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A form of vitamin B3 named nicotinamide prevents transgenic mice from getting Alzheimer’s pathology. But will it work in humans?

If humans were like transgenic mice, than a miracle cure for Alzheimer’s disease has been found. Nicotinamide (also called niacinamide) works to decrease levels of phosphorylated tau which one of the key neuropathological hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease. Tau is involved in the formation of mircotubules which can be thought of as the train tracks (or key transportation system) along the length of the cell. Without it, both intra- and extracellular communication can’t occur. It also increases the stability of this transportation system via other mechanisms, and works to increase p25, a protein which has been linked to improved learning and memory.

The transgenic mice that were used had 2 of the most important key pathological hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease (Abeta plaques and tangles) and memory loss as well which begins at 4 months in these mice. Thus scientist Kim Green and colleagues fed the mice pharmacological doses of nicotinamide in their drinking water at age 4 month until they were 8 months old. They found that the mice did just as well in many measures in the Morris Water Maze (used to test memory) as normal control mice. Much of the typical neuropathology expected in the mice never appeared.

So does nioctinamide show promise for preventing or reversing Alzheimer’s in humans? No and yes.

Because of disappointing outcomes from previous human trials with other substances in those with Alzheimer’s, current trials are targeting early stages of the disease to prevent further decline. Thus, like the mice who were just at the beginning stages of showing pathology when the experiment began, Green who is starting a phase 2 trial at UC Irvine is looking for patients who are in the early stages of the disease.

While vitamin B3 is easily found in meat, fish, beans, potatoes and cereals, equivalent doses for humans would be far more than what we’d normally get in our diet. Investigators are starting a phase 2 trial in humans at UC Irvine, and will be giving subjects 1,500 mg twice a day. Normally a multivitamin only contains 10mg, and the standard recommended daily dose is 16mg for men and 14mg for women. Doses at pharmacological levels could induce liver toxicity and other side effects, and more information on safety will be available with the completion of phase 2 and 3 clinical trials.

However, there is an observational prospective study conducted by Martha. C. Morris at Rush University that shows in their Chicago population of 3718 subjects that those who consumed more niacin (a precursor to nicotinamide) over a 5.5 yr period had substantially less cognitive decline. This same study showed in a smaller subset that those who consumed more niacin also had a 70% lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

So while a reversal of Alzheimer’s disease is unlikely, nicotinamide or niacin shows great promise of slowing the cognitive decline associated with the disease, and or decreasing the risk of the disease. While it’s too early to take pharmacologic doses of vitamin B3, you might want to keep your eye on your B3 intake, and to stay tuned for more news in the future with regards to this vitamin.

For more information:

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/11/081104180926.htm

http://www.alzforum.org/new/detail.asp?id=1962

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=96747179

References:

Green KN, Steffan JS, Martinez-Coria H, SunX, Schreiber SS, Thompson LM, LaFerla FM. Nicotinamide Restores Cognition in Alzheimer’s Disease Transgenic Mice Via a Mechanism Involving Sirtuin Inhibition and Selective Reduction of Thr231-Phosphotau. Journal of Neuroscience. 2008 Nov 28(45):11500-11510.

Morris MC, Evans DA, Bienias JL, Scherr PA, Tangney CC, Hebert LE, Bennett DA, Wilson RS, Aggarwal N. Dietary niacin and the risk of incident Alzheimer’s disease and of cognitive decline. J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry. 2004 Aug;75(8):1093-9.

A Miracle Drug

I am not one to normally sing praises to any drug. Many drugs have untoward side effects, and at a gut level, I’m uncomfortable with idea of developing new compounds in the laboratory to address our health issues. I like the idea of using ingredients and solutions that are derivative from more natural environments. And I’m a big fan of prevention where possible. That being said, last month I heard about a drug that made me do more than sit up and take note. As you can see, I’ve been inspired to write a blog about it.

