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  D e s e r t   E x p o s u r e   January 2009

Changing Your Mind

The Heartsong Center in Silver City offers a tune-up for your brain.

Story and photos by Donna Clayton



The voice on my cell phone's voicemail is at once familiar and yet, not quite. "Donna, it's Joe Zamora, the brain-in-a-box guy. You remember me! Give me a call when you can. I have something very exciting to tell you!"

BRAIN PROGRAM
Brain State technician Leesa Haire, who co-owns and operates the center with her husband, osteopathic physician Brad Haire.

Zamora is a warm and personable man about whose experience with brain injury I have written here in Desert Exposure. (See "Brain in a Box," June 2007.) Having suffered a traumatic brain injury when he fell from a horse a few years before, Zamora became a local success story — a poster-boy, even — for the new Brain Injury Recovery Kit, or BIRK, which he humorously refers to as his "brain in a box." That groundbreaking cognitive assistance and recovery tool gave him coping mechanisms and memory-enhancement techniques to lead a semi-normal, if still challenging life.

It's impossible to talk with Zamora and not catch his enthusiasm. I ring him up, eager to hear about what has him so obviously excited. I have no way of knowing that our five-minute conversation is about to lead me down a path to discover things not only about Zamora's brain — but, ultimately, my own.

I have some experience dealing with survivors of traumatic brain injury (TBI). So when I call Zamora I am careful to structure my opening lines to help him remember who I am, and that he even called me in the first place.

"Hello, Joe. It's Donna from Desert Exposure," I start out. "You left a phone message for me this morning. I wrote a story about you and the brain kit last year, and. . ."

Zamora interrupts with a hearty laugh.

"Donna, Donna, Donna! I know who you are!" he insists. "That's why I'm calling you. I'm doing this new thing and it's just a miracle!"

In just five minutes on the phone, I note obvious changes in Zamora's ability to hold a conversation. He needs no prompting, doesn't lose his train of thought mid-sentence as he did when I interviewed him in 2007. His short-term memory seems vastly improved and he exhibits a dry sense of humor. To sum it up, he sounds, well, normal!

"I'm dreaming again! Do you remember that I couldn't dream?" Zamora asks. "And I'm pain-free now! Do you know about the Heartsong Center? The work they are doing is incredible. They brought me to the next level. You've got to check it out."



Owned and operated by the husband-wife team of Leesa and Dr. Brad Haire, an osteopathic physician, the Heartsong Center is a multi-modality healing office located in La Montaa Medical Plaza on 32nd Street, Silver City's "medical row." The facility's brochure says it offers Exercise with Oxygen Therapy (EWOT), Scenar Technology and Frequency Specific Microcurrent — treatments designed to bring about healing through changes on the cellular level.

"Brain State Conditioning," the treatment that Joe Zamora is undergoing and is so excited about, is the product of a Scottsdale, Arizona-based company called Brain State Technologies (BST). The company's Web site (www.brainstatetech.com) says the treatments can bring about positive change in a wide range of areas, from enhancing sports performance and deepening meditation to overcoming addiction and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Science shows that various lobes of the brain perform different functions — the frontal lobe providing language and motor function, the parietals integrating sensory information and processing numbers. Trauma to the brain — which can come from emotional shock or physical trauma — causes little roadblocks, BST says, interrupting the neural pathways over which information is supposed to travel. Too many blockages and you essentially have a work slowdown, with parts of the brain unable to "talk" with each other. Overactive processes, like "high beta waves," can produce "noise" in the brain, leading to confusion, an inability to focus.

Other brain-related modalities like biofeedback seek to teach the client to recognize problematic responses to stimuli — such as phobias or panic attacks — and learn to behave differently. But BST's method, called brain "re-training," seeks to modify the brain's response within itself, bringing about more efficient processing along cleared neural pathways.

There are currently more than 80 centers in the US offering Brain States work, over a dozen in Canada, and 20-plus more scattered around the world, from Mexico to Europe, Israel, South Africa and Thailand. Operators are "licensees," who go through treatment themselves as part of their certification and training. Though many BST practices have a doctor on staff, not all do, and the company's Web site says the product is licensed for use by practitioners in chiropractic, massage and counseling offices.

