Category Archives: CES Research

Neurotherapy for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Microamperage stimulation on cranial and other acupuncture meridian has been found to be a very effective method for potentiating neurotherapeutic treatment of a variety of disorders.  Stimulation has been found to be particularly useful with disorders that are characterized by deficiencies in brain activity in the occipital regions.  Research in our practice has also shown that stimulation of particular points enhances the amplitude of slow frequency brainwaves.  Our research has also shown that cranial stimulation markedly increases information retention.

There are many patterns associated with many different diagnoses which are well beyond the scope of this chapter.  The point is that some problems have specific neurological patterns and the treatment of these problems is to normalize those brainwave patterns.

Like many conditions, there are several brainwave patterns associated with various manifestations of PTSD.  First, one usually finds a severe deficiency in the ratio of Theta brainwave amplitude to Beta amplitude in the back of the brain.  This pattern, also found in genetically predisposed alcoholics, is associated with poor stress tolerance.  The Theta/Beta ratio in the occipital region of the brain should be between about 1.80 and 2.20.  When that ratio is low, say .70, the person has difficulty finding peace in his head, has poor stress tolerance, predisposed to anxiety and often sleep disturbance.

I believe that this deficiency is an enabler for PTSD so that if a number of people all experience the same trauma; only those with this severe deficiency would be prone to develop frank PTSD.  The others may have some psychological disturbances, bad dreams, etc but they don’t become incapacitated by PTSD.

In addition to this deficiency, the other brainwave pattern that I discovered while treating many of these patients was that they did not show any Alpha response.  The Alpha response is a visualization response.  At locations over the top of the head and in the back of the brain, when the eyes are closed there should be a large increase in the amplitude of the Alpha brainwave band.  Alpha brainwaves are between 8 and 12 Hz and it is a visualization response.  The jump in Alpha amplitude should be above about 30% on top of the head and more that 50% at the back of the head.  PTSD clients have no Alpha response, in fact, it usually goes negative (i.e., less amplitude with eyes closed relative to eyes open).  Now given that Alpha is the visualization brainwave in these locations (e.g., one can increase Alpha amplitude by imagining a sailing ship going over the horizon), lack of such a response makes sense.

The major negative effects of PTSD are the visual flashbacks in which the patient relives the trauma.  Blocking of the visual response should raise the threshold somewhat for these flashbacks.  The problem with such a blocking mechanism is that it also affects other things as well including memory, cognitive functioning and sleep.

There may be some other brainwave anomalies as well but I have found the above two in every case of frank PTSD.  The neurotherapeutic treatment of PTSD, therefore, always includes correcting the deficiency in the Theta/Beta ratio and the blunted Alpha response in the back of the brain.  For cases of traumatic stress that may affect anxiety and sleep quality, I have found that the deficiency in the back of the brain is not as marked as in cases of PTSD.

There are several psychoneurotherapeutic techniques for increasing the Theta/Beta ratio in the back of the brain.  Clients with PTSD are likely to be heavily medicated which severely compromises efforts to normalize the brainwaves in the back of the brain.  First therapeutic goal therefore is to make it possible for the client to start the titration process to wean themselves off the medications.  CES plays a major role in this phase of treatment.  CES increases the amplitude of slow frequency activity in the back of the brain.

A client I will call Jim diagnosed with PTSD was in and out of hospital for years when he finally arrived at my office.  A former policeman who had been traumatized on the job, he was required to be in treatment by the courts after he had used an unloaded gun to threaten a noisy youth at a rally. A day patient at the hospital, Jim came to his first visit with his wife.  The whites of his eyes were blood red, he was sweating profusely and he looked as though he was about to explode.  Jim said that he was experiencing multiple flashbacks every day and that he was very worried that he might lose control and become violent or self destructive.  Jim was heavily medicated but he claimed that the medications “didn’t do a damn thing” although Vivian said that without the drugs he was worse.  She further added that Jim had been through many programs and treatments for the PTSD but none seemed to help and that he was “getting much worse lately”.

The initial brainwave assessment indicated a marked deficiency in the back of the brain, the trauma signature and the pattern for emotional volatility.  The Theta/Beta ratio at the back of the brain was .57 (normative is 1.80 – 2.20), the Alpha response was negative (Alpha amplitude was 14.4% less under eyes closed condition whereas it should be above 50% in that area of the brain) and the Theta amplitude in the right frontal lobe was 33.5% greater than the amplitude in the left lobe.

