Comprehensive Brain Assessment
The activity in your brain affects pretty much everything you think, feel, and do. As a result, when its functioning is impaired and imbalanced, you are impaired and imbalanced. Problems with attention, memory, emotional regulation, learning, relationships, pain, sleep, and a myriad of other ailments all have underlying roots in your brain and nervous system. The good news is, we now have a way to observe these imbalances in your brain and help it balance itself out! At NeuroGrove, we utilize three types of neuroimaging to assess where your brain is functioning well and where it could use some improvement: raw electroencephalography (EEG), quantitative EEG (QEEG), and standardized weighted low resolution electromagnetic tomography analysis (swLORETA).
What is QEEG?
Quantitative electroencephalography (QEEG) is a digitally-calculated analysis of recorded EEG that transforms raw EEG line graphs into “brain map” images, thus allowing us to better observe overall brain activity patterns. EEG is known for its ideal temporal resolution (in the millisecond time domain), which surpasses other imaging methods such as fMRI (2-6 seconds) and positron emission tomography (PET; 30-40 seconds). This is important considering that neural changes occur within the millisecond time domain.
Another benefit of qEEG is that it is non-invasive, requiring no intake or injection of radioactive chemicals. As such, it can be used frequently and for longer periods of time with no risk to your health. Furthermore, brain activity can be read from the comfort of a chair with a simple cap on the head as opposed to laying in a large, noisy machine or being put into other uncomfortable positions. Consequently, this method tends to provoke less anxiety and claustrophobia than many other methods. It is also more portable, cost-effective, and tolerant to the effects of movement than many other imaging methods.
A cap with EEG sensors is simply placed on your head to measure the electrical signals being produced by your brain. These sensors only read the activity–they do not send any electrical signals into your brain, so it is completely safe and non-invasive. The brain activity picked up by these sensors can then compared against a database of “healthy brains” and converted into a brain “map” to more easily identify specific activity patterns that are likely giving rise to your symptoms. Once we have determined the specific areas/patterns of concern, we can create an individualized program to help your brain become the best it can be.
What is swLORETA?
swLORETA (standardized weighted low resolution electromagnetic tomography analysis) is a 3D functional imaging technology that measures multiple metrics throughout the human brain. It is a more recent, advanced form of LORETA imaging that utilizes a 19-sensors EEG cap and mathematical algorithms to determine the specific sources of brain activity. swLORETA is able to localize activity much deeper within the brain than traditional qEEG or sLORETA, such as the thalamus, amygdala, and cerebellum, allowing us to be much more targeted in both our assessment and treatment.
Although scalp EEG measurements have historically been known for their poor spatial resolution (22-37 cm3), the use of swLORETA brings this resolution to 7 mm3, comparable to magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). This is more than acceptable for clinical purposes because every brain region we examine and train is larger than this.
As a part of qEEG analysis, these swLORETA metrics are compared to a database of age-matched, “neurotypical brains” (i.e. with no reported neurological or psychological impairment) and mapped out for examination. This provides a useful tool to link reported challenges/symptoms with neurofunctional abnormalities, producing a more accurate assessment and guide for treatment.
A typical session
For the brain assessment, you will wear a cap with 19 built-in EEG sensors and sit in a comfortable chair in front of a computer monitor. We will gently prepare each sensor with conductive gel until we have a good connection with your brain activity. Then, we will ask you to sit fairly still as we record up to 10 minutes of brain activity with your eyes open and 10 minutes with your eyes closed. We can divide these times into smaller increments to make it more tolerable, especially for children. And that’s it! We will take it from there to analyze the data and review the results with you in our next session!
For the neurocognitive/neuropsychological testing, we utilize a computerized assessment software called CNS Vital Signs. This can be completed in the office or from the comfort of your home, whichever you prefer! This comprehensive testing will assess various factors, including simple and complex attention, working memory, cognitive flexibility, processing speed, and psychological/emotional wellness.
After a number of training sessions, we often do another assessment to see how your brain has improved and what remains to be targeted in our treatment!
Is it safe?
Yes! Both qEEG and swLORETA are derived from EEG technology, which has been found to have no risk to health whatsoever and no side effects. The only adverse effects reported from EEG have been due to the additional procedures utilized to induce seizures when that is the purpose of the assessment (e.g., requiring sleep deprivation, flashing lights, etc.), but not the EEG itself. Here at NeuroGrove, we do not utilize any of those procedures and are extra careful to avoid any stimuli that could possibly induce a seizure.
EEG has been utilized as a safe, reliable technology for measuring the electrical and functional activity of the brain since the 1930s (although it has come a long way since then!). First and foremost, it is important to understand that EEG does not involve putting anything into the brain – or even into the body. Unlike many other forms of neuroimaging, EEG does not require the use of any radioactive fluids, anesthesia, or other substances, making it safe to be repeated regularly without any adverse effects to health. It has even been proven safe for young children and infants.