Of the 79 organs in the human body, could the brain be the key to total wellness? I certainly think so — and so does Dr. Daniel Amen, a physician and adult and child psychiatrist who has honed the world’s largest database of functional brain scans to create personalized treatment plans for a patient’s every need. But what is a functional brain scan, and how does it help?
A functional brain scan refers to a type of medical imaging that detects changes in cerebral blood flow and neuronal electrical patterns to measure brain activity. Here at Neurvana Naturopathic Medicine, we administer quantitative electroencephalograms (qEEGs) to evaluate brain function based on statistical analysis and comparison to a normative database, like Dr. Amen’s.
Here’s a more detailed explanation of how these types of scans decipher brain waves — and what the results can mean for your health.
What is qEEG, Anyway?
The term qEEG stands for quantitative electroencephalography, a non-invasive diagnostic tool to evaluate brain function that measures electrical activity known as brain wave patterns. Because quantitative electroencephalography is quite the mouthful, we often refer to it as qEEG or simply ‘brain mapping’ for short. It tracks communication between different pathways in the brain.
We use the term ‘quantitative’ to describe qEEGs because the data gathered is assessed based on statistical analysis and comparison to a normative database. We then call the results of the data a ‘brain map’ because it looks like a literal map of the brain. This map serves as an objective snapshot of brain function at any given time to identify disruptions in normal pathway communication.
Through qEEG, we can identify the relative and absolute power of the specific frequencies the brain uses to function throughout the day, which reveals where resources are being under or overused. These disruptions help functional medicine providers like myself to link adjustments in brain function to a number of symptoms, whether they are physical, mental, or emotional in nature.
What Brain Patterns Can qEEG Reveal?
So, how do we use a brain map to identify potential shifts in function? We utilize low-resolution electromagnetic tomography analysis — more commonly referred to as LORETA — to create three-dimensional images of cortical current density, which provides an estimate of underlying brain generators. In simpler words, we track levels of electrical activity throughout the brain!
The image to the left is a screen capture of a LORETA analysis that shows elevated activity in the anterior cingulate and medial-prefrontal cortex regions of the brain. Analysis of this image reveals less-than-ideal functioning from deeper regions within the brain that typically do not appear on alternative brain scans.
There are currently thousands of medical research studies on the efficacy of qEEG to help diagnose and treat a wide range of conditions, including but not limited to cognitive issues, such as memory problems and brain fog; emotional disorders, such as anxiety and depression; and traumatic brain injuries (TBIs), such as concussions and post-concussion syndrome.
At Amen Clinics, Dr. Daniel Amen has leveraged qEEG to identify:
- Distinct brain wave patterns linked to depression.
- Methods to distinguish depression from conditions like schizophrenia.
- Tactics to identify cognitive decline as memory issues develop.
- Brain wave activity linked to ADD and ADHD in children and adults.
- Processing issues in individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
How is qEEG Different from MRI or CT Scans?
A qEEG typically dives deeper into brain function than alternative scans, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computed tomography (CT scan). A more granular look inside brain activity is often essential to identify conditions like post-concussion syndrome or other traumatic injuries, primarily because the brain structure will not always change on a macroscopic level.
Instead, shifts in brain wave patterns and elevated activity in particular pathways of the brain create microscopic changes that MRIs and CT scans generally cannot ‘see.’ Most of these scans come back ‘normal,’ despite the fact that brain function is moderately to severely disrupted. In comparison, qEEG LORETA images reveal underlying conditions stemming from deep inside the brain.
A qEEG scan is also different from an MRI or CT scan because of the way it is administered. A qEEG requires 19 sensors to be painlessly, noninvasively placed on the scalp to track how the brain communicates. Though an MRI or CT scan is also considered noninvasive, both require a patient to remain confined in a large scanner with minimal movements, which can be much less comfortable.
Dr. Amen and the qEEG Database
The ‘quantitative’ in qEEG is reflective of the statistical analysis applied to each functional brain scan. Each LORETA image is compared to a robust database to identify patterns or areas of elevated activity that indicate the brain has suffered a specific type of damage or developed a certain condition. The majority of qEEG analytical databases are modeled like Dr. Daniel Amen’s.
As the founder of American-based Amen Clinics and a major proponent of qEEG functional brain scans, Dr. Amen has performed more than 10,000 quantitative electroencephalograms. He currently hosts the world’s largest database of brain scans for psychiatry, with scans of patients aged 9 months old to 105 years old from across 155 countries… that’s a whole lot of brain scans, right?
Well, here at Neurvana Naturopathic Medicine, we also administer hundreds of qEEG scans each year. In fact, we refer to qEEG as our North Star to guide treatment protocols for each patient. And unlike Dr. Amen, our qEEG database reflects conditions beyond psychiatry — including irregular brain activity due to biotoxins like mold exposure and even chronic conditions like Lyme Disease.
Can You Access qEEG in Canada?
Yes, qEEG is readily available to you at Neurvana Naturopathic Medicine in Calgary, Alberta! As a Certified Functional Medicine Practitioner, I’ve worked at the Brain Treatment Centre of Alberta and have analyzed well over 20,000 functional brain scans and brain maps to help thousands of patients across North America pinpoint the cause of unexplained symptoms and chronic conditions.
At our Calgary clinic, we utilize swLORETA (standardized weighted low-resolution electromagnetic tomography analysis) to explore deeper cortical layers in the brain, like the amygdala, cerebellum, thalamus, and subthalamus. We help our fellow Calgarians — and Canadians from across multiple provinces — identify structural changes in the brain that allow for proactive treatment.
qEEG at Neurvana Naturopathic Medicine
Of course, qEEG services at Neurvana Naturopathic Medicine don’t just stop with a brain map. We take the results of your functional brain scan to provide qEEG-guided neurofeedback, a cranial reconditioning technique that helps to essentially rewire parts of the brain that have been disrupted due to traumatic injury, emotional distress, and chronic or autoimmune conditions.
Neurvana was recently voted as the Best Naturopath in Calgary, due in part to our cranial reconditioning techniques that cannot be found at other clinics across the city. We are one of the only clinics in the city to provide biofeedback therapy, which harnesses the power of the brain to control bodily functions, such as heart rate, blood pressure, and other physiological responses.
Take the guesswork out of your treatment.
Microscopic changes in brain activity can finally reveal the source of major health concerns. Discover if a brain scan, like qEEG, can help successfully guide your treatment protocol today.