Brains Can Change—the Question is: Will We Change How We Assist Our Children?

By Cathryn Berger Kaye, M.A. and Dr. Barry L. Kaye, D.C., D.A.C.A.N.

December 2015 –

Our children are precious. Whether they are born to us or shared through our work as educators, every child matters. Every child deserves the best chance to succeed with all the resources we can pool together. Each and every child.

A crises continues to emerge. The news is continually presenting the challenge. Children have learning difficulties that manifest as inattention and behavioral disruptions. The ensuing scenarios are familiar.

How do we respond to these children and their needs? Are we maximizing what we know about child development and the most current brain research to respond? Are we incorporating what we know is effective regarding diet and exercise? Are the strategies we are using compounding the risk for these children?

The intent of this article is to stimulate discussion about implementing cutting edge alternative options that exist now over the traditional response to children’s needs. The aim is for children to be able to integrate into learning environments with success, so the children feel confident and are competent. These strategies include brainwave entrainment, nutrition, exercise, and professional learning opportunities for educators and families. 

First, consider these recent excerpts from news articles. These attest to a level of urgency that exists, urgency that merits our attention and our response.

  1. November, 2015: New York Times Article by Nicholas Kristof

“Here’s the central issue: Children with emotional or mental disorders have become a gold mine for the drug industry. Psychiatric medicines for children account for billions of dollars in sales annually, and the market has boomed.” [http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/05/opinion/drugs-greed-and-a-dead-boy.html] You may have read this Nicholas Kristof article in the New York Times, November 5, 2016, describing how “Andrew Francesco was a rambunctious, athletic and joyful child, but also a handful. When he was 5 years old, a psychiatrist prescribed Ritalin. As he grew older, he disrupted classes and was given a growing number of potent antipsychotic and other medications.” At fifteen, “the medications caught up with him and he suffered a rare complication from one of them, Seroquel. One Friday he was well enough to go to school; on Sunday he was brain-dead.”

Consider the reality: many families and educators rely on medications as the primary means for addressing children’s learning and behavioral issues.

2.       August 2015: Article on What If Everything You Knew About Disciplining Kids Was Wrong?

“Negative consequences, timeouts, and punishment just make bad behavior worse.” We rely on older models for addressing issues when we actually have new information, particularly about our brains, which can be life-changing. This article highlights the work of psychologist Ross Greene. I suggest reading the entire article however this excerpt is essential: 

“Around the same time, [Greene] learned about new brain research by neuroscientists who were looking at brain functions with powerful MRI machines. They found that the prefrontal cortex of our brains was instrumental in managing what is called executive function—our capacity to control impulses, prioritize tasks, and organize plans. Other research suggested that the prefrontal cortexes of aggressive children actually hadn’t developed, or were developing more slowly, so that they simply did not yet have brains capable of helping them regulate their behavior.

But brains are changeable. Learning and repeated experiences can actually alter the physical structure of the brain, creating new neuronal pathways. . . . The implications of this new wave of science for teachers are profound: Children can actually reshape their brains when they learn and practice skills. What’s more, [Carol] Dweck and other researchers demonstrated when students are told this is so, both their motivation and achievement levels leap forward. ‘It was all sitting there waiting to be woven together,’ Greene says. He began coaching parents to focus on building up their children’s problem-solving skills. It seemed to work.”

Brain research. Neuro-plasticity. Science confirms we can change the brain and knowing this is a game changer with children. 

  1. March 2012: The French Response

Psychology Today posted an article regarding Why French Kids Don’t Have ADHD. The opening excerpt:  

“In the United States, at least 9 percent of school-aged children have been diagnosed with ADHD, and are taking pharmaceutical medications. In France, the percentage of kids diagnosed and medicated for ADHD is less than .5 percent. How has the epidemic of ADHD—firmly established in the U.S.—almost completely passed over children in France?

“Is ADHD a biological-neurological disorder? Surprisingly, the answer to this question depends on whether you live in France or in the U.S. In the United States, child psychiatrists consider ADHD to be a biological disorder with biological causes. The preferred treatment is also biological—psycho stimulant medications such as Ritalin and Adderall.

“French child psychiatrists, on the other hand, view ADHD as a medical condition that has psycho-social and situational causes. Instead of treating children’s focusing and behavioral problems with drugs, French doctors prefer to look for the underlying issue that is causing the child distress—not in the child’s brain but in the child’s social context. They then choose to treat the underlying social context problem with psychotherapy or family counseling. This is a very different way of seeing things from the American tendency to attribute all symptoms to a biological dysfunction such as a chemical imbalance in the child’s brain.”

[https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/suffer-the-children/201203/why-french-kids-dont-have-adhd]

Definitely dietary and social circumstances, especially family, exert enormous influence. The consumption of sugar alone compounds the challenges children face with behaviors as does lack of physical exercise. The conversation about food deserves a high consideration as we look to everyday influence on children.

  1. October 2015: Delaying the start of kindergarten

 We have set practices that may need to change to better match the needs of children. There is much research for example that teen sleep patterns would make starting school at 9:00 am a much better match for their health and well-being, however few schools have adopted this practice.