License to use the program is part of a package deal that includes technical assistance from and interface with the home office, and all the equipment needed, from computer software and electrode systems to the anti-gravity chairs in which clients receive treatment.



The Haires have a complementary partnership in their Silver City Brain States practice: She provides the hands-on aspect of assessments and treatments in her role as a certified technician. He most often is the one to sit with the clients after their initial assessment, to "de-code" for them their brain maps and to explain the treatment protocol.

A strikingly attractive, diminutive woman with long silver hair and green eyes that snap with energy, Leesa Haire welcomes me to the center and says she is on fire with the center's new brainwork modality.

"We took our training and we were just blown away!" she says of the three-week intensive immersion course they took in Scottsdale to become certified in administering assessments and treatment sessions. "We came back and found an office. We were so lucky to get this space," she says of their facility with several treatment rooms. The pair completely remodeled the offices and threw open their doors in July.

Haire says the center already has treated some 50 clients. With an assessment and normal protocol of 10 to 12 treatments — those sessions running from one-and-a-half to two hours — that's a lot of flight time for the new practice's first six months.

"Yes, I've been busy, often seven days a week because you just have to get them in," Haire says with her characteristic smile, the sparkle in her eye not diminished by keeping such a demanding schedule.

Haire insists that the best way for me to understand the Brain States work is to undergo an assessment myself. And so, having gotten a tour of the office and a few questions answered, I find myself reclining in a comfortable anti-gravity chair. We will go through several exercises, Haire explains, some with my eyes closed, some with them open. Electrodes pasted to my scalp and attached to my ear lobes, my brain will feed information to the computer. I will be asked to perform some mental tasks, and the electromagnetic responses of the various parts of my brain will create a map of my lobes' functioning.

The electrodes in place, I begin by sitting quietly with my eyes shut for one minute, then partially open — "just a little light coming in," Haire says in her soothing voice — for one more minute.

"Now I'll read you some numbers and I want you to repeat them back to me," she says. I'm sure that at the mention of the word "numbers," my math-phobic brain must have jumped into hyper-mode, and I try to steal a peek at the rainbow-colored waves on the computer screen. We go through the multisyllabic repetition for a minute with my having fairly good success. Even though I stumble over a few answers, Haire smiles and says, "Very good." It's not so much the answers, she says, but observing my brain's response to the challenge.

Haire moves the electrodes to different locations on my scalp and we go through the routine of eyes shut, then partially open again. Then I am asked to read a selection from a magazine and answer a simple question. All the while, Haire catches glances at the computer screen, noting the changes as my brain takes in written information under the slight tension of knowing I will have to pull some detail out of this written text.

She moves the electrodes several more times, has me listen to her read, has me read and answer more questions and perform "simple math problems" — in my head.

Except for the dreaded "numbers" sections of the exam, the whole experience is rather relaxing, certainly interesting. Haire schedules an appointment for me to come back for my brain-map de-coding with Dr. Brad Haire. I leave with a sense of curiosity and just a little residue of electrode paste in my hair. (It washes out easily.)



The next day, Brad Haire reads my brain map and tells me of my own brain's noteworthy patterns. Taking care to not get too technical, he explains that there are different degrees of ease with which the two hemispheres of most peoples' brains communicate with each other.

"Yours communicate with each other quite easily, in fact, more easily than a lot of people's," he says. He notes some very strong waves in other parts of my brain, recorded when my lobe should have been resting.

"It's almost as if you never stop thinking," he remarks. "Do you feel that way?"

I laugh and admit that even when I was in the chair with my eyes closed, supposedly "relaxing," I was starting to outline an article in my head. An amused smile crosses his face.

There's another type of brain wave, he says, that indicates deep relaxation or peacefulness.

"Think of monks meditating," he explains. "You have a lot of that, too." This odd cohabitation in my cranium — of extremely active thought patterns together with monk-like peacefulness — might be the thing that has enabled me to write so prolifically and think so constantly but not completely burn out my mental wiring, he suggests with a kind laugh. Apparently my brain, high functioning as it is, has a fair amount of "noise."

