How ‘music of the mind’ may help brain cure itself for PTSD, other disorders

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WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (WNCN) – One Army Veteran suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder says a new procedure changed his life. It’s also changing the lives of athletes who have suffered from concussions. All it takes is listening to the music of his brain.

So what is it and how does it work? Wake Forest Baptist Health neurologists are treating those conditions, as well as migraines and ADHD, with a non-invasive procedure that has the potential to help millions.

“I was on four different medications at that time — some to help me sleep, some to help me wake up, some to help me calm down,” said Chris Bryant.

Bryant spent 21 years flying combat missions for the Army. He served tours in Iraq and Afghanistan where, at times, he flew more hours a day on missions than he slept.

The medications were to help him with what he believes is PTSD.

“I initially went and sought help from the local clinic, and what they wanted me to do was sign a disclosure that would give all the information to my commander. And so, at that point in time, I chickened out because I didn’t want to look weak in his eyes,” Bryant said.

Lack of sleep, trouble concentrating, and the medications continued until 2016. That’s when Bryant began to listen to his brain. He took part in a research study at Wake Forest Baptist Health in which doctors mapped his brain waves with audible tones.

Those tones were echoed back to Bryant in real time.

“We believe that allowing the brain to listen to itself echoing its own pattern back to us in real time provides an opportunity for the brain to self-adjust, to self-optimize, auto-calibrate to relax,” said Dr. Charles Tegeler, Professor Neurology at Wake Forest School of Medicine.

In other words, the brain heals itself. Tegeler first started doing research with High Resolution, Relational, Resonance-based, Electroencephalic Mirroring — also known as HIRREM — in 2013 to help patients in a non-invasive and non-medicinal way. The results are eye-opening.

“What we observe is, with the recipient like Chris doing nothing but listening to tones, that the brain pattern will tend to shift on its own, on its own terms, towards improved balance and reduced hyper-arousal,” Tegeler said.

According to Tegeler, 89 percent of those in the study with PTSD reported a reduction in symptoms. PTSD is not the only condition they are finding success with. Patients suffering from insomnia, anxiety, depression, hot flashes, and pre-hypertension are also benefiting.

They’re even helping athletes suffering from post-concussion symptoms.

“We would love to speak with (the NFL),” Tegeler said.

The research shows 94 percent of athletes in the two-week study saw improvements. 

“Without a doubt, well worth it,” Bryant said.

It’s a message Bryant wants to send to not only his military brothers but also to anyone who is struggling as he did. Just two weeks back in 2016 and Bryant says his PTSD symptoms have not returned.

“It helps get you back to a point in your life where things felt more normal — where life was enjoyable,” he said. “Where it was fun, or you could look forward to tomorrow, and that’s a gift I would wish for anybody and everybody.” 

Brain States Technology developed the technology that is currently being used for these studies. They are developing portable technology that allows patients to do the procedure from home. Tegeler said they are looking to begin at home studies sometime this year.

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