Jim was under treatment for about a year and received more than fifty sessions.  After 22 sessions, Jim was able to tolerate the CES electrodes on his ears at which time the flashback frequency started to decline markedly.  The Alpha response likewise started to emerge around this time as well and Jim started to make substantial progress in his psychotherapy sessions with his primary therapist.

As the case of Jim illustrates, CES stimulation can be of significant benefit in the treatment of conditions in which there is a deficiency in slow frequency brainwave amplitude in the back of the brain.  This increase in slow frequency amplitude can be obtained with the CES electrodes either on the earlobes or on acupuncture point P6.  The beneficial effects of CES for sleep disturbances and anxiety is most likely the result of the increased Theta amplitude.  In addition there is also a form of depression that is associated with the Theta amplitude deficiency in the occipital brain region that is characterized by more of a burn-out feeling rather than frank sadness.  I have found that the CES is particularly effective for this form of depression.

Microamperage Electrical Stimulation as an Adjunct in Neurotherapy

Paul G. Swingle, Ph.D., R. Psych. [Private Practice]

Cranial Electrotherapy: Possible Mechanisms of Action

When a new medical treatment comes on line, there is pressure to explain how it works. While CES has been in medical use for more than 60 years (it came into being as “electrosleep” in Europe in 1953), there has been no definitive, settled explanation of its mechanism of action. Some of the theories that are more or less active at present are as follows:

The Nervous System.

The major present concept is that the body functions via a more or less hard wired nervous system. In this theoretical system, the body is neuronally wired to receive incoming stimuli via its afferent neurons, send them to the central nervous system, which then sends out response stimuli via its efferent neurons. One touches a finger accidentally to a hot surface and the finger is immediately jerked away from the hot stove, for example.

Since the neurons don’t ordinarily physically touch, the neural wiring functions via synaptic endings on the neurons in which the pre synaptic membrane discharges neurochemicals from stored vesicles into the synapse between the neurons and these stimulate receptors on the post synaptic membrane (the receiving membrane of the neuron next in line to fire) and that neuron fires the next neuron or the sensitive membrane on a muscle receptor, and so forth.

To work as efficiently as it was designed to work, all the neurons must be intact, and all the neurochemicals that are involved in the neurological firing patterns have to be in balance with all the others. If one neurochemical is out of balance, either it over fires or under fires the system for which it is responsible, in which case physical or emotional symptoms of one kind or another arise. For example, if there is not enough dopamine, Parkinson like symptoms develop. If there is not enough serotonin, depression results, etc.


Acupuncture Theories

Energy is known to flow through the collagen connective tissues of the body, and some areas of the body are more sensitive to energy incoming to that system than others. These sensitive areas are known as acupuncture points, and CES may well supply energy to that system, though not necessarily by stimulating those points directly.

CES electrodes are placed at various places on the head so that the stimulating current is allowed to pass through the head. CES current has been shown to spread around the head and scalp while also going through the entire brain, though canalizing alongthe limbic, or “emotion” brain.

As anyone knows who has placed CES electrodes on the mastoid processes behind the ears and turned the current up, one tends to get an involuntary grin when the current spreads to the facial muscles, and similarly, there can be light flashes keeping time with the CES pulse as the energy passes through the ocular apparatus in the eyes. For this reason, it is very likely that any acupuncture points on or about the head would receive sufficient stimulation, wherever they are located, to respond to CES stimulation. For example,in some therapeutic strategies, several of those points on the face are said to be dramatically activated by merely softlytapping on them with the finger tips.

Read more – Cranial Electrotherapy Stimulation, A Monograph By Dr. Ray B. Smith, Ph.D.

Common Applications of CES (Cranial Electrotherapy Stimulation)

Granted these exceptions, CES proves effective in many applications. In the western culture depression and anxiety seem the most common psychological problems of normal people in normal life. In both cases, clinicians distinguish between reactive and obscure pathology.


Reactive pathology grows from an event. People feel anxiety when loved ones might die, and depression when bereaved. We label such normal feelings pathological when they persist past social norms and prevent normal productive behavior. In the Eastern culture flow of an improvement in oneness realization and improvement of chi and mastery could be emphasized. This would of course include an improved ability to learn and do.

In the western world obscure pathology has no apparent relationship to any specific event. It generally has a longer history and takes longer to respond to therapy. CES can alleviate reactive depression or anxiety in about a week with one forty-five minute session per day. More severe depression and/or anxiety requires three to five weeks or more of one or more forty-five minute daily sessions in its amelioration. In the Eastern world effect would likely be seen as an improvement in capacity or a strengthening of chi or vital force can be often immediately experienced with CES but can certainly take four to six weeks or longer of regular CES usage.

