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Natural Awakenings Washington DC Metro

Is Your Brain Stuck?

Jul 29, 2014 03:44AM

A stuck brain is not an official diagnosis. However, it is a description many professionals have used to describe patients who have struggled with a wide range of brain dysfunctions. These persons can , in part, be suffering from symptoms such as ADD/ADHD, anxiety, autism, Asperger's syndrome, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and post-traumatic brain injury (TBI), as will be further discussed.

To better understand what is meant by your brain to be "stuck," it is helpful to know the basic workings of how the human brain works. To begin with, the brain is an electrical powerhouse and moves through varying electrical intensities know as frequencies. These frequencies are categorized by the range of their intensity. Each range of frequency coincides with a different mental state which is key to this discussion (see below).



0.1 - 3 Hz

deep sleep, lucid dreaming, increased immune functions, hypnosis


3 - 8 Hz

deep relaxation, meditation, increased memory, focus, creativity, lucid dreaming, hypnagogic state


8 - 12 Hz

light relaxation, "super learning," positive thinking

Low Beta

12 - 15 Hz

relaxed focus, improved attentive abilities

Midrange Beta

15 - 18 Hz

increase mental ability, focus, alertness, IQ

High Beta

above 18 Hz

fully awake, normal state of alertness, stress and anxiety


40 Hz

associated with information-rich task processing and high-level information processing


Humans need to be able to shift brain activity to match what they are doing. At work, it's important to stay focused and attentive and produce mild to moderate beta waves. At home while relaxing, they want to produce less beta and more alpha activity. To get sleep, the brain needs to be able to slow down even more and easily move from alpha to theta and then into delta. It is easy to understand the importance of making the frequency shift to match the task at hand.

A problem occurs when the brain gets stuck in a limited brain frequency pattern. For example, after a functional brain injury (which could be physical or emotional), the brain will try to stabilize itself and will purposely slow down to protect and heal. Unfortunately, the brain can get caught up in this slow zone (theta). If it gets "stuck" in the slower frequencies, it will be difficult to concentrate, focus and thinking clearly. This is commonly seen in post-traumatic brain injury. ADD and autism would both fall under theta dominance as well.

The opposite is true when under a large amount of stress, whether real or perceived, for an extended period of time. An individual could then become "stuck" in high beta with symptoms of anxiety, hyperactivity, anorexia or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Neurofeedback, a therapy that has been developed over the past 60 years, has been clinically shown to help improve brain wave frequency “dis-regulation.” Neurofeedback is a type of biofeedback that measures brain waves to produce a signal that can be used as feedback on brain activity to teach self-regulation.

There are two types of neurofeedback; active and passive. Active neurofeedback uses video or sound, with positive feedback for desired brain activity and negative feedback for brain activity that is undesirable. This approach is guided by a qEEG (electroencephelograph) and a brain map, in order to determine a treatment plan and can be helpful to monitor progress. Each treatment takes between 30 to 45 minutes and can take between 30 and 60 visits to achieve maximum results and requires the patient to be actively involved in the sessions.

The second type of neurofeedback is passive because it requires no active involvement by the patient. This treatment works particularly well with children and the disabled. Ultra Low Electrical Neurofeedback (ULEN) is passive. The patient is simply asked to relax while seated as the neurofeedback is performed over a period of 15 to 25 minutes. For just a few seconds at a time, a tiny and imperceptible electromagnetic signal (1/300th of that emitted by a cellphone) is delivered globally throughout the scalp. This signal is dictated by the individuals own qEEG and causes a slight fluctuation in dysfunctional brainwaves patterns.

ULEN is not diagnostic-based. It works by responding to a dysfunctional brain—one that is stuck in a maladaptive brainwave pattern. ULEN allows the brain to reorganize and better regulate itself. Neuroscientists believe the brain’s own defenses against stressors and traumas can create neural gridlock. ULEN works around these blockages by allowing the brain to “reboot,” restoring optimal functioning. No drugs are required. Many people feel broad improvements after the first two to four sessions. A course of treatment for maximum benefit is usually 20 to 30 visits. Many times, a family member will report a change in the patient well before the patient.

Neurofeedback is a promising therapy for many patients, even those currently utilizing standard drug therapies and counseling. In many cases, a change can be felt in just a few sessions. The future is here now and ready to help those whose brain is “stuck.”

Dr. Craig Sanford, D.C. has been in practice for 26 years and currently practices in McLean and Woodbridge. He utilizes chiropractic, nutrition and Neurofeedback to help restore his patients back to health. His office can be contacted by calling 703-821-1013. 


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