Reduce Stress by Rebooting Your Brain

March 29, 2017
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Linda Edwards, left, demonstrates the IASIS Microcurrent Neurofeedback equipment with Rumson-Fair Haven teacher and coach Andrew Hudson. Photo by Art Petrosemolo

By Jenna O’Donnell |

RUMSON – A stressed-out lifestyle often has people scrambling for therapy, medication or any aid that might provide that much needed reset button. But a Rumson-based nurse hopes she can offer patients a different solution, using an emerging technology that effectively reboots the brain. It’s a process known as microcurrent neurofeedback.

Linda Edwards, a master’s prepared registered nurse, sought out the technology, IASIS Microcurrent Neurofeedback, hoping to make a difference in people’s lives, she said. Two years ago, she travelled to the UC San Diego Neuroradiology lab to learn about this type of neurofeedback from brain researchers who were conducting a pilot study on the technology. That pilot study is currently in peer review and will soon be published.

“It’s like rebooting a computer,” Edwards said. “The brain is your command center so if you reboot it, it can help you with a lot of things.”

The most notable effects, she said, are improved sleep and an easing of performance anxiety in patients.

Edwards, who runs Resilient Me, a biohacking studio in Asbury Park, also bring the technology to work sites to help her patients, who she says are often people coping with stressful jobs or athletes in highly competitive environments.

Edwards places five tiny electrodes, or leads, on different parts of the head which read brainwaves onto her computer screen. Those leads then use a program that sends back a pulsating signal that, while not discernible by the individual, effects brainwave patterns that may be stuck or frozen. “Some people have the windshield wiper effect and the world just seems clearer,” Edwards said. “For them it was a kind of euphoria. But other people say ‘nope, I didn’t feel anything.’ Everybody’s brain is different.”

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Edwards follows up with patients the day after sessions to find out whether she might need to make adjustments for next time. Most patients, about 85 percent, notice a difference within three sessions, she said.

Neurofeedback is perhaps most effectively used to build resilience in highly pressured people, like professional athletes and business professionals, but it can also help people coping with issues like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In San Diego, Edwards was trained by a veteran Army paratrooper who had suffered a blast injury from a roadside bomb while serving in Iraq. Upon returning home, he spent a decade dealing with anxiety, headaches and insomnia for which he was prescribed a “bag of pills,” he told her. Neurofeedback had turned his life around.

“This was what really broke through and changed his life,” Edwards said. “It was a dramatic effect.” Edwards added that she hopes to find a way to volunteer some of her time with local veterans to find out if this technology can provide them a similar benefit.

Neurofeedback is comparable in cost to therapy, but it’s not something that’s covered by insurance, Edwards notes. It is not a cure or treatment for any illness, but can help with general wellness, sleep and focus.

For athletes, neurofeedback offers another form of training. Edwards recently began working with a team of elite rowers at Penn AC rowing club, making a twice weekly trip to their Philadelphia boathouse to administer neurofeedback. With many of the rowers simultaneously pursuing postgraduate degrees and training to qualify for the US National team, Edwards said the level of stress and anxiety surprised her.

Cara Stawicki, left, a Penn AC rower, has had success with neurofeedback treatment for insomnia. Photo courtesy C. Stawicki

One Penn AC rower, Cara Stawicki of Wall Township, noted that after six sessions with Edwards, she had started to notice a positive impact in her sleep.

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“I suffer from insomnia quite frequently and I think it’s impacting that,” Stawicki said, noting that she’d definitely want to give the sessions more time. “For me, in terms of sleep, that has a direct correlation on how I recover from workouts, so that’s one thing I’m pretty excited about.”

Stawicki noted that many of her teammates reported feeling more focused after sessions, but that the experience had been different for everyone. So far though, she said, the feedback has been positive, with most of the team excited to find a way to be more competitive.

“This is another tool in our toolbox which is going to be nice to have,” Stawicki said. “Performance anxiety is a very real thing that all of us have experienced in some capacity, so for this to mitigate some of that is going to be huge. Everybody’s talented, you can physically do it, but the mental part is sometimes the most awesome.”

For Edwards, the next step is continuing to find ways to help people use neurofeedback in ways that can help them. She has worked with a little over 100 clients so far and will be opening a second practice in Rumson this year.

This article was first published in the March 2-9, 2017 print edition of The Two River Times.

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