Other Therapies with CES

Many individuals receive CES as part of additional treatment programs. They usually enter the treatment program as a result of living in an environment that over stressed them. Their coping mechanisms, both physical and psychological, have failed. Typically, these patients receive therapy, stress reduction and stress management training.

During the course of treatment for outpatients, or following treatment for inpatients, they enter a non-therapeutic environment. This often requires some initial support. CES can has proven useful for preventing a recurrence of pathology.

People can learn more quickly when their being (at different levels) is improved. People can heal and learn much more easily when free from stress. The stress response makes any but the most immediate and reflexive learning difficult. Learning relaxation despite stress has proven particularly difficult. This difficulty also blocks healing. CES can free us from the effects of the stress response. We can learn anything, especially relaxation, better and faster.

Cranial electrotherapy stimulation as a treatment for anxiety in chemically dependent persons.

60 inpatient alcohol and/or polydrug abusers (mean age = 33.9) volunteered for this double-blind study. 30 were given CES, 10 sham CES, and 20 served as normal hospital routine controls. Dependent measures of anxiety were the Profile of Mood States, the IPAT Anxiety Scale, and the State Trait Anxiety Index. The CES and sham pts received 15 daily, 30 minute treatments. Based on Fisher t-tests of the means, CES treated patients showed significantly greater improvement on all anxiety measures than did either control group. There were no differences in response between older and younger patients, or between the primarily drug or alcohol abusers. No placebo effect was found on any of the measures. The authors concluded that CES is rightfully gaining increasing use in American medicine as it gains increasing confirmation as a significant treatment adjunct for stress and cognitive dysfunction in chemical dependency treatment programs, regardless of the chemical of abuse or the age range of the patients treated. No side effects were reported.

Device: Neurotone 101, 100 Hz, 20% duty cycle, <1 mA, electrodes behind each ear

Schmitt, Richard, Capo, Thomas, Boyd, Elvin. Cranial electrotherapy stimulation as a treatment for anxiety in chemically dependent persons. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental

CES as an aid in learning

“Microamperage Electrical Stimulation as an Adjunct in Neurotherapy” by Paul G. Swingle, Ph.D., R. Psych. (Private Practice)

We discovered that CES helps with retention of learned material quite by accident.  In our Practice many clients receive CES units to help with depression, sleep problems, anxiety and addictions.  We started to hear from clients that they felt that they were able to remember things they had read more readily when treating themselves with the CES unit.  They assumption that we made was that the improved retention was a secondary effect of the CES because of the person being more relaxed.  Since the clients who received the CES units would be those who had Theta deficiencies in the back of the brain we thought that anxious clients would be those who benefited from using CES while studying.  However, we also started getting reports from clients that the CES treatments had an invigorating effect and when used mid-afternoon would minimize the typical afternoon slump in attention that many people experience.  I treated myself with the CES after lunch time and did feel that I was more alert and attentive.

We decided to test the effects of CES on learning with a non-clinical population.    The first study (Swingle and Swingle, 200x) looked at vocabulary learning with a young woman who was learning a second language.  The CES was .5 Hz delivered on the earlobe during study sessions.  All sessions were 35 minutes in length and the task was to memorize words from a list.  The client was asked to list all the words she recalled two days after the memorization session.  Without the CES the young woman was able to list 26% of the words whereas with the CES she was able to list 41% which seemed to be a huge benefit to learning the material.


The second study (Swingle and Swingle, 2XXX) looked at the effects of CES on learning vocabulary with a group of ESL (English as a Second Language) students.  Three different conditions were studied:  First a group of students who had a standard three hour classroom study (Group 1); second, a group of students who had 1.5 hours of individual study with CES on the earlobes (Group 2); third, a group of students who had 1.5 hours of individual study with CES presented at location P6 (Group 3).  The stimulation frequency was 100Hz and was continuous during the study period.  The amount learned was measured in two ways.  First, the students were asked to define the word (i.e., give the word meaning) and second, they were asked to use the word in a sentence.  The percentage of correct definitions was 31.5%, 78.3%, and 81.0% for Group 1, Group 2 and Group 3, respectively.  The percentage of words used correctly in a sentence was 35.7%, 75.0%, and 83.3% for groups 1, 2, and 3, respectively.  Thus, the data indicate that CES is a very effective aid to learning and further that the stimulation is at least as effective when applied to the acupuncture point Pericardium 6 as when presented at the more conventional earlobe site.