The drug is alemtuzumab. It is normally prescribed for leukemia, and it targets CD52 (a receptor on lymphocytes). In a phase II clinical trail for multiple sclerosis (MS), it actually reversed disability normally caused by the disease. In this trial 111 people received the standard treatment (Interferon beta-1a), and 223 received alemtuzumab. Those who received the drug had a 74% reduced risk of relapse, and a 71% reduction in what would otherwise be a progressive path of disability. The most striking finding is that while the disability score of patients who took Interferon beta-1a increased (the higher the score, the more disabled), the disability score of the patients who took alemtuzumab went down! Brain volumes increased for those with the drug, and decreased for those with Interferon beta-1a, and those with alemtuzumab had less brain inflammation.

The quote from Dr. Alasdair Cole, a co-author on the study is “This is unprecedented”. I agree. It’s not only significant for the field of MS, but I can’t think of one drug for any neurodegenerative disease that has shown such a powerful and clear cut effect. Neurodegenerative diseases by definition are diseases where over time, one’s brain slowly degenerates. It’s always accompanied by increases in inflammation, oxidative stress and often times there are deposits such as plaques. Then there are the functional losses. Over my decade of research in Alzheimer’s disease, I’ve never once believed that there would be a drug that could not only slow down the disability, but that would restore abilities. While I’m still skeptical that there maybe one for Alzheimer’s disease, the results of the alemtuzumab trial are loosening my once firmly held convictions.

For more information:
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/10/081022211030.htm

http://content.nejm.org/cgi/content/short/359/17/1786?rss=1&query=current

New Years Resolutions: How to Succeed with Change Without Really Failing

New Years is a comin’ around the corner, and if you are like millions of other American’s, you’ll come up with one or more New Year’s resolutions, and then a few months later, you’ll find yourself consumed with other responsibilities. Sigh. Why is change so hard? Is there anyway to increase our likelihood of success? Yes! But we can’t expect it to be easy.

Deciding to change requires a cost benefit analysis. Many of our vices, whether they be overeating, smoking, gambling, shopping, or watching too much TV, have benefited us in the short term in some way. We may either find some pleasure in our habits, or they may serve to ease our anxiety about our present moment or situation. They may sooth us due to their familiarity, and may feel hopelessly ingrained. We may have received plenty of advice on how to change, and the steps look easy enough, so why haven’t we been able to implement them? Our doctors/therapists/mothers/experts have told us why we need to drop those pesky habits and/or embrace healthy ones. We’ve been told how it will affect our health, and we know that we aren’t doing ourselves any good by continuing with the status quo. So what is holding us back?

According to Hal. Arkowitz and Scott. O. Lilienfeld in the article “Why don’t people change?” in a 2007 issue of Scientific American Mind, there are four major forces that block change. 1.) The status quo feels like home. Its comfortable and familiar. Change is scary and unpredictable. 2.) People are concerned if they fail, they’ll just feel worse. 3.) Faulty beliefs. For example people might consider themselves a failure unless they’ve completely eliminated the problem. Or recommendations to change by family or authoritative figures are taken as an imposition against personal freedom, and thus we rebel. 4.) Our habits may be our best solution for dealing with distress or anxiety.

So with all these mental blocks to changing our habits, its no wonder that many of the tips we are given (ie. portion control, cutting up credit cards, etc), don’t do us much good unless we are ready and committed to change.

In the 1980’s Prochaska and Diclemente developed the Transtheoretical Model of Change, which is also called the Stages of Change model. It is used by therapists and researchers to describe what stage of change we are in. They are: 1.) the precontemplative phase: where we really aren’t interested in changing. 2.) the contemplative phase: a person may recognize at times that the behavior needs to be changed, but they aren’t ready to make the commitment to change. 3.) the preparation phase: a person may have decided to change, perhaps they’ve set a date or made small changes, but they are still not completely committed. 4.) the action phase: the person has made the commitment to change and has achieved abstinence from 1 day to 6 months. 5.) the maintenance phase: a person has changed behavior for 6 months, and is trying to prevent a relapse. Many therapeutic programs assume you are in the action phase and ready to change. But there is now plenty of research showing with a large number of addictive behaviors that if the therapy you receive doesn’t match your stage of change, that your chances of success are substantially lower. And what stage are most of us in? This probably depends on what behavior we are talking about, but its likely that most of us are in the contemplative phase with the more addictive behaviors.

