Overcoming Cerebral Damage:
A Brief Overview of Advances in Brain Research
- Cerebral damage and the Institute’s methodology
- The measurement technique and communication processes in the brain
- Procedure and support for therapy in cases of cerebral damage
- Case studies
1. Cerebral damage and the Institute’s methodology
Brain damage often causes central motor and sensory disorders which impair physical, intellectual and language functions to varying degrees. As a result, certain zones or even entire regions of the brain may function inadequately, or cease to function all together. The brain is only able to transfer functions of damaged areas to adjacent areas to a limited extent, and dysfunction and disorders can remain despite timely and long-term treatment. Individual motor and sensory functions can be impaired, even to the point of partial or total physical paralysis. Speech can also be disrupted or restricted, and so too can active and passive memory. Those affected encounter severe restrictions in their day-to-day lives, particularly if rehabilitation measures such as physiotherapy, ergotherapy and speech therapy, to name only the commonest forms of treatment, fail to bring about any appreciable improvement.
The physicist and psychologist Günter Haffelder, who is Head of the Institut für Kommunikation und Gehirnforschung in Stuttgart, has refined the EEG measurement technique for measuring brain activity, resulting in the development of EEG spectral analysis. This technique allows, for the first time, the dynamics and interactions of specific brain structures to be recorded and analysed. In the course of research at the institute, measurements using standardised testing and examination procedures have been made on thousands of people of different ages and a variety of occupations, and with a wide range of abilities, talents and difficulties. On the basis of these comparative measurements, Günter Haffelder is able to make and interpret detailed evaluations of characteristic brain structures. The patterns recorded can be used to make very precise diagnoses, and to identify the presence of functional disorders or blocks, abilities or special talents. This also makes it possible to assess the causes and impact of cerebral damage, and to develop treatments to overcome its effects.
2. The measurement technique and communication processes in the brain
Günter Haffelder’s spectroanalytical EEG measurement method employs Fast Fourier Transformation to split the EEG potentials that are customarily measured for medical purposes into their frequency components. These are plotted in the form of spectra.
These graphs not only show differing levels of brain activity, but also the ranges of frequencies at which activity takes place. Beta frequencies indicate alertness and highly concentrated attention to external stimuli, while alpha frequencies indicate relaxed, concentrated, receptive, inwardly-oriented states, and theta frequencies indicate that the person is engaged in relaxed visualisation (creating mental images). With this measurement technique, delta frequencies (measured close to the limbic system) take on a new significance. Delta activity is not only present during sleep, but also during all communicative, interpersonal interaction of a non-verbal nature.
To facilitate interpretation, a long measurement period can be represented in the form of a chronospectrogram. Here, too, the activities of both hemispheres are depicted separately, with left-hemisphere activity signifying serial information processing (one piece of information at a time), and right-hemisphere activity signifying concurrent processing of a whole range of impressions. When both hemispheres work together in a co-ordinated fashion, unimagined feats of learning, thinking and co-operation are possible. The chronospectrogram also shows the characteristic dynamics associated with certain brain structures, as mentioned earlier, and can be employed for a broad range of diagnostic and treatment purposes. The institute bases its work with clients on EEG spectral analyses. Clients come to the institute for a host of different reasons. Analysis of the measurement profile indicates possible ways of proceeding.
3. Procedure and support for therapy in cases of cerebral damage
At the institute the patient is subject to EEG spectral analysis while performing therapeutic exercise. The therapist or carer leads the patient through physical and language exercises which vary according to the type of cerebral damage. Very often, patients who have suffered cerebral damage are no longer able to perform certain movement or speech patterns. The EEG spectral analysis plot shows which brain activities and wave patterns in the brain are still present during certain exercises, and which are absent. These frequencies are then offered to the brain by means of a special CD produced for each individual patient. These CDs are based on classical music recorded using a layer process. New neural pathways are created in the brain by simultaneously listening to the CD and performing the therapeutic exercises.
The music acts upon the patient at different levels. Firstly, the frequencies absent in the brain are contained in the music by a two-frequency method in the form of modulations upon a carrier signal at a high frequency of 18,000 Hz. Secondly, the music has been selected according to a special method and recorded at a special reduced tempo. The music is lateralised and the phase angle selected to conform with brain activity. One of the effects of the music on the CD is to raise acetylcholine levels in the brain. Acetylcholine is a neurotransmitter which predisposes the brain to the learning process.
