Neurotherapy special report: the risks, costs and purported benefits

Neurotherapy special report: the risks, costs and purported benefits

NEUROTHERAPY, also called neurofeedback or brainwave training, is emerging as an alternative treatment for adults and children with conditions like anxiety and ADHD.
The practice is based on a belief that the brain is changeable and can be reconditioned or retrained.
Reporter Jaime Shurmer looked at the risks, costs and purported benefits of neurotherapy.

A GROWING interest in neurotherapy to treat some mental illnesses and ADHD has sparked a warning by a doctor’s group.

The Perth Brain Centre (PBC) has clinics in Attadale and Currambine and is one of several facilities in Perth that claim to observe and influence the function of the brain.

As a registered chiropractor trained in various neurotherapy techniques, Daniel Lane opened the PBC in 2007 and describes the centre’s treatments as “cutting edge and evidence-based”.

He typically sees children with ADHD and learning disorders, and adults with anxiety or depression or chronic pain, charging $295 for QEEG brain scans with treatment sessions costing extra.

“We’re flat out,” he said. “We employed another OT (occupational therapist) recently. More people are looking to alternatives for doing counselling or taking medication.”

When the Melville Times asked the Australian Medical Association for its perspective on neurotherapy services, WA president Andrew Miller urged people to see their GP instead.

Dr Miller said there were concerns the scientific term ‘neuroplasticity’ was being used to support assertions that disorders like depression and ADHD could be ‘cured’.

“This is not evidence-based in any scientific sense and we are concerned that they are offering these therapies to vulnerable people who have suffered a stroke or traumatic brain injury,” he said.

Dr Miller said GPs had the full picture of an individual’s health needs.

“Sit down with your GP and if necessary get referred to another credible specialist,” he said.

A disclaimer under Daniel Lane’s profile on the PBC website says he is a general registered chiropractor and says people may seek a second opinion from a registered specialist neurologist or medical practitioner prior to commencing treatment.

Mr Lane said most patients attended the clinic by word of mouth, but GP referrals were becoming more common.

“We are obviously disappointed with the recent comments from Dr Miller, however it is likely that he is simply misinformed or misunderstands the nature of the work we provide,” Mr Lane said.

He believed the science of neuroplasticity was not a field exclusive to one profession.

“Few healthcare professionals these days would be so bold as to offer ‘cures’ for conditions such as ADHD, depression or chronic pain,” he said.

“We take great care not to “over-promise” or to make unsubstantiated claims and the treatments we provide in clinic are based upon, or duplicate research from experts in their fields around the world from places like Harvard Medical School and The Mayo Clinic in the USA.

“They are not institutions associated with ‘fringe’ work.”

The School Psychologists Association conference will host Mr Lane as one of many speakers in September.

“While SPA does not see that there is a specific need for alternative neurotherapy practises, we remain curious and interested in regards to specific developments and current practise in the area of regulation,” SPAWA president Shannon Steven said.

Curtin University researcher Martin Whitely is a well-known critic of over-prescribing ADHD medication for children.

“I accept the criticism by the AMA about it (neurotherapy) being potentially oversold but an over-medicalised approach can be just as dangerous,” Mr Whitely said.

He urged parents to establish the underlying cause of their child’s behaviour, be it sleep deprivation, bullying, undiagnosed eye-sight or hearing problems, bright but bored children in the classroom, or simply being younger than their classmates.

Experience leads to development of own technique

TERRI Bowman trained as a neurotherapist in the UK and Germany before developing her own technique, charging about $195 per session at the Brain Wellness Spa in South Perth.

Ms Bowman developed menstrual psychosis because of IVF treatment, and claims her treatment helped her heal from the depressive, anxious and suicidal thoughts she attributed to heavy medications after a five-week involuntary stay in an Australian hospital.

She likens her Quantum Neuro Recoding technique to learning a new language by listening to recordings while asleep and says treatment generally requires about eight sessions.

“If traditional therapy was working we wouldn’t have the crisis we have today in mental health,” she claimed in response to AMA comments that neurotherapy was “pseudoscience”.

Nathan Cain, of Mullaloo, is one of many clients with positive testimonials after visiting Ms Bowman five years ago when he was depressed and in pain after a mine site injury.

He had already spent $200,000 on personal development services elsewhere over a 12-year period prior to his treatment in South Perth.

Range of disorders benefit from neurotherapy says Inspired Minds member

THE Institute of Functional Neuroscience in Canning Vale will make room for a new service called the Inspired Mind Foundation, which aims to be a one-stop shop for people who want learning and therapies under the one roof.

In its first year, the Foundation will aim to provide funds to help families pay for QEEG brain scans.

Inspired Minds board member and retired pharmacist Elizabeth Chamberlain, of Oakford, hopes to use her post-graduate studies in data collection to get neurotherapy research into mainstream science.

Mark and Elizabeth Chamberlain with 21-year-old son Declan.

She believed seizures, concussion, autism, ADHD, depression and anxiety all benefitted from neurotherapy.

“It will be for any child or adult who can understand neuroplasticity can change their brain,” Mrs Chamberlain said.

She became passionate about neurotherapy after seeing the positive effect it had on her son, when combined with conventional therapies and medications.

Declan started having 15 seizures a day from nine weeks of age, taking five anti-epileptic drugs.

At 21 years of age, he is now on one medication and seizures are rare.

“Doctors have said he can’t sit and learn unless he’s on Ritalin. He’s never had to use Ritalin,” Mrs Chamberlain said.

She believed for 15 years her son’s immune system was overloaded by vaccinations administered less than three hours before his first seizure, until testing revealed he had a double chromosome 4 which explained all of his symptoms.

Mrs Chamberlain was not surprised by resistance to neurotherapy in the western medical model, which she said had not been around as long as India’s Ayruveda, or Chinese medicine.

“You want it to be scientifically valid – that’s where I feel it can go,” she said.

To donate to the Chamberlain’s fundraising walk in the UK in June, visit GoFundMe.com/InspiredMindsFoundation.

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