"Clearing the static may help you feel better emotionally, even help you write more efficiently," he says, then adds, "Like you don't write enough already!"

Curious, and willing to do almost anything short of getting a tattoo for a story, I say yes to his generous offer to undergo actual treatment — for a whole protocol of 10 sessions!



A couple of days later, I am in the chair again, electrodes pasted to various parts of my scalp. Leesa Haire explains that I will put earphones in and listen to various series of tones for 10 to 12 minutes at a clip. Sometimes she will make suggestions as to things I might visualize; other times I should just breathe deep, clear my mind and relax.

"The work is more impactful if you can stay awake, but if you do drift off to sleep, it's okay. The brain is still getting its cues from the tones," she says. The electrodes will send my brain's response back to the computer so that the set program of tones, called a "design," will actually customize to what my brain needs to hear to make positive changes. I settle in for the first round of tones. Over the course of the next hour and a half, Haire comes in six or seven times to reposition the electrodes on different parts of my brain and put on a new "design" of tones to balance my brain, to quiet that "noise."

Leesa Haire says that some clients from other parts of the state set up a block of appointments, getting two re-training sessions per day, for five days running. This accomplishes all 10 sessions within one business week. We'll be more leisurely about my scheduling, she says, waiting to see how I respond to treatment.

After my second session a couple of days later, she gives me a small spiral-bound notebook of index cards and encourages me to keep notes on my feelings and what I think are significant thoughts.

While striving to maintain a journalist's objective skepticism, I cannot help but acknowledge some changes to my thought patterns. I have a somewhat odd perception of looking at my mind as if I am outside my body, an observer watching the very way I think.

One thing I note in my index-card notebook is a change in my perception of time. It seems to have slowed down to almost surreal levels. I'll feel like an hour has passed, check the clock and see it's been only 15 minutes or so. It seems as if I suddenly have time enough for everything on my "to do" list — and then some! "Frantic rushing has been replaced by methodical action," I write in my little journal.

My thoughts seem more orderly, my function more efficient. As I write, I find that "just the right word" — that oft-elusive commodity — pops easily into my mind.

A couple of times, I have inexplicably sad feelings. Leesa Haire tells me that this is normal. My brain is processing many things, perhaps past emotional trauma, she says.

"You don't have to remember bad things or re-live them," she says comfortingly. "That's why this work is so good for veterans and other people with PTSD. Just know that the work is being done deep in your brain, and that the sadness will leave you. These things come up for release, and then they can be gone."

After a few more sessions, I realize I have not been remembering any dreams, something uncharacteristic for me. Haire says that many clients report this kind of blockage for a period of time during treatment.

"It may be that things are being released and the images are too frightening for you," she says. "Your brain is protecting you from having to see them."

Other things I note in my journal: decreased headaches and deeper, more restful sleep. Although most sessions leave me feeling relaxed and at peace, sometimes I feel anti-social as the day goes on. I indulge this urge to draw into myself, thinking that maybe the neural pathways touched on in that session need to rebuild in solitude. I take a lot of naps.



Leesa Haire tells me that the re-training sessions will continue to bring my brain. into balance. Sometimes people feel the need down the road for a "tune-up" session, but there's nothing more I need do but let the process unfold, she says.

"We've set things in motion," she adds, "but things will continue to change, they say, over the next couple of months."

I tell her that I've recently written an 800-word article in under two hours, that I'm having wonderful, Technicolor dreams again, that I feel more relaxed.

She gives me a reassuring smile.

"This work is so fabulous. It can really change lives," she says. "So far this has been all word of mouth; people we've helped have sent us people they know, hoping we can help them, too."

She reflects on the variety of clients she's already had in her chair — veterans afflicted with PTSD, the brain-injured or phobic, depressed people, people facing big life transitions.

"For me, it's just fascinating," she says. "And very rewarding."



The Heartsong Center for Integrative Wellness, 1302A E. 32nd St., Silver City. 534-9748, www.brainstatetechnologies.com At Heartsong, a typical protocol of assessment and 10 to 12 sessions costs around $1,400, not covered by insurance.

 

 

Donna Clayton puts her brain to work as senior editor of Desert Exposure.



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