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CAROLINA BRAIN CENTER

For more information, contact:

 

CAROLINA BRAIN CENTER

Darcy Dane, DC,
Dana Brindisi, DC,

6404 Falls of Neuse Rd., #201
Raleigh, NC 27615

Telephone: (919) 703-0207

www.CarolinaBrainCenter.com

email us at info@carolinabraincenter.com with the subject line Health&Healing for a special savings offer

Brain Neuroplasticity: Source and Solution

“Neuroplasticity—the brain’s ability to formulate new pathways—is the key to the functional neurological therapy we engage in at Carolina Brain Center,” notes Dr. Darcy Dane, founder of the practice.

Darcy Dane, MDiv, DC, DACNB

“But while neuroplasticity is the key to solving neurological problems and deficiencies, it’s also true that it is the source of addiction and the neurological problems addiction creates.

Dr. Dane and her partner, Dr. Dana Brindisi—both deeply schooled and experienced in the emerging field of functional neurology—spend their days, and their healing gifts, guiding patients in repairing and restoring brain function.

“Functional neurology is about retraining and strengthening the functionality of the brain,” explains Dr. Dane. “This is done by creating positive neuroplastic changes—a process that might be described as ‘rewiring.’

Dana Brindisi, DC, DACNB, CFMP

“Think about how a developing child learns to walk or talk or write. It takes practice, but once the task is learned, it is hard-wired. But because of trauma, degeneration, or developmental issues that ‘wiring’ can be damaged; and in the case of addiction, the brain is ‘hard-wired’ in a negative way (see box, below). A functional neurological treatment is one that promotes rewiring and/or strengthening a connection that is already in place.”

Addiction and
Substance Abuse

Dr. Dane points out that there are two important aspects in addressing the issues of addiction from a neuroplastic perspective. “There is, of course, the physical craving, and then there is the seeking behavior. Our brain is wired to get food, water, shelter, and have sex. This is survival mode; this is how our Designer created us. Addictions put those natural cravings into super drive.

“As functional neurologists, when working with a patient who is seeking to recover from addiction, our focus is on neuroplasticity. It was the brain’s ability to make new connections that created the addiction; so our approach is to determine how we can rewire or attempt to rewire the brain to promote healing.

“Unfortunately, there is no magic bullet plan for treating addiction. I think, ultimately, success depends on the patient. We are here more to guide and assist people who are seeking a healing path.

“And, I believe spirituality has a great deal to do with recovery,” observes Dr. Dane, noting that “Every 12-step program has some type of spirituality in its structure.” Along with her extensive and specialized medical training, she brings a master’s degree in divinity to her work.

Understanding Addiction

Health&Healing: Explain the connection between neuroplasticity and addiction.

DR. DANE: When discussing addiction and neuroplasticity, it’s important to understand that the most primitive aspects of the brain were designed for human survival. We need food, water, and safety to survive and we need sex to perpetuate the human race. When we obtain what we need for survival, the dopaminergic—or reward—system is activated.

It is important to understand that addiction has two aspects. One is the reward itself; for example: a cocaine addict using available cocaine. The second is the seeking behavior, for example: the cocaine addict doing whatever necessary to obtain the cocaine. Regardless of the addiction—to food, sex, pornography, cutting, or drugs—the behavior is the same: seek and use the substance or do the activity.

When a person is addicted, physical changes occur in the brain. With stimulate-type drugs, neurons increase the dendritic spines; the opposite is true for depressants. These changes correlate directly to craving intensity and can cause permanent changes to the brain—which can lead to cognitive disorders, such as dementia, and movement disorders, such as Parkinson’s.

Movement disorders caused by a drug are not reversible. These may be caused by many drugs, including SSRIs, some antibiotics, antipsychotics, and anti-Parkinsonian drugs, as well as illicit drugs. For the Parkinson’s patient this is particularly important and why we work with them on the physical end to create positive neuroplastic changes in order to help keep them on lower doses of medication for a longer period of time.

For the addict, we can help retrain the brain from a physical and chemical standpoint. Use of natural supplements can help reduce cravings.

Addressing Pain,
Avoiding Addiction

“Addiction is a difficult burden, and recovery from it is also very, very hard,” observes Dr. Brindisi. “But the current epidemic of opioid addiction raises an important point. Most addicts began using drugs to address serious pain issues. My hope is that we can reach people in pain before they have to deal with the curse of addiction. There are, in fact, other options for their problems than pain medication.”

“As functional neurologists,” agrees Dr. Dane, “we have a different approach to treating pain. We address pain issues in terms of brain function: we understand that, if you slam your finger in a car door, you don’t actually experience pain in your finger; you experience pain in the area of your brain that represents where your finger is. And the brain can manifest clinically very differently in different people.

“Consider the patient with a complex regional pain syndrome. They slam their finger in the door; their finger hurts. Neurologically, if their brain isn’t functioning appropriately, they may begin to experience chronic pain stemming from this original injury—but now they have pain in their whole arm; or on the whole right side of their body. That’s because of the way our brains are wired. And too often, the only relief offered for this syndrome is medication.”

Functional Neurology
and Pain

“But our approach is different,” explains Dr. Brindisi. “We can treat this condition because we understand that the patient doesn’t have full-body pain because they injured their finger. They have full-body pain because they have misrepresentation of the body parts in the brain. We have maps of our body in many areas of the brain so that we are able to experience sensations, move appropriately and modulate pain efficiently.”

“We see many patients with complex, regional pain syndromes that are tough to treat,” she notes. “Other common conditions such as fibromyalgia pain and chronic migraine headaches are also very prevalent. Most of the chronic migraine patients I treated have been to many practitioners. They’ve done the food dairies, they’ve seen the medical neurologist, they’re on medications, they get a massage every week—and 20 years later they are still dealing with the same painful issues.

“When someone has that type of health history, there’s something going on in the brain. If you keep addressing the problem from a variety of sources, you may get some relief—but the issue will never completely resolve because the problem is in the brain and the way the central nervous system is functioning.”

Remember, says Dr. Brindisi, “your brain is very effective at whatever it’s doing, but it doesn’t discriminate. If your brain is really good at doing math, that’s great. But if your brain is really good at being in pain, that’s not so good. The more you fire those pathways, the more you fire those nerves, the more efficient they become at doing whatever the task is—including feeling pain. The longer you’re in pain, the more frequently you’re in pain, the easier it is for your brain to actually manifest pain.”

And, the doctors point out, functional neurology—retraining the brain—can successfully address such chronic and complex pain issues. “A good example,” says Dr. Brindisi, “a patient I treated with severe migraines. Here’s how she describes the outcome:

I have suffered from migraines since the age of 8. I will be 40 this year and for the first time in 32 years, I won’t be wishing for no migraines on my birthday! I cannot describe the feeling of being able to wake up each day without pain and know I am going to be able to work all day and not have to leave. I have been to so many doctors and specialists and have tried so many different medications that it is amazing to know that I no longer need daily medication to decrease my pain. Thank you for allowing me to finally live my life pain free. ~Julie B