Say there are 2 people who are trying to quit smoking and they’ve been abstinent for 1 or more weeks. But one of them came to the decision quickly because their friend’s father was just diagnosed with lung cancer. The other spent a lot of time weighing the pros and cons of being a non-smoker, gathered information about what it would take, and mentally prepared for any negative consequences of change (like loss of peers for example). Technically speaking, as per Janis & Mann (1977), the first person used a hypervigilant decision making process, was scared into quitting, and was motivated by a high degree of anxiety. The second used a vigilant decision making process, where she approached the decision more calmly and carefully. Research shows that people who’ve used vigilant decision making to reach the action phase are more likely to succeed. And the person who was scared into quitting has a higher chance of falling back into the contemplative phase.

So lets review. In order to successfully quit smoking, gambling, shopping, etc., we need to be in a therapeutic program that matches our stage of change. We are also more likely to succeed if we are well informed about the process, if we have thought carefully about the consequences of change, and if we prepared to address them.

So for those of us who aren’t ready to embrace change or who are good at talking ourselves out of it, there is a form of therapy called motivational interviewing that is worth a try. Motivational Interviewing is based on the concept of “I learn what I believe as I hear myself talk” (Miller, 1995, Miller & Rollnick, 1991). By asking the right questions, a therapist works to help you find your own reasons to change, and helps you think positively about the idea. The therapist needs to never be construed as being pushy or we are more likely to resist. He or she must be compassionate, and most importantly be very patient. It takes awhile to reprogram our thinking, and as we embrace action for change, we may encounter difficulties that bring us back to our original mindset. The therapist needs to help us prepare for what might happen and make sure that we are ready to handle it. And the therapist must help use set challenging and yet reasonable goals throughout the process. Thus motivational interviewing can help us use a vigilant decision making process to decide to change.

Now that we have a better understanding of what’s involved in getting rid of those vices, let’s start with some changes in how we approach our New Years resolutions. For those tough habits, success requires a lot of support. Ideally, we need a cognitive behavioral therapist who will access our readiness to change and determine what stage we are in, and who practices “motivational interviewing” as a part of their treatment. If you don’t have access to a therapist, you can start with the “Readiness the change ruler” by G.L. Zimmerman, C.G. Olsen and M.F. Bostworth in an article entitled “A ‘Stages of Change’ approach to helping patients change behavior”. It helps you determine what stage you are in, and gives you appropriate questions that match each stage of change. Its goal is to give you incentives to keep moving you forward through the process.

Changing those pesky persistent behaviors is no easy ride. It takes a considerable amount of energy to be disciplined, so the better we can relax and nurture ourselves the easier it will be to succeed. So we might consider adding yoga classes or other healthy ways of relaxing to our list of New Years Resolutions. People who succeed in major behavior change often have a great social network of support. So join group therapy, a 12 step program, or set goals with friends and family. And try to stay positive. The mantra “Yes we can” can be changed to “Yes, I can!” Embrace it folks! It could be your ticket to personal change!

References:

Arkowitz, H., Lilienfeld, S.O. Why don’t people change?. Scientific American Mind. June/July 2007: 82-83.

Janis L., Mann L. (1977). Decision making: A psychological analysis of conflict, choice and commitment. New York: Free Press.

