A great deal of scientific progress is being made in an effort to get paralyzed people back on their feet. In a recent Wall Street Journal article entitled, “Wiring the Brain to Aid People with Paralysis,” researcher, Miguel Nicolelis at Duke University’s School of Medicine, says, “the body you live in has changed. You need to remap’ how commands from the brain get to the rest of the body.” There are millions of pathways through our bodies and finding another route is the answer.
After traumas which result in physical, emotional and mental limitations, Such efforts such as those associated with neurofeedback provide new opportunities to return mind and body functions back to normal and in some cases better than normal. In short, several theorists and researches are discovery ways to get the brain to interact with the world through our body. Paralysis is a lower baseline, but ultimately just a limitation, that we can overcome with enough applied effort.
Nicolelis used primates and taught them to control a robotic armor play a video game. In the next phase of studies, his team will train monkeys to control a full-body avatar projected on a computer screen using only their thoughts.
“It can take between two and six months
for a monkey to comprehend the abstract
idea of controlling an object merely by
thinking about it. At that moment, the
monkeys stop moving their own bodies
and relax and ‘you see they have got it,’
Dr. Nicolelis says.”
Amazing breakthroughs are possible with such research. The underlying driver is to get paralyzed patients walking and functioning again with brain implants or other less invasive techniques as yet unavailable. There are people, such as Jennifer French, who can now stand up with the aid of electrodes implanted in her legs. This prevents bed sores and muscle spasms, but it is a long way from functioning fully.
If electrodes implanted in parts of the human body can accomplish such amazing feats, imagine what electrodes in the brain can do. It is the nerve center. To take that concept one step further, imagine what physically functional people can do if they exercise a healthy brain to optimize its potential? If we can take a limited individual and accomplish full functionality again, then why not take that and make it better?
This is the goal of neurofeedback (biofeedback eeg) in relatively healthy individuals. Instead of implants in the brain, neurofeedback practitioners are exercising the mind to use different pathways and awaken poorly functioning areas so that deficiencies that were previously treated with medications or went untreated, can now self-regulate.
Once the brain learns what works so that the body is happy, the neurofeedback system gives a thumbs-up in the form of a video game or being able to watch a movie. After twenty or more training sessions, in many cases, the brain begins to self-regulate and eventually the patient becomes more independent. By freeing the mind we free the body and subsequently behavior and attitudes change too. A person can gain a measurable amount of control over his emotional and behavioral life as never before.
The results of training for neurofeedback treatments vary widely and are very individualized. Therefore, before undertaking such treatment, interested parties should thoroughly check to see that their practitioner is well-qualified (more on this topic to follow). In most cases, practitioners should work under a licensed therapist.
Whether we are trying to improve our physical or emotional lives, brain training and technology are powerful tools. The research at Duke University and neurofeedback training by private practitioners are both moving us in the direction of expanding and conquering the limitations our bodies and minds put on us.
If you’re dealing with an issue like this, I would be happy to help. Please reach out by calling my office at 310-314-6933 or sending me a private email.