This is going to be a space where we share our thoughts on a range of topics, from describing the solutions we offer, to commenting on emerging research relevant to our work, to discussing more general issues related to mental health, neurological and neurodegenerative diseases, interesting basic neuroscience research, and so on – anything and everything that involves the brain and its functions. I expect I’ll be doing most of the posting myself. My goal is to find topics that will be interesting to people who may have little background in the subject matter, and discuss them in a way that’s accessible and engaging.
An introductory word about Breakwater Neuro and what makes us tick as an organisation: what we’re really all about, in my view, is applied neuroscience on the non-invasive end of the spectrum.
Let’s unpack that a bit. The first part, applied neuroscience, means that we’re all about enhancing the function of the brain through the use of tools that have been born, directly or indirectly, from the scientific study of the brain. Every single thing we do is based on principles drawn from scientific research, and supported by research demonstrating the tools’ effects. Our current offerings – rTMS, quantitative EEG (QEEG), neurofeedback, and HRV biofeedback, all came into being from the study of human physiology, particularly (but not exclusively) the physiology of the brain. In fact, QEEG directly measures the physiology of the brain on a time scale of milliseconds, while our other offerings directly influence it, either by the focused application of energy from outside the brain, or by rewarding the brain for shifting its own physiology in a particular direction.
The second part is about non-invasiveness. That’s a mouthful, but it means our focus is going to be mainly on interventions that are relatively gentle and don’t deliver a challenge to the brain or the body so massive that it results in major side effects. When I talk about the spectrum I’m really referring to the spectrum of invasiveness. On the more invasive end of that spectrum you might find things like the surgical implantation of an electrical stimulator probe deep inside the brain (called deep brain stimulation or DBS), or the induction of a series of seizures under general anaesthesia (called electroconvulsive therapy or ECT). Even the use of oral or injectable medications, although far more common than DBS and ECT, can be considered to be quite invasive in that it introduces a manufactured substance from the outside to the inside of the body, and often carries with it significant side effects. These tools all have their place, but our focus is going to be on tools that are powerful without being very invasive.
One of the benefits of using non-invasive tools is that you can feel confident about going ahead and trying something even if you’re not 100 percent sure it will work, because you know that at least the intervention doesn’t entail a lot of risk. In medicine and other areas of health care there is always a ratio between risk (the likelihood of some adverse thing happening as a result of the treatment) and potential benefit (the likelihood that it will be effective in reducing symptoms or improving function). Whenever anyone, professional or patient, considers a new intervention, this risk-benefit ratio needs to be carefully weighed. If the risks are substantial, then the benefits have to be very large and highly probable to make it worthwhile. If, on the other hand, the risks are minimal, then there is more freedom to give things that seem otherwise reasonable a shot. It’s always the job of the treating professional to give the patient enough information about both sides of the equation to allow for an informed decision on the part of the patient. Our interventions at Breakwater Neuro are certainly not completely free of risks, but the number and severity of potential negative effects is going to be small.
So that’s what we’re generally about. Keep an eye on this space for opportunities to learn a little bit more about our current offerings, and stay tuned, because we’ve got several more exciting ones in the pipeline to add to our list. And always, if you have any questions or want to chat further – or even ask for some topic to be addressed on this blog – we’d be delighted to hear from you via the contact info on our website, or through our Contact Page. We’re very excited about the huge potential of neuroscience-based tools to improve lives, and we’ve seen it happen ourselves, so we’re glad to bring you along for the ride and share the excitement with you.