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]