A concussion can dramatically alter the course of an individual’s life within in an instant. Unfortunately, many concussions actually go undiagnosed and/or inadequately treated. Concussion testing tends to be based on limited scientific data and rarely involves actually looking at the brain. When brain imaging is utilized, many hospitals only utilize structural neuroimaging methods (e.g., MRI) and thus fail to identify functional impairments.
Many individuals don’t realize that a concussion can occur without even hitting the head, such as in the case of a car accident in which a sudden stop can cause the brain to hit the inside of the skull. In some cases, the symptoms resulting from such injuries are also attributed to other culprits or given other diagnoses.
For example, we now know that many war veterans diagnosed with posttraumatic stress disorder also show signs of brain injuries from the shock waves of bombs nearby, accidents that occurred overseas, or even military training exercises. Furthermore, individuals who have sustained multiple or repeated concussions, such as in the case of athletes, can be easily missed as the effects subtly compound over time. Much emphasis is placed on loss of consciousness and amnesia although fewer than ⅓ of all sport-related concussions involve either condition.
Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is a neurodegenerative disease caused by repeated head injuries, which can be asymptomatic for several years. If left unchecked, CTE progresses and can lead to serious problems, including depression, paranoia, memory loss, confusion, and progressive dementia.
Such “invisible” injuries can manifest in a variety of ways depending on the particular regions that were harmed and might underlie a variety of mental health diagnoses and learning disorders. Post-concussive symptoms can include disrupted sleep, lethargy, mood instability, anxiety, attention deficits, short-term memory loss, impulsivity, learning difficulties, headaches, problems with visual and/or auditory processing, and more. These symptoms can last from several weeks to several years following the original injury.
The good news is, we now have some powerful tools to help the brain heal from such injuries—even years after the fact!
Getting to the roots
How a head injury affects functioning depends largely on the location, intensity, and frequency of the injuries. QEEGs show an increase in slower brain waves like delta and theta in damaged brain regions. These waves are reparative in nature and are at frequencies essential to cell growth. However, in the case of some injuries, these slower waves can stick around and negatively impact the overall functioning of the brain.
It is especially common to see EEG slowing in the temporal lobes after concussions, regardless of the site of the impact. This observed slowing is thought to contribute to the memory, emotional processing, and language processing problems that many individuals with brain damage experience.
How we can help
At NeuroGrove, the first step of any treatment package is a comprehensive assessment that includes QEEG brain mapping, LORETA 3D neuroimaging, various testing, and a thorough discussion of symptoms and goals. This allows us to assess where the brain damage is located and how the injury could impact functioning.
Both neurofeedback and neurostimulation can be used to restore healthy brain wave activity, boost overall EEG power, and improve communication across the brain. Our other services like biofeedback, movement therapy, functional medicine, integrative psychotherapy and wellness coaching can further support brain-body wellness and provide education around healthy emotional outlets and how to modulate physiological responses.
Whichever services you choose to engage with, we will work collaboratively with you to address your healing from an integrative lens and focus on improving your health so you can be the best version of you!
What the research says
Over 5 million people in the United States are currently dealing with disabilities related to a traumatic brain injury. Meanwhile, the vast majority of people have at least experienced some kind of head injury, even if it was a minor impact. There is a good deal of research to support using neurotherapy, such as neurofeedback and neurostimulation, along with other feedback modalities to help support neuroplasticity and enhance cortical activity.
This multi-case study involved sixty-seven patients diagnosed with traumatic brain injury (TBI) (Koberda, 2015). Subjects were coping with a combination of headaches, cognitive problems, dizziness and depression. The cognitive problems were assessed using computerized cognitive testing. Participants received at least 10 sessions of Z-score neurofeedback, and QEEG maps were completed at the start of each session. Subsequent analysis showed that 88% of subjects noticed subjective improvement of their symptoms and 80% showed improved QEEG maps (reduction of excess beta, normalization of delta or theta power. For the participants who completed the cognitive assessment, 76% demonstrated score enhancement. These impressive results suggest that neurotherapy can be an effective approach to manage TBI and TBI-related symptoms.
An additional study also researched using neurofeedback for TBI, this time with 27 patients with brain injuries who completed symptom checklists before and after treatment (Laibow, Stubblebine, Sandground, & Bounias, 2002). Researchers observed decreases in previously over-abundant slower (theta) and faster (beta) waves as well as targeted increases in alpha and mid-range beta waves. They concluded, “EEG NeuroBioFeedback can successfully treat patients with brain injury with highly clinically-meaningful clinical results,” (p. 45).
For more research studies on this topic, see our Research page.
Koberda, J.L. (2015). LORETA z-score neurofeedback-effectiveness in rehabilitation of patients suffering from traumatic brain injury. Journal of Neurology and Neurobiology, 1 (4).
Laibow, R. E., Stubblebine, A. N., Sandground, H., & Bounias, M. (2002). EEG neurobiofeedback treatment of patients with brain injury: Part 2: Changes in EEG parameters versus rehabilitation. Journal of Neurotherapy, 5(4), 45-71