Trauma and the Brain

screen.2013.09.19_13.31.53The attached talk was presented at the 27th Annual Psychological Trauma Conference in Boston on June 2, 2016.  These results show brain activation patterns that found in individuals experiencing traumatic and emotionally charged stimulation and experiences.  We find that the responses of the frontal lobes demonstrate specific positive and negative emotional responses, and underlie decision-making processes.  The frontal hemispheres are lateralized, in that the left hemisphere and right hemisphere perform different functions, and that both are necessary for healthy, flexible, adaptable responses.  Depending on past experiences, particularly trauma, this balance of reactivity may be affected.  The left hemisphere takes care of sequential, logical processing, and produces positive, or “approach” responses.  The right hemisphere takes care of parallel, recognition-based responses, and produces negative, or “avoid” responses.  Both of these are important, so that the individual is able to respond appropriately to positive or negative stimuli and situations.  Examples are given of both adaptive, flexible responses, as well as fixed, inflexible responses.  Inflexibility is associated with reactive, fixed, and maladaptive responses.  Imaging an biofeedback of brain activity according to this model can be applied to counseling and other clinical activity, to help to empower and enable clients to have healthy responses, that are consistent with goals and produce beneficial mental states and behaviors.2016 Trauma Collura EEG

The following link is to a large collection of published papers describing neurofeedback in various clinical situations, showing effectiveness in treating various disorders, including those associated with trauma.  Collected Publications

 

Neuroeconomics

By looking at the brain as a goal-seeking system, independent of our ideas of values and the meaning of life, we can arrive at a very objective understanding of why people do what they do.  This includes decisions having to do with how we feel, and how we feel about how we feel.  Our work in emotional decision-making moves along these lines, and reveals brain imaging methods to explore these concepts.  The field of formal Neuroeconomics is also growing, for example:

neuroeconomics course

We view the brain as a goal-seeking system that recognizes patterns, and attempts to make decisions to ensure survival, well-being, and positive affect.  When goals are confounded or subverted, then we see suboptimal, even self-destructive thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.  Neurofeedback is an important way to re-orient the brain, but giving it new goals, e.g. “change your electrical patterns in this way.”  Without knowing why, the brain will seek the new goals, the new setpoint, and a new set of attractors in its dynamic repertoire.

 

BrainAvatar Muse – a new tool for psychotherapy and mental health

We have been spending some time lately refining and releasing a new set
of software, designed to use the new Interaxon Muse brain-sensing headband.
This was shown at ISNR, and employs some new modeling of gamma activation
in the frontal lobes, in particular. We have published several articles and given
talks on it this year, as well. A lot of the basic information and downloadable
software is online at:

http://www.brainavatar.com/brainavatar-muse.html

This is a heads-up that we will be deploying this new software, as well as
the Muse headbands, for applications in counseling, psychotherapy,
neuromarketing, and many other new uses, taking it beyond the traditional
scope of neurofeedback or even neuromonitoring. We will shortly put out an
announcement of our partnership with Interaxon, and how clinicians can get
involved, using Muse for office or home use, taking neuroscience into a new
generation of mental health practice.

For example, the following file contains a downloadable pdf just published in
Counseling Today, talking about how we can use frontal activation imaging in
counseling. The goal is to put this in the hands of mental health practitioners,
who can use a simple, low-cost device that can be applied in less than a
minute, and provide valid EEG data with clinical value.

http://www.brainm.com/kb/file/560/545/

Looking forward to sharing the journey,

Tom, Terri, Bill, & the team