Miller, W., (1995) Increasing motivation to change. In R. Heaster & W. Miller (Eds.) Handbook of alcoholism treatment approaches: Effective alternatives (2nd ed., 89-104). Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Miller, W., Rollnick, S., (1991) Motivational interviewing: Preparing people to change addictive behavior. New York: Guilford.

Prochaska, J. DiClemente, C., Norcross J. (1992) In search of how people change: Application to addictive behaviors. American Psychologist; 47: 1102-1114.

Ryder, D., Deciding to Change: Enhancing Client Motivation to Change Behavior. Behavior Change. Vol 16 (3): 165-174.

Zimmerman, G.L., Olsen C.G., and Bostworth, M.F., A ‘Stages of Change’ approach to helping patients change behavior. American Family Physician 61(5):15; March 1 2000

Can we effect personal change?

For those of us who’ve been watching the news, it’s obvious that change has come to Washington. The most visible sign is that we will soon have a self-described mutt (in his case half black and half white) with immediate family from 3 different continents in the White house! How did it happen? It began with the efforts of one very effective community organizer who inspired many of us to find time in our busy schedules to work for something we believed in. It took thousands of volunteers and tons of time and money. But if we want to change something in our own personal lives, does it take that much effort?

According to this month’s Scientific American Mind article “Set in Our ways”, we are constantly yearning for something new, yet we begin to loose our appetite for novelty after age 30. Why? Well the most likely explanation is that we get bogged down by the responsibilities of life. Substantial change in our lives becomes more difficult as we develop social circles (ie work, family) that we are more interdependent with. The upside is that we become more reliable and agreeable with age.

Because new experiences can bring “chaos and uncertainty”, we become creatures of habit and hold onto what is familiar. According to brain researcher Gerhard Roth at the University of Berlin, habits imbue us with “feelings of pleasure”, and “holding to the tried and true gives us a feeling of security, safety and competence while at the same time reducing our fear of the future and failure”.

A study by Kate C. McLean at the University of Toronto Mississauga found that young people were more profoundly affected by novel experiences than older people. This is in line with research from Brent W. Roberts at the University of Illinois who found that our personalities become increasingly stable till about 60, when they begin to become less stable. Interestingly, it is this time in an adult’s life where children leave home.

Some people are more open to changes than others. Psychologist Richard W. Robins of the University of CA at Davis showed in a longitudinal study that the personality trait “openness”, relative to others, is a life-long trait.

So with societal responsibilities and what appears to be an ingrained desire for stability, how can we overcome this monumental force to induce personal change?

First we need to understand that the older we get, the harder it will be to change. Second, our self-efficacy, our belief in our power to achieve a goal matters. If our self-efficacy is too high, we are more vulnerable to “false hope syndrome”, where we may fail due to overblown expectations. We may launch forward without fully appreciating the challenges we face, and thus we may fail to educate ourselves about the best way to achieve our goals. In the case of trying to change a bad habit, we need to realize that we might rebel if are feeling deprived, and that our body may be more willing to accept small and gradual changes. We also need to recognize that our brains have been wired or programmed for a long time to engage in a particular habit, and that it takes time and persistence to change that wiring. Setting more realistic goals maybe the key to success. If our self-efficacy is too low, we may be easily discouraged, and become resigned to a belief that change is out of our control. Thus for effective personal change, perhaps the first thing we should work on is self-efficacy, which can be influenced by our social interactions, having appropriate models for change, our experiences and our perceptions of our physiological responses.

There is much research that looks at factors required to influence personal behaviors, habits and addictions. Stay tune for more details in future blogs. Meanwhile, returning to the question of whether personal change takes a monumental amount of time, people and money as it did to change our leadership: I believe for our most ingrained habits, it does. But I also believe if we begin by working on our self-efficacy, as Obama did with the mantra “Yes we can”, that we are off to the right start!

Another reason to listen to music you enjoy….

