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When the neurons in your brain fire out of sync while processing stimuli, it can have a major negative effect in your coordination and cognitive ability. Fortunately, thanks to an innovative therapy technique, you can condition your brain into a more coherent rhythm. In the second episode of a series with interactive metronome expert Mary Schlesinger, she and the Amens discuss how this effective technique works to change peoples’ brains.
For more information on interactive metronome training, visit https://www.amenclinics.com/services/interactive-metronome-training/
Daniel Amen, MD:
Welcome to the Brain Warrior’s Way podcast. I’m Dr. Daniel. Amen.
Tana Amen, BSN RN:
And I’m Tana Amen. In our podcast, we provide you with the tools you need to become a warrior for the health of your brain and body.
The Brain Warrior’s Way podcast is brought to you by Amen Clinics, where we have been transforming lives for 30 years using tools like brain SPECT imaging to personalize treatment to your brain. For more information, visit amenclinics.com.
The Brain Warrior’s Way podcast is also brought to you by BrainMD, where we produce the highest quality nutraceuticals to support the health of your brain and body. To learn more, go to brainmd.com.
Welcome back. We are back with Mary Schlesinger, who is one of our specialists in our Reston clinic. And she does metronome therapy, which I’m just finding so fascinating to learn more about. I think of metronome, as I said before, as something for voice training. But as someone who has worked with the brain a lot, besides being with you, it’s making me remember when I did deep brain stimulation for Medtronic. And we would replace the…
Daniel Amen, MD: Electrodes.
Tana Amen, BSN RN: … electrodes, I’m trying to explain it in very simple terms, for people with Parkinson’s, and they would stop their tremors. And what she’s describing is nowhere near… It’s not invasive. But it reminded me of how you reset or how you get people to stop certain behaviors and focus better. So it’s really interesting.
Daniel Amen, MD: Well, and if you don’t live near Reston, Mary actually does it virtually. And there are home trainers to better balance the brain. Isn’t that interesting?
Tana Amen, BSN RN: I like that it’s not invasive.
Daniel Amen, MD: And so whatever you learn, post on any of your social media channels and take a picture and send it to us. You can also go to brainwarriorswaypodcast.com and leave a comment, question, or review, and we’ll enter you into a raffle with Tana’s cookbook or my new book, The End of Mental Illness. And the whole idea behind The End of Mental Illness is it begins with the revolution in brain health. And interactive metronome training, it’s part of that revolution in brain health to train the brain to work in a healthier way, as opposed to just thinking about medicating the brain.
So welcome back, Mary, do you have some cases you’ve worked with that you could just talk about? Why did they come to see you? Tell us more about how the training works, how long the sessions are, how many times you do them, and what have you seen?
Tana Amen, BSN RN: And the benefits, I want to hear about the benefits.
Daniel Amen, MD: Because you’ve been excited about this for a long time.
Mary Scheslinger: Yeah, I’m very sold on this technology. Let me explain how it works first, and then I’ll tell you about a couple in their 80s who came for metronome. And if we have time during the hour, I’ll also talk about a student who had tremendous results. So first off, if you were to just walk down the hall and look in and watch me work with somebody, it doesn’t really look like there’s that much going on. They have headphones on and there’s a sensor strapped around one hand, in the palm of the hand, maybe both hands. And they’ll have a computer screen in front of them and they’re tapping. But what’s actually happening, if you were to get more in depth, is that they’re hearing not just a metronome, but a metronome that’s measuring their performance to 2/1000 of a second. And on that screen in front of them, what they’re seeing is feedback that’s telling them if they’re a little bit off the beat and by how much, so it’s not trying to trick them. It’s just giving them very accurate feedback, because it’s 2/1000 of a second.
So a lot of the people I work with have focus and concentration issues. And so when they’re with me, especially in the beginning, we’re only going to do exercises that are one minute or three minutes long because they can’t hold it that long. And so with every single beat, they’re getting that feedback. And I’m standing or sitting next to them, and they’re trying to track with the beat. Well, the millisecond that they start to think of something else, what they did that morning, what they’re going to do later, it tells on them because their timing is off just that fraction. And so I can see how well they’re staying on the beat, and they can see it because everything is scored. So there’s ways that they’re signaled to make some corrections.
So over time, we take these short exercises within the hour, and we lengthened them so that they’re holding that concentration longer and longer and longer. So that’s one aspect of it. But another aspect of it is that with every tap, and they see the screen light, the brain has to take in the information and plan, sequence, and execute that muscle movement. So there’s a whole visual processing thing that’s going on here. And you have to remember, people are doing this and by the time they’re done, it might be 21,000 or 23,000 reps. So you’ve really worked on these different areas that I’m going to mention.
