Trauma, whether it be from a singular event or repeated incidences, can have profound impacts on the brain and body. This is especially true when the brain develops around the trauma, such as in cases of childhood abuse and/or neglect. However, even in adulthood, significantly stressful/traumatic events can change both the function and structure of the brain. In fact, high amounts of a stress hormone called cortisol can actually kill neurons on the brain, particularly the hippocampus (responsible for learning and memory) and prefrontal cortex (responsible for higher-level thinking, planning, emotional regulation, and behavioral inhibition.
In some cases, the individual may develop Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), which involves an array of symptoms such as hypervigilance, sensory sensitivity, difficulty relaxing, sleep concerns, and relational problems. However, excessive stress/trauma can affect our brains even without PTSD symptoms and can manifest in a wide variety of symptoms, challenges, and diagnoses.
Here at NeuroGrove, we work with a wide variety of individuals who have endured traumatic experiences, including military members and veterans, first responders (e.g., fire fighters), rape and domestic violence survivors, and survivors of childhood physical, sexual, and emotional abuse and neglect.
Getting to the roots
For those with PTSD, there’s an over-arousal of the limbic system and sympathetic nervous system. These two systems are largely involved in the body’s fight-flight-freeze response to fearful stimuli. However, with PTSD, this response is triggered even when no present danger exists. Two key structures of the limbic system responsible for this are the amygdala, the region that helps us to process emotions, and the hippocampus, which is involved in memory processing and consolidation.
Brain imaging of those with trauma histories often show increased activity within the amygdala (related to emotions) and a smaller hippocampus (related to learning and memory). While an individual with PTSD may be able to rationally recognize they aren’t in danger, the emotional, fear-based areas of the brain are essentially over-powering the more logical, thinking areas. When the sympathetic nervous system is activated, it initiates physiological responses commonly associated with PTSD, like faster heart rate, sweating, and shallow breathing.
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 for the brain patterns most commonly associated with PTSD and trauma.
Both neurofeedback and neurostimulation can be used to restore healthy brain wave activity, calm down over-active regions, and improve communication across the brain. Biofeedback and mindfulness training can help you to gain more control over your autonomic nervous system, allowing you to modulate anxious physiological responses like breathing, heart rate, body temperature, and muscle tension.
Through movement therapy, we teach you how to provide a healthy release for the fight-flight-freeze response and connect with your body, building self-awareness and self-empowerment. Functional medicine testing and nutritional coaching help address some of the issues that can arise when the body has been under chronic stress, like inflammation, hormonal imbalances, and gut dysfunction. We also provide integrative psychotherapy and utilize trauma-based modalities like EMDR and hypnotherapy.
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 overall brain-body wellness so you can be the best version of you!
Military & First Responders
Millions of veterans and active duty military are living with depression, anxiety, PTSD, and other mental health disorders and yet less than 50% receive the mental health care they need. Veterans are also more likely to experience substance abuse, traumatic brain injuries, and other physical ailments than the general population.
NeuroGrove works closely with the organization Headstrong, which provides “cost-free, bureaucracy-free, stigma-free, confidential, and effective mental health treatment for post-9/11 veterans and their families.” Our partnership allows us to provide neurotherapy at no cost to our Headstrong clients.
We also work with veterans, active duty, and first responders not covered under Headstrong’s services. The chronic stress and traumatic experiences these groups face can greatly affect their brain-body wellness and overall day-to-day functioning. We recognize the unique and individual needs of these communities and do our best to provide timely, effective, and holistic services using empirically supported trauma-based treatments.
Veterans face many hurtles in their healthcare journeys: limited access to services, long wait times, stigmas around receiving mental health treatment. For a community who has done so much for society, it’s imperative that veterans receive empirically-supported, effective mental healthcare.
What the research says
Research suggests that neurotherapy and integrative treatments can address the needs of trauma survivors, including veterans, active duty military, first responders, and survivors of physical, sexual, and/or emotional trauma.
- Bell, A. N. (2018). Tuning the traumatized brain, mind, and heart: Loreta z-score neurofeedback and HRV biofeedback for chronic PTSD [Dissertation Research]. Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global. (2190681731). Retrieved from https://tcsedsystem.idm.oclc.org/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.tcsedsystem.idm.oclc.org/docview/2190681731?accountid=34120
- Bracciano, A,G., Chang, W-P., Kokesh, S. (2012). Cranial electrotherapy stimulation in the treatment of posttraumatic stress disorder: A pilot study of two military veterans. Journal of Neurotherapy.
- Graap, K., Ready, D. J., Freides, D., Daniels, B., & Baltzell, D. (1997). EEG biofeedback treatment for Vietnam veterans suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder. Journal of Neurotherapy, 2(3), 65–66. [Conference Paper]
- Jokić-Begić, N., & Begić, D. (2003). Quantitative electroencephalogram (qEEG) in combat veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Nordic Journal of Psychiatry, 57(5), 351–355. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1080/08039480310002688
- Nelson, D., & Esty, M. (2012). Neurotherapy of traumatic brain injury/posttrumatic stress symptoms in oef/oif veterans. The Journal of Neuropsychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences, 24(2), 237-240.
- Peniston, E. G., & Kulkosky, P. J. (1991). Alpha-theta brainwave neuro-feedback therapy for Vietnam veterans with combat-related post-traumatic stress disorder. Medical Psychotherapy, 4, 47–60.
- Peniston, E. G., Marrinan, D. A., Deming, W. A., & Kulkosky, P. J. (1993). EEG alpha-theta brainwave synchronization in Vietnam theater veterans with combat-related post-traumatic stress disorder and alcohol abuse. Advances in Medical Psychotherapy, 6, 37–50.