In a preliminary study of only 10 people shows that listening to joyful music (as deemed by the subjects), increased blood flow in the arteries of the subjects. In reading the original abstract published by the authors, I learned that listening to anxious music actually increases constriction of arteries by 6% (note slight error in article from Cardio-vascular).

So turn up your happy tunes and read the article!

Does height affect our health?

If you’ve always felt a little vertically challenged, perhaps a bit disadvantaged due to your inability to see the stage in large crowds, or envied your taller counterparts who don’t have to carry a footstool in order to reach your higher cabinets, you have one more reason to feel slighted. People with shorter armspans and leg lengths have a higher risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

According to the article “Fact or Fiction?: It’s No Tall Tale, Height Matters”, in Scientific American online, people who are taller tend to be more successful and earn higher saleries. Height is associated with intelligence and educational attainment, and now, according to a paper titled “Knee height and arm span: A reflection of early life environment and risk of dementia” published in Neurology, people with shorter limbs are also at greater risk for dementia and Alzheimer’s disease and other chronic diseases as well.

OK. Full disclosure. The author of the study in Neurology was me. I learned from an anthropologist I met at a conference that limb length is primarily determined in the first few years of life. Given that the brain is also developing at that time (especially the regions involved in Alzheimer’s disease), we decided to use limb length as marker for early life nutrition to examine risk of dementia. Limb length had already been associated with hypertension and other chronic diseases, like cardiovascular disease and diabetes, and had been shown to be associated with dementia in a Korean population. Ours was the first to show the effect in a Western population.

So now, dear reader, you are probably thinking, “isn’t height genetic?” and either “but I am/my friend is/my brother is… vertically challenged, and we weren’t starving”. “Yes” I say to both questions. Height is 80% genetic and 20% environmental in Western developed countries, but the proportion of variation due to genetic factors is lower in developing countries where there are more people who can’t afford a well balanced diet. The population we were looking at was born between 1888-1924. Given that so little was known about nutrition back then, its likely that that proportion of variation due to environmental factors (mostly nutritional) was much higher than 20%. Much research has been done on the causes of stunting, and consensus by those in the field is that stunting is not determined by the total number of calories, but the quality of nutrition (the variation of nutrients and amount of protein) in the diet. Furthermore, there is still much to learn about the effects of minerals, nutrients and phytochemicals on our health. So while there are recommendations for new mothers on how to adequately feed their newborns, recommendation are continuing to evolve with more research.

I was advised that this research was not worth pursuing as “there is nothing you can do about height”. But is there something we can do about the height of future generations? “Yes we can!”. Readers can help educate young parents, contact your legislators to help fund programs that help feed young children, or donate to organizations that do. And is there something that we can do to lower our risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s? “Yes we can!”. For those who are vertically challenged, or have a genetic susceptibility to any disease, it’s important to keep in mind what you can change. You can make sure that you eat a balanced diet, eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, get enough fatty fish (or alternative sources of omega-3’s). You can keep abreast of current research on nutrition, exercise and health. You can consult a nutritionist to make sure that your diet contains all the essential nutrients you need to stay healthy. We need to exercise, keep their mind active, and maintain social connections.

And if you are not completely soothed by what knowing what you can do to lower your risk, keep this in mind: Being vertically challenged does not prevent you from publishing in Neurology, or from Scientific American from picking up your story!

What Gamma Can Do For You

For a long time neuroscientists have shown work from poor unsuspecting birds and cats that there are specific critical periods in development important for a functional visual system or a species-appropriate bird song. In humans there have been a few unfortunate cases of horrific neglect of children (i.e. Genie) that have likely been responsible for profound intellectual deficits, which have been informative to scientists interested in the consequences of depravation during the early years. But scientists have not been able to conduct a formal and yet ethical scientific experiment to measure the relationship between a critical period and its function in humans until now, thanks to the ability to measure gamma.

