We're pleased to welcome Marvin Berman as a guest writer. His work with depression, anxiety, addictions and learning disabilities is now augmented by his research into near-infrared light stimulation (NIRS) to the brain. As you will read, he is seeking dementia patients for a two-year study into NIRS combined with neurofeedback. In this, the International Year of Light, Dr. Berman's research is both timely and very promising for humankind.
By Marvin H. Berman, Ph.D.
A diagnosis of dementia can be terrifying to patients and their loved ones. Some psychologists are suggesting that we should not even use the word ‘dementia’ when describing test results, saying it is preferable to talk about the ‘memory challenges’ and ‘executive functioning deficits’. The wife of a patient of mine who is struggling with short-term memory loss and expressive aphasia (can’t find the right word), recently told me she feared that if her husband was told that he probably had Alzheimer’s, he might commit suicide. She therefore spent countless hours and huge sums of money trying different methods to improve his condition but wouldn’t tell him what she knew and forbade the doctors from informing him directly of his diagnosis.
But avoidance and denial create tremendous stress on the family, coloring all interactions to the point where everyone puts their energies into ensuring they don’t say something they shouldn’t. Instead of denial, families need to spend time talking about what’s really important, namely the time they spend together, including their feelings about the unknowns they are all facing as the disease progresses. Finding ways to support one another takes time and thought and support from doctors and other experts, as well as the growing dementia-support community.
What patients and families need most is a sense of hope that something can be done to stop the progression of memory loss. Several hundred drug trials worldwide have so far been unsuccessful and interest is now focusing on new alternative approaches. As a neuroscientist, clinician and researcher (I founded the Quietmind Foundation and Quietmind Associates Brain Enhancement and Treatment Center in Plymouth Meeting, PA, 15 years ago), I’ve been working with brainwave biofeedback or neurofeedback (NFB), and near-infrared light stimulation (NIRS) to the brain for the past seven years. I’m very encouraged with the results we’re seeing with these technologies and I believe they hold great promise for those affected by neurodegenerative diseases including dementia and Parkinson’s disease.