From light and sound to electricity and motion, these non-invasive techniques, featured in The Brain's Way of Healing, provide promising insight into our brain's ability to rebound and heal from disease and injury.

Conscious Walking

What is it?
John Pepper was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in 1992. By 2003, he had reversed his symptoms so that he was able to stop taking medication. How did he do it? Pepper started thinking consciously about every individual movement as he made it — starting with walking. He now walks 75 minutes every other day at a brisk pace and without the classic Parkinson's gait. He moved on to using the same method to improve his speech and fine motor skills.

ONLINE EXTRA: Watch John Pepper teach a class in conscious walking.

Who does it work for?
This method is primarily being explored in Parkinson’s Disease patients.

Why does it work?
For most of us, walking is second nature as the brain’s basal ganglia works unconsciously to knit together complex movements. In Parkinson’s Disease, this part of the brain loses function. But with conscious movement, undamaged parts of the frontal cortex can be taught to take over the same functions. Neuropathic growth is triggered and over time, the brain circuits can heal.

Studies already show that physical activity can improve Parkinson’s Disease — and even reduce the risk of getting it. 

Where can I learn more?
Visit John Pepper's website. He now travels around the world to share his method in medical forums and Parkinson’s awareness groups. The conscious walking technique is described in The Brain’s Way of Healing, pages 52-57.

PoNS (Electrical Stimulation)

What is it?
The PoNS is an electrical stimulation device that sits on the tongue. Patients engage in physical, cognitive or occupational therapy while the PoNS emits an electrical signal that activates the brain, enhances neuroplasticity and creates new neural pathways.

Woman molding a clay potJeri Lake used PoNS to regain skills after she damaged her brain during a cycling accident.

Who does it work for?
People suffering from traumatic brain injuries, strokes, cranial nerve damage and multiple sclerosis. 

Why do scientists think it works?
With a traumatic brain injury, some neurons die. Others are damaged and misfire, giving off noisy signals.

The tongue has an intensely concentrated collection of nerve endings that are a direct gateway to the brain stem located only 4 cm away. The electrical stimulation is thought to re-synchronize noisy circuits and re-awaken dormant ones. The stimulation ehances the effectiveness of therapy, allowing the patient to gain new skills.

Where can I learn more?
Visit Tactile Communication and Neurorehabilitation Lab. The PoNS tongue stimulator is an investigational device, which means that it’s only used for research studies, not medical treatment. Helius Medical Technologies is now conducting clinical trials with plans to market the device. Here in Canada, the PoNS is being evaluated in Canada at the Montreal Neurological Institute in MS patients with promising results.

Listening Training

What is it?
Listening training is a non-invasive, drug-free therapy based on the work of Dr. Alfred Tomatis in France. The premise is that music and voice with different frequencies is used to stimulate dormant brain circuits. Kids listen to sounds on headphones following a prescribed program. As the children learn, they’re asked to participate in exercises that involve singing, humming, speaking and reading which are recorded, modified and then fed back to them.

Dr. Diodge at The Listening Centre in TorontoDr. Diodge at the Listening Centre in Toronto.

Who is it for?
ADHD, autism, sensory integration disorder.

Why do scientists think it works?
When we hear a sound, the ear converts the information in the patterns of sound energy into patterns of electrical energy. In many children with autism, the auditory zoom which allows them to hone in on human speech and screen out threatening sounds doesn’t work. The brain is flooded overwhelmed with noise and turns off the social circuits that allow us to engage with others.

Music is organized sound and a precursor for language. By alternating frequencies, it can train the brain to differentiate human speech from other sounds.

Where can I learn more?
Visit the Listening Centre in Toronto, Canada.

Light Therapy

What is it?
Low intensity lasers and LED lights emit photons – small packets of light — that are absorbed within our cells to power them up and trigger the repair and grow necessary for healing. The treatment can last 15 minutes to an hour and can be repeated many times.

ONLINE EXTRA: Can light therapy help PTSD patients?

Who is it for?
Brain injury, PTSD, concussions and a range of other conditions.

Why do scientist think it works?
Photons enter the brain through the skull and via the bloodstream. The light activates the DNA synthesis in cells, releases serotonin and other brain chemicals and unblocks chronic inflammation.

Where can I learn more?
For more on light therapy, see The Brain’s Way of Healing, the book, and this link to the Frequently Asked Questions Page.

Feldenkrais Method (Functional Integration)

What is it?
Feldenkrais functional integration lessons involve private sessions tailored to each person’s needs. Gentle non-invasive touch is performed usually with the student laying on a table. It’s a hands–on form of tactile, kinesthetic communication. While a massage therapist works with muscle and a chiropactor works with bones, these touch therapists work with the nervous system. Sessions happen with a therapist, but the Feldenkrais Method can be taught in groups.

Who is it for?
Cerebral palsy, stroke, multiple sclerosis, children born missing parts of brain. 

ONLINE EXTRA: Elizabeth Natenshon was given a poor prognosis at birth, until her parents tried the Feldenkrais method.

Why do scientist think it works?
The method is based on the fact that neural pathways to and from the brain are spread throughout the body. Feldenkrais believed that increasing our awareness of movement is key to refining our brain maps for movement. Many people with strokes or cerebal palsy develop spastic limbs that can't move, making it difficult for them to develop mental maps to control fine movement. When a person is relaxed, touch and simple movements makes it easier for the brain to create the mental maps needed to start moving properly. In essense, it’s using the body to talk to the brain through soft touch.

Where can I learn more?
You can search for practitioners online at the Feldenkrais website.

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