What’s A Brain Map?
Brain mapping, known technically as Quantitative Electroencephalography (Q-EEG), is a process of measuring electrical patterns in the cerebral cortex by placing multiple electrodes at various points on the scalp. The information garnered from a brain map allows a healthcare practitioner to identify brain function anomalies associated with symptoms and guides the clinician to specific area(s) of the brain to remediate the anomalies. Some clinicians have likened a quantitative brain map (Q-EEG) to a direct way of getting the brain to “diagnose itself” or reveal its own condition.
The quantitative brain map procedure involves placement of electrodes on the various sites on the scalp to facilitate measurement of the patient’s brainwave activity (EEG). Gel is inserted in each electrode to ensure good connection. The procedure is non-invasive and pain-free. Nothing is put inside the brain. The electroencephalogram purely records the electrical currents in the brain. EEG recordings are taken across a number of conditions or tests.
These conditions may include a) eyes closed, b) eyes open, c) reading for comprehension and/ or a mathematics test of graded difficulty. Statistical analysis compares subject data with a child to adult normative database. Data is then evaluated for percentage change across states and compared with a normative database for state variance.
How a Brain Map Helps Identify Disorders
It is important to understand that the brain communicates with itself and the rest of the body by way of regulating electrical changes that in turn affect emotional, cognitive and behavioral states. Based on an understanding of what brainwave activity should look like under normal circumstances, a quantitative brain map detects departures from those normative values as indicative of some level of inefficiency in brain functioning. These inefficiencies in brain functioning in turn are associated with symptoms. By interpreting these departures from normative values, the clinician can identify abnormal behavioral symptoms.
The diagnostic use of the Quantitative Brain Map isn’t a recent phenomenon and in fact, has a strong research base that spans over ten years. The American Medical EEG Association (AMEEGA) Ad hoc Committee on the Quantitative EEG (or quantitative brain map) states that “QEEG is of clinical value now and developments suggest it will be of even greater use in the future”. In fact, the use of quantitative brain maps in assisting the diagnosis of ADHD, learning disabilities, epilepsy and other neuro-developmental disorders is well documented.
In a paper published in the Journal of Neuropsychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences (1999), John R. Hughes, M.D., Ph.D. and E. Roy John, Ph.D. found evidence that suggests EEG slowing as a good indicator of the degree of cognitive impairment in a person. In addition, Michael Thompson, M.D. and Linda Thompson, Ph.D., two of the world’s foremost authorities on the treatment of ADD/ADHD and learning disabilities established that specific EEG patterns – particularly a prevalence of slow frequency brainwaves in the frontal cortex – have been associated with ADD. These findings have been corroborated by clinical psychologist Kirtley Thornton, who found distinct EEG patterns associated with learning disabilities. In addition, other research point to an over-activation of the frontal sub-cortical layer in patients with autism spectrum disorder.
Validating Diagnosis with a Brain Map
Relying solely on behavioral measurements or diagnosis as the basis for prescribing medication without also validating the behavioral diagnosis against brainwave patterns to determine if there’s conformity could result, in the worst case scenario, in misdiagnosis and taking medications that are unsuitable or even detrimental to the health and wellbeing of a child.
Take the case of NBA basketball superstar Chris Kaman of the Los Angeles Clippers. Kaman was misdiagnosed with ADD as a toddler (based on behavioral measurements) and subsequently was committed from the tender age of 3 to the drug Ritalin, an amphetamine known to have long term side effects. It wasn’t until the age of 23, when he had a quantitative brain map performed by a psychologist that he discovered he doesn’t have ADD – which is characterized by a brain that is disengaged because of too much slow brainwave activity but rather, his brainwaves were going too fast – which is the exact opposite of what an ADD person manifests.
With the wealth of evidence supporting quantitative brain maps as a reliable diagnostic tool, the question that begs asking is why aren’t more healthcare professionals incorporating a quantitative brain map as an integral part of their diagnostic process? The reality is that most physicians and psychologists simply have not been educated in the clinical applications of Quantitative EEG and are unaware of the existing research and clinical literature available, in spite of the fact that the applications to anxiety, epilepsy and attention deficits date back to the 1970’s.
Brain Map Guided Treatments
Apart from the fact that quantitative brain maps could accurately identify brain anomalies and ascertain where those anomalies reside, based on the research of Q-EEG technologist Jay Gunkelman (Biofeedback, 2006) there is ample evidence supporting the notion that the quantitative brain map can be utilized to guide treatment intervention and that interventions guided by a quantitative brain map markedly increase the efficacy of treatment in contrast to simply relying on behavioral diagnosis.
Q-EEG Guided Treatment Intervention
Quantitative brain map-guided training interventions are known as EEG Biofeedback or more generally, Neurotherapy. Through neurotherapy, anomalous brainwave patterns which manifest themselves as abnormal behavioral symptoms are corrected by normalizing the anomalous brain activity.
Neurotherapy is a non-invasive, drug-free approach to correct brain inefficiency and reduce symptom intensity by showing the brain how it’s performing and guiding the brain to self-regulate in order to perform optimally.
If your child is suspected of having a neuro-developmental disorder, a quantitative brain map may just be the key to changing his or her life.