neurostimulation

Neurostimulation, also known as neuromodulation, involves the application of low electrical currents to the scalp to stimulate the brain.  Neurostimulation tends to produce more immediate effects than most other neurological and psychological interventions, providing more rapid relief from symptoms.  In fact, most clients report feeling notable improvements after a single session!

Various modalities of neurostimulation have been found to enhance neuroplasticity and increase blood flow to the brain.  As a result, combining neurostimulation with neurofeedback tends to produce more efficient outcomes than neurofeedback alone because it improves the brain’s ability to learn and grow.  More importantly, by increasing the rate at which the brain can change, we increase the rate at which our clients can heal!

Some benefits of neurostimulation include:

  • Increased blood flow and oxygen to the brain
  • Altered neurotransmitter levels (e.g. GABA)
  • Enhanced neuroplasticity
  • More efficient cognitive processing
  • Pain reduction
  • Elevated moods
  • Improved attention and concentration
  • Faster motor and language learning
  • Better sleep

Modalities We Offer

Here at NeuroGrove, we offer a variety of tools to meet your individual needs.  In accordance with your comprehensive assessment, we will determine which modalities will be the best fit at the best time.  Often, a combination of modalities throughout the treatment process tends to have the most powerful, lasting effects.

For example, the use of random noise stimulation can break up old patterns to prepare the brain for change, transcranial direct current stimulation can then decouple hypercoherent regions and calm hyperactive regions, transcranial alternating current stimulation can then boost deficient brainwaves, neurofeedback can entrain the brain to continue producing healthier levels of activity, and our brain-body wellness education program can help you learn how to maintain optimal levels of functioning for the years to come!

For more detailed descriptions of the types of neurostimulation we offer, please see below.

Transcranial direct current stimulation

TDCS delivers one-way, direct currents via positive (anodal) and negative (cathodal) electrodes.  Electrons are streamed from the anode to the cathode, which results in the production of excitatory (i.e., glutamate) and inhibitory (i.e., GABA) effects within the targeted brain regions.  This allows us to calm down overly-activated regions and boost up under-activated regions, in accordance with what each individual’s brain needs.  For example, if a client’s brain shows an excess of high beta activity in the posterior cingulate cortex (as is often seen in clients with anxiety), we might place the cathode over that region to inhibit its level of activation.  On the other hand, if a client’s brain shows hypoactivation in the prefrontal cortex (common in ADHD), we might place the anode over that region to increase activation levels.

Transcranial alternating current stimulation

Similar to tDCS, tACS also uses anode and cathode electrodes.  With tACS, however, the giving and receiving of electrons is continuously switching, which allows us to stimulate the brain with the exact frequency that each brain region needs.  For example, if a client’s brain shows a deficiency of alpha brainwaves in the posterior parietal regions (as we often see in clients with posttraumatic stress), we could utilize tACS to apply the deficient alpha frequencies (e.g., 8-12 Hz) to that part of the brain, producing an immediate calming effect.

Transcranial random noise stimulation

The third form of neurostimulation we utilize at NeuroGrove is tRNS, which provides currents at randomized frequencies and milli Amperes.  This causes sodium and calcium surges in the brain, which promotes neuroplasticity and gently breaks up any stuck patterns in a client’s brain.  This improves the brain’s predisposition to change as we guide it toward healthier ways of functioning through tDCS, tACS, neurofeedback, and other interventions.

A typical session

Coming in for neurostimulation might feel a bit like coming in for a spa day, only instead of a foot bath, you receive a “brain bath”.  You will get comfortable in a padded chair, with a neck pillow, eye pillow, and/or blanket if desired.  You will have two to four electrodes on your head for the stimulation, and all you have to do is just sit back, relax, and let the neurostimulation do its job!  We also offer music, movies, nature scenes, essential oils, and other calming stimuli as desired to enhance your experience.

Will the effects last?

With all of these modalities, the application of a current encourages neural synchronization.  As electrons pass through the brain, the neurons they encounter are more likely to fire and align with one another.  While the prior belief was that these changes were short-lived, growing research suggests that neurostimulation can cause ongoing changes to the brain, especially when paired with neurofeedback.

Is it safe?

A recent metaanalysis showed no serious adverse effects across 33,200 sessions in over 1000 people.  This analysis included stimulation levels up to 4 milli Amperes.  At NeuroGrove, we provide safe levels of stimulation up to 2.5 milli Amperes.  For more information on the equipment we use, see http://www.neurofield.org/

Furthermore, we believe it is important to “look inside” to see what each client’s brain needs so that we can avoid unintentionally moving the brain in a harmful direction.  Our QEEG and LORETA brain analyses allow us to design our neurostimulation protocols specific to what each individual client’s brain needs.

DOI: 10.1016/j.brs.2016.06.004