So they are taking this information and making their adjustments, but there’s something else that’s going on. The tempo. We can change all of these elements, but the tempo is set at 54 beats a minute. So it’s basically clank, clank, clank. It’s not that fast. And I believe that they purposely kept the tempo slow like that because if most of us tend, I think, my opinion is to be a little to the impulsive side. And what happens by having the tempo slower is with every single beat, you have to hold back a little bit. So you do that holding back 20 something thousand times, you’ve changed that part of your brain that has to do with impulsivity and the ability to self regulate.
So let me give you an example. If I put a hand sensor on your hands and headphones and I turned the tempo up so it was faster, you would actually probably get a better score than by having it slower, because it requires more out of you to really have to hold back and to try and be on the beat at a slower tempo. So all those ADHD kids or people with PTSD that are finding themselves impulsive, or autism or whatever, that’s helping.
And then on top of that, what’s happening is that there’s an auditory component. So once they get comfortable, maybe after the first session, I start to bring in some background noises. And initially I just tell them, “This is just to make you work a little harder. You have to stay more focused.” But actually what’s happening, and they don’t even know this, is that those background noises sync up with what’s on the screen. So if the left side of the screen lights up to tell them to slow down, they hear a tone in the left headphone. And if the right side lights up to tell them to go faster, they hear that in the right headphone. And if they’re really close, really on the beat, they hear a pleasant sound. Then there’s a neutral sound. And if they’re way off the beat, they hear, it’s like a bonk kind of sound. So the visual and the auditory are syncing up.
So you put all of this together with all these repetitions, and you’re creating these neural connections and you’re getting them to the point where they’re hard wired. And the research shows that you’d go a year out and those gains are typically still there, unless they have something like Parkinson’s or something degenerative where they need to tweak a little bit every so often. So it all comes down to doing movement with something cognitive. And in this case, movement with audio, with visual. And you put it all together, and maybe Dr. Amen can explain this, then it goes where it’s not into my area of expertise. But there’s some type of a synergistic effect by putting all of these things together. And so that’s what’s going on when you’re-
Daniel Amen, MD: So we actually see their cerebellum activate. This just incredibly beautiful, important part of the brain, which on SPECT, for a lot of our patients, is sleepy. It’s just not working as hard as it should, especially in ADD, especially in autism or a traumatic brain injury. So it’s a tool to really rehabilitate their brain. We only have two minutes left. Tell us about the 80 year old couple.
Mary Scheslinger: Okay. Well, they’re obviously a 80 year old couple and they were perfectly active, and then one day she had a stroke. So she completed her rehab and they told her there was nothing else to be done, this was as far as it was going to go. She started coming for metronome. She had balance issues. The left side wasn’t working so well. She was using a walker. And she could walk without it, but she had to be near furniture or near a wall so that she wouldn’t fall and have something happen. So I timed her going up and down the stairs every time she came. And when she first started, it was taking her 48 seconds to go down one flight of stairs in a home. By the time she was done, it took her 24 seconds. So we cut that time in half. And obviously when things like stroke happen, you want to get as close as you can back to what was your normal. So that was her really nice outcome.
Now, with Tom, her husband, he was basically just driving her over. But once we got started, he said, “Well, gee, I think I could use this too.” And so he started going through the training. And the thing that I noticed about Tom, I knew them from before, but when we first got together, when we were talking, it was just a normal, how are you? How’s the weather? And so forth. But by the time he was done with the program, I don’t even know how to describe it. He was much more involved in the conversation, asking questions, giving more in depth answers, bringing up other pieces of information. And the only way I can describe it, because like I said, I didn’t notice anything being problematic before, but I felt like Tom was more present. There was more of him in the room once he had finished that program, and it didn’t take that long to do it. It was relatively quick. But so that was just-
Daniel Amen, MD: How many sessions on average for these two people? So one person with a stroke, the other person just wanted to be better.
Mary Scheslinger: Right, right. It goes person to person. But if I remember correctly, Fritzy, the one that had the stroke, came either 17 or 18 times, something like that. So it wasn’t too long. And then Tom came, I think it was about 15 times, because he started a little bit after her. And then we just did them back to back, not at the same time. But when it comes to, say, ADHD, I used to try and fit everybody into 14 or 15 sessions, but I learned that that’s not everybody. So I usually say somewhere between 14 and 17 sessions, maybe 18. Those with autism, a little bit more. If there’s something really, really serious, then we might go into the 20s, but it’s not something that you’re doing for a long time. You try to get to the bulk of your gains and then you’re at a safe place to stop. But some people don’t want to stop, they want to keep going for more gains. And so we do it that way as well.
Tana Amen, BSN RN: Excellent. That is so cool.
Daniel Amen, MD: I love that. All right. When we come back, we’re going to talk about more practical examples of how the interactive metronome and enhancing the cerebellum overall. We’re getting ready to do a new project with the USATT, it’s the United States of America Table Tennis Organization. Optimize the cerebellum. Change the cerebellum, change your life. Stay with us.
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