Outside the institute, the client has to listen to the specially recorded music via headphones, while working with the therapist or carer and practising lost functions. Listening to the music while working on lost movement patterns and performing exercises accelerates its therapeutic impact and make further therapeutic measures possible and successful. If employed regularly every day, it can lead to rapid improvement.
The following points are very important to ensure success:
- It is necessary to work with a therapist who is able to offer the patient the required exercises.
- All treatment must be discussed with the physician in charge
- Care must be taken to follow the instructions for movement and speech pattern exercises correctly and precisely.
- It is important to define goals only in terms of individual steps, and to draw attention to their attainment.
- Another important motivator is the definition of goals which are of practical benefit to the patient. For example, rather than simply moving the arm backwards and forwards, it is more effective to practise moving the arm towards a glass while listening to the music, with the aim of enabling the client to drink unaided.
- All involved should attempt to ensure that what they think and say is as positive as possible. As mentioned earlier, non-verbal information and thought patterns are transmitted in the delta frequencies.
It is also important to mention that in the course of treatment, patients with cerebral damage will typically experience crises that are often clear signs that the patient’s condition is improving. In such cases, carers and therapists should support the patient and motivate him or her to continue treatment by means of positive words and thoughts.
Depending on how work with the CD progresses, it may be beneficial to visit the institute again after a period of six months to a year. New measurements can be taken in order to adapt the CD to improvements in the patient’s condition, and to consider further procedure.
4. Case studies
Following a serious car accident, a young man lay in a coma for an extended period. As a patient in various clinics and therapy centres his treatment progressed to the degree that he was able to manage everyday life. However, his reactions and co-ordination remained impaired, and he was no longer able to pursue his original occupation.
Fig. 3: Chronospectrogram of a measurement period of approximately 7 minutes
Left hemisphere dominance with absence of structure and co-ordination
Left and right hemispheres are shown independently; frequencies in Hz
The time axis is shown at the left-hand side in minutes and seconds
The chronospectrogram showed pronounced left-hemisphere dominance. Certain brain structures are essential to perform the kind of serial tasks associated with all co-ordinated movements and actions. These structures were completely absent. A special program of exercises was compiled for the client, some of which involved special exercise equipment.
He was also given a CD tailored specifically to his requirements. After some time the chronospectrogram showed marked improvement.
Work with this client lasted six months. The young man came to the institute at fairly long intervals to discuss further procedure. He performed the exercises, using the special music CD, with therapists in a therapy centre. Today, he is able to pursue his former occupation without any serious impediment, and lead a normal life.
A further case involves a craftsman who suffered a craniocerebral trauma. After two years of rehabilitation doctors and therapists considered further improvement impossible. He was only able to move the little finger of his left hand, and neither doctors nor his wife knew whether he was able to hear or see. After initial measurements the first CD was produced for him, and with its help his therapists practised mouth movements, vocalisation and specific body movements with him. After five months he was able to greet his therapist with a whispered, “hello”, and after a further year he was able to form complete sentences. After six months he was eating unaided and he was able to smile. He is now able to speak properly with normal vocalisation. He is able to push his wheelchair along with his feet. He particularly enjoys hippotherapy, and is able to sit on horseback unaided. The tireless efforts and commitment of his wife and speech therapist, and their strong belief in his recovery were an important factor in optimising cerebral learning processes. With the help of the CD, these learning processes led to the formation of synaptic junctions to replace those that had been destroyed.
The Institute’s activities and research fields
Working with those who have sustained cerebral damage is only one of the institute’s wide range of activities. The institute is currently involved in the following:
Research related to learning processes
- Lectures to teaching professionals
- Holding day-long learning projects in schools
- Methods for optimising learning processes
- Aids for the treatment of people with cerebral damage
- Co-operation with clinics, therapists and carers improving the effectiveness of rehabilitation programs
- Techniques for the formation of new neural pathways
- Training of therapists
- Analysis and study of special talents and abilities
- Testing the effectiveness of various therapeutical techniques
- Evaluation of medical treatments
- Examination of communication phenomena and different training methods e.g. in the management sector
- Comparative research into learning behaviour in different types of schools
- Research and development of therapeutic methods and equipment
- Research and refinement of measurement techniques