On Oct 21st, the Science Daily featured an article on the exploration of the critical period for language development and other skills in toddlers by measuring their gamma waves on the EEG. The time period between 16 to 36 months is a time of tremendous language growth in humans, where their vocabulary typically expands from about 100 to 1000 words. Dr. April Benasich from Rutgers University in Newark, measured gamma activity in the frontal cortex of toddlers (16, 24 and 36 months) while they sat on a parent’s lap and quietly played. Gamma power (which is determined by the amount of synchronous gamma firing) was associated with language development, cognitive skills, behavior and impulse control. The more advanced a child’s language or cognitive skills, the more gamma power that child showed. And as expected, children who’s parents had a history of language impairments showed lower gamma power.

This new finding is consistent with what is already known about gamma in adults and from work in animals. Gamma heightens during the processing of linguistic information, during the formation of ideas and memories and during other abilities. Furthermore, gamma fires between 2 regions of the brain during associative learning, when a new concept is linked to one already known.

Low gamma coherence within different hemispheres is associated with ADD and learning disabilities. In fact Dr. C. Njiokiktjien from the Amsterdam, Netherlands compared intrahemispheric coherences of various frequencies (including gamma) of children with non-verbal vs. verbal learning disabilities(1). Their results suggested that children with non-verbal learning disabilities had less connectivity in the right hemisphere, which is consistent with the idea that it’s the right hemisphere that manages spatial skills, as well as other non-verbal tasks.

Dr. Hermann from Magdeburg University in Germany presents a model of gamma based on its power under various psychiatric conditions(2). Too much gamma firing is associated with ADHD, positive associations in Schizophrenia (i.e. hallucinations) and epilepsy, and Alzheimer’s disease, negative symptoms of Schizophrenia (i.e. blunt or flat affects) are associated with too little gamma.

So can we benefit from using brainwave entrainment to help us enter gamma states? Or are there risks associated with having more gamma power?

Dr. R. Olmstead, a clinical psychologist from Sunrise, FL, found benefits with gamma training in children with non-verbal learning disabilities, ages 6-16(3). She exposed them to 35 min brainwave entrainment sessions twice a week for 6 weeks. The sessions alternated between excitatory sessions (increasing from 14 (beta) to 40 (gamma) Hz), and inhibitory sessions (decreasing from 40 to 14 Hz). She found that her training enhanced various non-verbal cognitive abilities such as processing speed, freedom from distractibility, arithmetic and coding.

But what about the rest of us?

I think there is good reason to hypothesize that gamma training might also benefit many with other learning disabilities as well. But I am concerned about the fact that ADHD is associated with too much gamma firing. Thus if you have a learning disability and ADHD, or just ADHD alone, or even if you didn’t have any signs of ADHD, would gamma training enhance your distractibility or impulsiveness? 

Unfortunately, there hasn’t been enough research done to answer these questions at this point. However, there is good news. Brainwave entrainment for most of the population is a very gentle stimulus, and it takes time for cognitive benefits to take effect. Thus training with gamma (or any other stimulus) is done slowly. All such training should be conducted mindfully, and if you start to develop any unwanted symptoms, you can simply stop your training, and the effects will likely to go away. The higher the gamma power, the more severe the symptoms, so ignoring milder unwanted side effects could be dangerous.

The study by Olmstead might also be a good example as to how to safely train gamma. She trained students to progress into gamma with the excitatory protocol, and to leave gamma and return to beta in the inhibitory protocol. I would imagine that such training is good for leading our brains in and out of gamma as needed. And thus it might be teaching our brains to self regulate.

Nevertheless, there is an element of adventure in using gamma to potentially enhance your cognitive skills, and if the idea makes you queasy, I’d stand back and wait for more research to be done.

