SOMATIC & NEURO-FEEDBACK TRAINING · Parkinson's Resource Organization


Category: Newsworthy Notes

While the cure is not yet here for Parkinson’s disease, neuroscientists are excited about research that appears to arrest and/or begin to reverse many of the symptoms of this disease. Even more interesting, these experimental procedures do not rely on drugs or biologics.

EXERCISE – We have known for a while that regular exercise is one of the most easily accessed neuroprotective remedies for neuro-degenerative disorders, including Parkinson’s.  Exercise has the added benefit of encouraging productive sleep, improving memory recall, and brightening moods. There is evidence that regular exercise likely retards inflammation, a major contributor to Parkinson’s symptoms. There are some details on how to do this that I will talk about in another newsletter. Basically you should first be cleared medically for more exercise, then start on a program of progressive exercise. Some members of our group can give their own advice on how they proceeded.

EEG NEUROFEEDBACK – Special instruments can detect brainwaves non-invasively using stick-on sensors over the head, and provide information on brainwaves fed back live in real time to aid in training. This specialty started more than 30 years ago. A major effort has taken place to help those with Parkinson’s and related neurodegenerative disorders. The important principle is that frequent and repetitive training trials are required. You are re-training something that is usually outside awareness. There will be frustrations. Unfortunately very few American providers have looked at any new technology.  Neurofeedback is still provided by less than 0.01% of those in the health care field. And of those that do, very few do more than basic biofeedback, according to a recent survey. Those who practice neurofeedback for neuronal regulation [the protocol discussed here] are even fewer. It should not be confused with neurofeedback for relaxation, a completely different experience that most providers are familiar with.  Applied properly, neuroscientists have found that learning to generate movement-related brainwaves in clients with Parkinson’s helps reduce body rigidity and tremor potential. The mechanism is under study, and many believe that what is learned is a way of turning off the elevated resting muscle tone associated with rigidity and ataxia.

SOMATIC BIOFEEDBACK is used to dampen hyperreflexia: There are other movement pathways that are outside the brain itself. In Parkinson’s small movements sometimes become exaggerated, a type of hyperreflexia. This can lead to more balance issues. As with exercise generally, you must continuously practice muscle balance and co-ordination exercises or they could slip away. The problem is that most minor movements are outside our usual awareness. Somatic biofeedback procedures for Parkinson’s aid in correcting this.

EMG BIOFEEDBACK – One form of somatic biofeedback involves direct control of muscles, using paste-on sensors over the muscles to monitor native bioelectrical activity of the muscle fibers just below the surface. This is called surface-electro-myography or ‘S-EMG.’ S-EMG biofeedback requires simultaneous monitoring of one or two complimentary muscle groups while going through a standardized set of movement-then-return exercises. This is a way of training muscle co-ordination and balance. Like neurofeedback, this requires pasting stick-on electrodes over the skin, this time over two sets of the muscles. For motivated clients, this kind of feedback makes them more aware of subtle changes in underlying muscle groups, improving balance and co-ordination.

CARDIO-RESPIRATORY FEEDBACK is used to calm and strengthen the autonomic nervous system, and, in so doing, reduce bouts of rigidity caused by poor recovery of tension-stimulated muscle spindle activity.

SUMMARY – Neurofeedback, EMG and Cardio-Respiratory biofeedback are all active procedures, meaning that nothing happens until you make it happen. There are no negative side effects. Drink plenty of water to guard against dehydration, make sure you replenish your energy reserves afterwards, and always report how well you slept.

CAUTIONS – Whatever you do, do not go to anyone who is not aware of the underlying physiological changes associated with neurodegenerative disorders like Parkinson’s and their treatments. Both neurofeedback and somatic biofeedback devices are available without required professional training. This is complicated by the generality of “feedback” in so many diverse ways. Usually biofeedback is part of a general learning strategy to learn about and deal with external stressors. Biofeedback instruments are not the province of any one profession. Of course, properly trained MDs, medically trained psychologists, some neuropsychologists, physical therapists, occupational therapists, and LCSWs continue to pioneer in this field. Unfortunately, several American insurance companies—including Medicare—continue to designate biofeedback and neurofeedback training as experimental procedures, meaning they do not reimburse for services rendered. In the meantime, reimbursement for neurofeedback and somatic biofeedback protocols have flourished in Europe for over 30 years, and in the Middle East and parts of Asia for more than 15 years. I have been told that Canadians apparently have a mechanism for reimbursement. These health care systems apparently do not have our restrictions. Readers interested in exploring this further may contact my partner Julie Madsen and me for consultation. In a future issue, I want to discuss non-invasive stimulation protocols for Parkinson’s.

Note: Drs. Robert Grove and Julie Madsen are featured in the Wellness Village under Neurofeedback. Please check the Wellness Village often to see these articles and other new additions.

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Updated: August 16, 2017