Healing Head Injury: Part I
By Gail Sanders Durgin, Ph.D. and Melissa Malone, M.Ed.
During the past 10 years, we have successfully provided neurofeedback training to a number of clients with closed head injuries. Some of these clients were aware of their injuries and some were not. A number of these clients had been diagnosed with ADD/ADHD but had not responded well to medication. When we conducted a Quantitative EEG (qEEG), the presence of a possible head injury was detected. Most of the clients remembered an event when they had a fall or bump that may have lead to the injury. An impact to the head does not have to be very severe to stretch fibers that connect different regions of the brain and thereby affect functioning.
Two of my clients who experienced severe head injuries have agreed to have their stories told. Their names have been changed to protect their privacy, but the information about their conditions and progress is factual. The account of the experiences of one of these clients follows, and the story about the second client will be in the next issue.
Craig Carlson was 29 when he fell off a ladder while helping to clean the gutters of a friend's home. That event suddenly and totally changed his life. Craig had graduated from college and was employed as a youth minister. After the fall, he was rushed to the hospital were he was judged to be in critical condition. He required brain surgery several days after he was admitted to the hospital, and fell into a coma for three weeks. Once he began to regain consciousness and show improvement by following simple commands, he had a second surgery to relieve pressure on his brain.
Eventually Craig recovered physically and, with the help of his supportive family, began trying to rebuild his life in the presence of serious disabling effects of the brain injury. His mother in particular worked hard and tirelessly to get him the help he needed to regain as much as possible of the functioning and personality he had before the accident. At an appointment at Baptist Hospital in 2008, his neurologist suggested to Craig that he consider Neurofeedback training for assistance with his head injury recovery.
Craig's mother managed to persuade a state agency to pay for a trial of neurofeedback training to see if he could make improvements in his level of functioning. His first appointment at Neurofeedback Associates was 12 years after the accident. At the intake interview, Craig and his family reported problems with initiating tasks, poor organizational skills, decreased sense of smell, personality changes, poor processing speed, impulsivity, and lack of motivation. His family related that he frequently seemed to block out what was said to him. He no longer read, and had little interest in the activities he used to enjoy. He was prone to outbursts of anger and often made inappropriate remarks to women. He was known to drive around aimlessly for hours at a time, and tended to lose track of time. In addition, he had lost control of his appetite and frequently ate to excess. Craig also had sleep issues and needed a C-pap machine for apnea. Still, he was sleepy most of the day. On the positive side, he had a part time job at a sports store where he performed various tasks; the owners had committed to helping Craig.
Among the first steps at Neurofeedback Associates was the recording of Craig's electroencephalogram (EEG), which was processed as a quantitative EEG (qEEG) to determine where his brain was functioning within normal limits and where he might benefit from training to modify his brain behavior. After analyzing the results and discussing them with Craig and his family, Craig started neurofeedback training using protocols designed specifically for the characteristics of his brain activation patterns as identified by the qEEG. He attended faithfully twice a week for training, during which sensors were placed at specific sites on the surface of his scalp, and he received positive visual and auditory feedback each time his brain produced the EEG frequencies that would improve his functioning. Another component of the training was the coaching that Craig received to foster his learning of new behaviors. Craig was also introduced to computer-based cognitive rehabilitation materials that enabled us to first evaluate his levels of functioning in a number of areas including attention, memory, visual and auditory perception, and logical reasoning, and then design a series of cognitive training exercises tailored to his abilities and challenges, that also was able to increase and decrease in difficulty according to his performance.
Craig has been very responsible about attending his sessions and often arrives early in order to spend additional time doing the cognitive rehabilitation exercises on the computer. After eight months of training at Neurofeedback Associates, Craig and his family report many positive changes. His sleep has improved with fewer night time awakenings. He is able to converse more appropriately and his mother reported he was able to have a coherent conversation with his new medical doctor. His inappropriate outbursts of anger have decreased significantly. Unable to pay enough attention prior to the beginning of neurofeedback training, Craig is now reading his Bible and magazines and retaining the information. His performance and speed at his part time job have improved and he is taking on more responsibility for his production.
Craig's mother provided the following observations when she and Craig agreed to share their journey.
As parents we have noticed some good things beginning to happen. Since this training began, Craig has had much better eye contact, and his sleep has improved. Now he can focus on conversations and keep to the subject. He says he is able to multi-task some and his organizational skills are also getting better. His thought processes are also beginning to improve. He has started to open up to us about his feelings and showing interest in things that he used to love before his accident.
We would highly recommend that anyone who has had a head injury, please at least let a qualified EEG practitioner do a brain mapping series. You deserve it. It has been the best experience we have been through, because it has begun to put some things back together for him and also for us his parents. I can't say enough for what it has meant to us.
Thanks isn't enough, but I have to give it, that's all I have. I will continue to talk to people in need of this program. It is great. Thanks for ever! Parents of Craig Carlson.
Neurofeedback training can assist in reducing symptoms for a number of attention, learning, behavioral and physical issues. It has also been used to enhance performance of athletes, artists and performers.
Neurofeedback Associates is located at 2309 West Cone Blvd, Suite 210 in Northwestern Plaza Office Park. Please call 336-540-1972 for additional information.
Published in Natural Triad, August 2009