What if we learned that “Delayed kindergarten enrollment dramatically reduces ADHD in children [as a recent] study shows”? The opening excerpt in this article:

“Delaying kindergarten enrollment for one year shows significant mental health benefits for children, according to a recent study. Researchers found that a one-year delay in enrolling a child in kindergarten dramatically reduces inattention and hyperactivity at age seven.

“Researchers found that children who were held back from kindergarten for as little as one year showed a 73 percent reduction in inattentiveness and hyperactivity compared to children sent the year earlier, according to this new study on kindergarten and mental health.

“Stanford’s Graduate School of Education offered a news release about the new study published in the National Bureau of Economic Research titled, The Gift of Time? School Starting Age and Mental Health.”

One of the co-authors, Professor Thomas Dee said “he hopes his research will lead to new education theories and practices, in addition to stimulating a broader examination on how kindergarten is taught – pointing more toward play rather than structured academics.”

Read more at http://www.inquisitr.com/2512234/delayed-kindergarten-enrollment-reduces-adhd-in-children/#MFGrEcKxgmQ5jmXk.99.

  1. October 2008: A comprehensive review of the psychological effects of brainwave entrainment, and August 2012: Evidence-Based Information on the Clinical Use of Neurofeedback for ADHD

Two studies. Both are dense with information as they are clinical reports. Brief introductions to each are provided.  

The first article, presented in Alternative Therapies:

“Standard treatments for mental or cognitive disorders do not work for everyone or have undesirable side effects. In fact, there are few or no satisfying solutions for many, including the 7% of children with learning disabilities. BWE (brainwave entrainment) has the potential to safely and effectively fill this gap . . . The most commonly used methods of BWE are to stimulate the brain at the desired frequency via auditory tones, flashing lights, or a combination of both. . . Research shows presentation of a consistent rhythmic stimulus (usually either a pulsing light or a tone) within 8 to 10 Hz causes brainwaves in the occipital lobe, parietal lobe, or temporal cortex to exhibit a frequency-following response that either resonates with the presenting stimulus or shows a frequency harmonic or a sub-harmonic of a stimulus. . . . Findings to date suggest that BWE is an effective therapeutic tool. People suffering from cognitive functioning deficits, stress, pain, headaches, migraines, PMS, and behavioral problems benefited from BWE.” http://www.brightmindcenter.com/faqs/

The second study from Neurotherapuetics [http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3441929/]: 

“Through operant conditioning, individuals can be trained to control brain electric activity and a growing body of evidence shows that this can be helpful for the treatment of mental/neurological conditions, such as . . . ADHD . . . and others.”

Here is a concise explanation of how this works.

“Brain EEG signals can be filtered into frequency bands specified in terms of frequency in Hertz (Hz), the number of waves per second. The observation that certain EEG frequency patterns are related to certain brain activities dates back to the discovery of the EEG itself. When the German psychiatrist Hans Berger recorded the first human brain EEG, he also reported that slow-frequency waves were associated with resting states, whereas faster waves would appear in response to brain challenge (e.g., when performing a math test). Low frequencies lower than 4 Hz (Delta waves) are associated with sleep state; 4 to 7 Hz frequencies (Theta) are associated with sleep and decreased vigilance; Alpha waves (8-12 Hz) appears in relaxed/wakeful states, and fast 13 to 30 Hz waves (Beta) are related to concentration and neuronal excitability. SMR is a specific type of low Beta frequency ranging from 12 to 15 Hz observed over the sensorimotor cortex that is correlated with immobility. Considering that some authors found a positive association between ADHD and higher Theta/Beta ratio most NF protocols for ADHD treatment aim at increasing faster Beta frequencies, especially SMR, and decrease Theta waves. In practical terms, this training is simple and only requires an EEG amplifier plus some software or apparatus to generate continuous feedback and conditional reinforcement based on power in the critical EEG bands.”

Bright Mind Center is dedicated to assisting people with compromised health to maximize their abilities through the brain’s ability to change. For children with learning challenges caused by the inability to focus and pay attention, they deserve assistance without harmful side effects. We have the science and the knowledge to assist children and their families now.

Through light and sound technology children benefit from regular sessions geared to their needs. As they wear glasses with gentle flickering lights and headsets with beats of sustained sounds, they can read, do homework, or play games.

What is actually occurring? The Bright Mind unit is programmed using algorithms based on extensive research about brain function. As noted in the article above (see No. 5), scientists understand which brain frequencies relate to different brain activities. Research also informs what frequencies are occurring when the brain is not functioning in an optimum pattern. By introducing a healthier frequency, the person wearing the equipment immediately enters a more optimized condition. With regular use, the brain makes the change. Brains do change. This is the game-changer.

We can improve the condition for learning and success for children with non-invasive resources that are research-based, easy-to-use and cutting edge. Research already confirms the value. Is there more research to be done? Always. Should that stop us from moving forward with what we know now? It’s your choice, of course, and now there is the opportunity.

Why wait? Welcome the possibilities for improved well-being for the children you care about, and for yourself. Welcome to Bright Mind!

For more information contact cathy@brightmindcenter.com and visit www.BrightMindCenter.com. Bright Mind Center adopts a comprehensive approach to health including light-sound technology, diet, exercise, and education resources

BE BRIGHT!

Bright Mind Center © November 2015