In biology and psychology classes we learned about the various functions of the brain: perception, cognition, motor activity, memory, etc. But the vast majority of the brain’s activity is global: organizing itself into a unified experience and functioning of the individual.
When you think of it, this self-organizing activity of the brain is vastly complex. Every moment, every movement, must be organized into a unified whole. Brainwaves seem to be a vital part of this activity, a way the brain has of communicating with and organizing itself.
Considering the complexity of all this, what is amazing is not that things can go wrong, but that it works at all! But a lot can and does happen to produce minor or major problems in this system. In school we learned about gross levels of these problems: neurologists have studied the effects of physical injuries to the brain as a way of understanding the functions of different areas of the brain.
What we see with neurofeedback is that brain dysfunction does not require physical injury in order to develop. Some of the causes that I see include:
1. Genetic predispositions. Characteristics and problems of brain function appear to run in families – talents, tendencies to depression, alcoholism, anxiety, adhd, etc.
2. Pre-natal and birth difficulties. A lot can and does go wrong, and this all affects the functioning of the brain for years to come. Modern birth methods, the high rate of c-sections, the use of drugs, all affect the nervous system of the newborn.
3. Nutrition. The brain requires adequate nourishment in order to develop properly. Many children are not receiving this, including many in the developed countries such as our own.
4. Psychological trauma. We now know that trauma and neglect affects the physical development of the brain as well as its functioning as a system. This is especially true for children, but it applies to all ages.
5. Physical trauma. Head injuries are far more common than people think. The important point is that brain dysfunction does not only result from a physical injury – broken skull, severed nerves, etc. It results when the brain is badly shaken up in a variety of ways. Kids fall on their heads; kids may be hit on the head.
6. Car accidents – I’ll list this separately so people will see it: WHIPLASH IS A BRAIN INJURY.
7. Environmental toxins
8. Drugs – of all sorts, legal and non-legal – the brain doesn’t know the difference, can have lasting effects on brain functioning. In my experience some of the most addictive drugs are prescription medicines.
9. Anesthesia. I have seen several cases of people whose brains seem to have not recovered from anesthesia, even after years.
It seems that the brain, unlike other systems of our body, doesn’t have its own self-restoration abilities. When its functioning is thrown off, it may stay that way permanently until there is some intervention. Traditional societies had many ways to heal the brain – primarily through sound, dancing, chanting, intense experiences of various sorts.
Medication doesn’t really heal the brain’s functioning. It artificially interferes with and replaces specific neurochemical processes. This may work in some limited way but the system rather than being healed, is permanently dependent on the medication and subject to its inevitable side-effects.
A new generation of therapies is evolving to truly heal brain functioning. Neurofeedback is primary among these; cranio-sacral therapy is often crucial to restoration of functioning; acupuncture, forms of movement therapy, use of sound and light are other modalities addressing brain healing.