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Depression, LENS Neurofeedback and The Hyper-Connected Brain
A new study coming out of UCLA looked at brain rhythm activity in 121 adults with depression. The findings showed that their brains consistently demonstrated hyper-connectivity and deceased flexibility. In another study, Chinese scientists looked at post mortem brain tissue and in specific areas of the brain they saw excess hyper-connectivity. We are now seeing this hyper-connectivity is characteristic of depression. And it’s not just these two studies. There is other research coming up with similar findings.
What is the problem with having too many connections? An effective brain must be flexible. It must be able synchronize and then later desynchronize neuronal patterns to effectively regulate mood, solve problems and respond to others. From a superficial point of view, we might correlate increased connectivity and synchronization with enhanced performance, not clinical symptoms. But that isn’t the case: too much of a good thing (connectivity) can prove to be very detrimental. The brain is literally overwhelmed and no longer reliably able to turn off certain connections. This is particularly true when those connections become linked with depression.
It’s as if the brain is trying to hold itself together as even more and more problems pile on. It’s too much for the brain to handle, and in response more and more brain connections become rigid. The upshot of an overwhelmed over-connected brain is the persistence of debilitating symptoms. A clinically depressed person is not just unhappy. He or she is often suffering from a whole range of problems. Anxiety, poor concentration, memory loss, insomnia, and isolating from others are often part of depression syndrome. That there is such a multitude of symptoms suggests that depression isn’t simply a particular part of the brain that’s involved, but multiple areas of the brain along with the networks and connections linking them together.
Hyper-connectivity is an issue with other diseases besides depression. For example, many people on the ASD (autistic spectrum disorder) evidence brain hyper-connectivity with similar rigid patterns and lack of flexibility. We will likely find hyper-connectivity plays a role in other diseases as well.
The good news is that these insights into brain interconnectivity support the use of LENS Neurofeedback in the treatment of depression and other diseases. By untangling the brain where it is stuck, LENS Neurofeedback helps the brain become more pliant. In fact, we see the whole range of symptoms associated with depression all improve with LENS Neurofeedback. We don’t just see enhancement of mood, but also reduced anxiety, improved attention, better memory, increased concentration, more motivation and capacity for enjoyment, less isolation and improved sleep. And we usually begin to see these changes within the first four sessions. Additional sessions (typically about fifteen) are needed so these changes become enduring. The brain wants to stay in this more effective state. After all, it’s a lot more work for the brain to compensate for rigid patterns than it is to maintain healthy, flexible ones.