References:
1 Njiokiktjien C, de Rijke W, Jonkman EJ. Children with non-verbal learning disabilities (NLD): coherence values in the resting state may reflect hypofunctional long distance connections in the right hemisphere. Fiziologiia cheloveka. 2001; 27: 17-22.
2 Herrmann CS, Demiralp T. Human EEG gamma oscillations in neuropsychiatric disorders. Clin Neurophysiol. 2005; 116: 2719-33.
3 Olmstead R. Use of Auditory and Visual Stimulation to Improve Cognitive Abilities in Learning-Disabled Children. Journal of Neurotherapy. 2005; 9: 49-61.

New study on Brainwave Entrainment (By Dr. Huang)

I’m pleased to announce the publication of “A Comprehensive Review of the Psychological Effects of Brainwave Entrainment” in Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine this month. This paper is the most comprehensive review of peer reviewed research in the subject, and was written in order to inform those within and the beyond the field of brainwave entrainment (BWE), and to provide sufficient background for future research.

Most of the research known to date has been summarized by David Siever in two unpublished manuscripts that he sells and distributes. They contain much valuable information about the history of BWE, both published and unpublished studies and proposed mechanisms of action. However, despite their length, they do not provide a complete listing of the peer reviewed literature, nor have his manuscripts faced the scientific scrutiny that comes with publishing in a peer reviewed journal. In fact, in our comprehensive search, we found articles that have never before been mentioned by those in the brainwave entrainment development and scientific community. Why? Believe it or not, the problem is in the inconsistency in terminology used to describe BWE. The term, BWE, until today, cannot be found in the scientific literature. Instead it is referred to as audiovisual stimulation, photic stimulation, photic driving, auditory entrainment, etc, etc. In all I did a search using 31 different terms to look for articles on brainwave entrainment, which returned 27,830 articles using Ovid (1 out of the 4 databases I used to do the search). Only a very small handful of these turned out to be articles on BWE. Thus much of the credit needs to go to my bosses at Transparent Corporation, who gave me the time to do this exhaustive, time consuming, and yet important work.

I looked for papers with psychological terms that described outcomes that I’d seen associated with BWE on the web, in conferences and in the published and unpublished literature. After combining the two searches, and screening for those that were indeed articles addressing psychological outcomes of BWE, and those that passed some basic scientific criteria, we ended up with just 20 articles.

The psychological effects that had been examined in relation to BWE included cognitive functioning (we divided it into verbal, non-verbal, memory, attention and overall intelligence), stress (long and short-term), pain, headache/migraines, mood, behavior and pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS). When two or more studies had examined similar outcomes, we placed them into tables for greater comparability. Thus we had five tables divided by cognitive functioning, stress, pain, headaches/migraines and mood. Studies used a variety of different frequency protocols and stimulation methods which are outlined in the tables.

Out of the 20 studies, 17 were actually developed to support or confirm a hypothesis, and of these, all found a positive effect in at least one outcome. And in each outcome mentioned, at least one study had a positive finding. What was remarkable was that for some outcomes, only one of several protocols had a positive effect, while others were improved by a variety of different protocols. The most consistent positive findings were found in attention (4/4 studies), pain (3/3 studies) and headache/migraines (3/3). While positive effects were found in all other outcomes examined except for mood, either fewer studies had been conducted or a smaller percentage of the protocols examined were effective. Mood was examined in the 3 studies where the effects of theta were examined on a variety of outcomes. So we believe that the ability of brainwave entrainment to positively effect mood has not been properly tested in the peer reviewed literature.

Overall, we conclude that brainwave entrainment shows real potential to positively affect psychological outcomes. However, more and bigger studies need to be done, using additional outcomes and outcomes already examined. We hope that we’ve provided the necessary background to inspire future research and collaboration, so that the field of brainwave entrainment can gain recognition and momentum in the scientific literature.

To view a copy of this article, visit:

http://www.transparentcorp.com/research/

Tina L. Huang, Ph.D.
Director of Research
Transparent Corporation

From Tina: My research so far, a critical overview of the BWE field and thoughts on future developments

Happy New Year to the members of the Transparent Community!

