to great apes, the so-called spindle cells.

Brain structure is shaped in part by genes, but mostly by our experiences. In fact, via a process called neurogenesis, new brain cells are being created throughout our lives. The brain experiences bursts of growth and also periods of consolidation, when excess connections are pared. The most notable bursts are in the first two or three years of life, during puberty, and also a final burst during young adulthood.

Brain maturity also depends on genes and lifestyle. Exercising the brain and proper nutrition are just as important as it is for the rest of the body.

Our neurons communicate in various ways. Signals pass among them by the release and capture of neurotransmitter and neuromodulator chemicals, such as glutamate, dopamine, acetylcholine, noradrenalin, serotonin and endorphins.

Some neurochemicals work in the synapse, passing specific messages from release sites to collection sites, called receptors. Others also spread their influence more widely, like a radio signal, making whole brain regions more or less sensitive.

Deficiencies in certain neurochemicals are linked to disease. For example, a lack of dopamine in the basal ganglia (the part of the brain that controls movement) leads to Parkinson’s disease. It can also increase susceptibility to addiction because dopamine affects our sensations of reward and pleasure.

Similarly, a deficiency in serotonin, used by regions controlling the emotion, can be linked to depression or mood disorders, and the loss of acetylcholine in the cerebral cortex is characteristic of Alzheimer’s disease.

Within individual neurons, signals are formed by electrochemical pulses. This electrical activity can be detected by an electroencephalogram (EEG), placed outside the scalp . These signals have wave-like patterns, which scientists classify from alpha (common while we are relaxing or sleeping), to gamma (active thought). When this activity goes awry, it is called a seizure. Some researchers think that synchronizing the activity in different brain regions is important for perception.

There are other, indirect ways of imaging brain activity. Functional magnetic resonance imaging or positron emission tomography monitor blood flow. MRI scans, computed tomography scans and diffusion tensor images (DTI) use the magnetic signatures of different tissues, X-ray absorption, or the movement of water molecules in those tissues, to image the brain.

These and other scanning techniques have helped determine which parts of the brain are associated with which functions. For example, different parts of the brain govern activity related to sensations, movement, libido, choices, regrets and motivations. However, some experts argue that we put too much trust in these results, which also raise privacy issues.

Before scanning techniques, researchers relied on patients with brain damage caused by strokes, head injuries or illnesses, to determine which brain areas perform certain functions. This approach exposed the regions connected to emotions, dreams, memory, language, perception and to more enigmatic events, such as religious or “paranormal” experiences.

One famous example was the case of Phineas Gage, a 19th century railroad worker who lost part of the front of his brain when a 1-metre-long iron pole blasted through his head during an explosion. He recovered physically, but experienced permanent personality change, showing for the first time that specific brain regions are linked to different processes.

About the Author – Terry A. Rondberg, DC

Dr. Terry Rondberg is has been a champion of the chiropractic profession for decades. After receiving his Doctor of Chiropractic (DC), Dr. Rondberg founded The Chiropractic Journal, the industry’s first professionally edited source for chiropractic news and features.