Human Brain Calibration or HIRREM®

Human Brain Calibration or HIRREM®

10:00am Nov 27, 2015
This spectrograph reflects one minute of recording at the baseline assessment of a female study participant enrolled due to autonomic dysfunction, manifesting with frequent nausea. The most prominent feature in the spectrograph is greater electrical amplitudes in the higher frequencies on the right.
Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center

SciWorks Radio is a production of 88.5 WFDD and SciWorks, the Science Center and Environmental Park of Forsyth County, located in Winston-Salem. Follow Shawn on Twitter @SCIFitz.

You’re listening to the calibration of a highly complex instrument. A human brain. Why would anyone need this kind of adjustment? I spoke with Dr. Charles Tegeler, Professor of Neurology at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, who is studying this process.

When faced with traumas of all sorts, or threats, your brain initiates that fight or flight response. If the response for some reason gets stuck, so that later your body is still being driven with those physiological responses, it can certainly lead to many symptoms and even diseases with long enough exposure. If individuals’ brains are able to sort of get out of those patterns they are stuck in, we’ve tended to see substantial improvement.

The calibration system, known medically as High-resolution, Relational, Resonance-based, Electroencephalic Mirroring, or HIRREM® , uses a proprietary system known commercially as Brainwave Optimization®. It involves pasting a few sensors to your scalp, like an EEG.

It’s a brain feedback system that identifies dominant brain frequencies, the sensors convert into audible tones and then the individual hears those in earbuds, in real time. As your brain constantly changes in frequencies and amplitudes, that dominant frequency changes, so you hear a series of tones in your ear. In essence, that allows the individual a chance to listen to the song that his brain is playing. It really is a unique process for you and your brain because every brain is different. On its own, with the person just sitting there listening to tones, we see the brain begin to move towards improved balance and reduced hyper-arousal. Somehow that allows the brain a chance to auto-calibrate, to self-optimize, to relax.

As far-fetched as this sounds, it has been very successful in clinical trials, allowing the brain to get unstuck; relieving symptoms of insomnia, depression, stress, anxiety, migraines, hot flashes, PTSD, traumatic brain injury, and more. Why it works is a mystery. Regardless, an individual’s brain wave profile, essentially a graphic equalizer display, changes with treatment. For example, anxiety shows as excessive mid to high frequencies on the right side of the brain, which controls the fight or flight stress response. After treatment, both sides of the brain become balanced, as if calibrated. Dr. Tegeler’s research has received funding from the US Department of Defense.

Now we’re also getting preliminary data changes in the network that’s active when your brain is at rest. We’re seeing some interesting changes in a group of folks working in the military that have post traumatic stress.

Basically, if a person has “shut down” due to trauma, the left brain, associated with rest, is “stuck,” and may be able to be unstuck with HIRREM®. Dr. Tegeler and his team are looking not only at how the treatment affects the brain, but how the changes in the brain affect the body.

When the people are feeling better, they’re better based on what we can see and what they tell us, but what’s the difference? So we’re going to try to understand at both a physiological and a molecular or genetic level, looking at blood and saliva biomarkers to try and understand what may be happening, and also to see what genes are turned on and off. I’ve seen it work in ways that I can’t explain other than it worked. We’re an academic medical center and trying to carefully evaluate it. We now have enrolled somewhere over 350 participants in 5 research projects, and continue to see very encouraging results. We’re trying to do the kind of science that would allow my colleagues to make judgments about it, to understand how, and those kind of things. Eventually, our goal is to be able to offer it, probably in the context of an integrated approach, because undoubtedly other aspects like exercise, nutrition, other things, may actually enhance the effect. It’s an exciting time. I look forward to the next few years.

The three videos above show examples of what a HIRREM protocol might sound like. These videos are playback audio recordings from actual HIRREM protocols run at different scalp locations. These examples illustrate the auditory tonal feedback.

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