Adam asked me to say a few words about what I’ve been doing since I’ve been hired to work with Transparent Corp, and to fill you in on our plans.

I joined Transparent Corporation primarily because I’d been touched by the effects of brain entrainment, and saw in it an enormous potential to transform the world of mental health due to its simplicity of use, ease of administration, cost and safety profile.  I was tremendously impressed by the software, its cost, and Adam and Cynthia’s commitment to make mental health solutions available to all!  Thus I came on board with the intention to work towards mainstreaming brain entrainment provided that my personal findings (and those of yours) could be confirmed with scientific research.

Luckily for me, only 2 weeks after I started, the first Brain Entrainment conference in the US was about to be held at Stanford University.  It was a wonderful starting point for me to gage where the field was and what needed to be done first.  It is important that every research project begin with a review of the literature, and my searches in the formal literature (those found in scientific journals) suggested that the few review articles that were published were very limited in their scope.  My findings were confirmed at the conference, as most researchers in the field appeared to be quite limited in their understanding of the history of brain entrainment or the work of their predecessors.  So with the help of a colleague I met at the conference, Christine Charyton, Ph.D., a visiting Assistant Professor of Psychology at Ohio State, I decided to begin my work at Transparent Corp with a comprehensive and thorough analysis of the literature on the effects of brain entrainment on psychological outcomes.  Our aim is to publish it in a high impact journal that will catch the eye of those in the more traditional mental health fields, such a clinical psychologists, psychiatrists, neurologists and neuroscience and psychology researchers.

One of the reasons why information has been so limited in the field is that the terms used to describe brain entrainment have varied widely within the literature.  In fact, the term “brain entrainment” is not used in the scientific literature.  Instead, terms such as “photic stimulation”, “auditory stimulation”, “frequency following response” have been used, and these search terms return thousands of articles that have nothing to do with brain entrainment!   To make sure we’ve found all the articles, we’ve had to search through all possible databases that can access, and examine all the references of the papers that we’ve found.  So, we’ve been busy.  We’ve found 18 articles so far that met our criteria and we are currently analyzing them to address some basic questions to satisfy the general scientific community.  Although many of the individual studies are preliminary, all of them show positive effects, and we hope that the collective effect of presenting and analyzing them simultaneously will generate some excitement among within the scientific community and beyond.

We envision and hope that this study will be a launching pad for future research for those within the field, and those we hope will be inspired to join us.   Because of the cost of research, with regards to finances, the importance of being associated with a major University or research institute (for resources), and the need for expertise within a wide variety of fields, my future goals are dependent upon opportunities to collaborate with others.  My aim is to continue to work to address questions to determine if brain entrainment is effective for specific outcomes, which I believe is the most effective way for the brain entrainment field to gain recognition of the greater scientific community.  Also, importantly, I am interested in addressing questions with regards to how to improve the effectiveness of the brain entrainment response as determined by psychological tests.  So, I hope to be able to further compare photic vs. auditory stimulation, and the various modes of auditory stimulation (binaural, monaural and isochronic) on specific outcomes. 

I will be presenting our preliminary findings at the Winter Brain conference in January, and hope to present it again at this year’s Brain Entrainment conference at Stanford as well.  We plan to submit the paper to a journal in the Spring.  We will notify you once the paper has been peer reviewed and accepted into a journal, and Adam will then post it to the member’s area.  Please note that publication of an article is highly subject to its reviewers and editors, and can take months to years.  Given it is such a new field to mainstream clinicians and scientists, it may be met with much resistance.  Please keep your fingers crossed!

My other work with Transparent Corp involves the development of ideas for new products, and their testing.  I am also working with Adam to help expand use of our software by making it more intuitive.  And importantly, we want to expand awareness of brain entrainment and our products and plan to develop workshops to address these goals. 

We will keep you updated as things unfold in 2007!

Happy New Year!

Tina L. Huang, Ph.D.