Anthony Silver describes the practice of qEEG brain mapping as the art of “making the invisible visible.” At his Westport medical practice, Gray Matters, Silver has spent more than a decade using diagnostic brain imaging—often combined with neurofeedback treatments—to address a variety of complicated psychological and health issues.
During that time, Silver has mapped more than 10,000 brains, looking beneath the skull to investigate and address challenges ranging from attention deficit disorders (ADD) to the lingering effects of concussions, sleep disruptions and mental health issues.
A marriage and family therapist by training, Silver first delved into the somewhat controversial field of brain mapping out of personal curiosity. Someone close to him was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder several years ago and he suspected something else might be going on.
”With something like ADHD there’s a lot of subjectivity in the diagnosis. There’s no biomarker that says, “Here, this is what you have,”’ says Silver. “And there are a million different things that can cause people to exhibit these unfocused symptoms and behavioral issues.” In the case of ADHD he notes it’s not unusual for his scans to reveal anxiety disorders, which should not be treated with stimulants.
Still, Silver stresses he doesn’t consider himself an alternative practitioner intent on proving other experts wrong. “The work I do puts me at the convergence of where a lot of other disciplines meet. It’s personalized medicine that’s about helping people to clarify a diagnosis and get the right help.”
A typical session at Gray Matters begins with a detailed symptom history taken followed by a brain mapping scan. The imaging, which takes about eight minutes, is done first with the eyes open, and then again with eyes closed. Patients relax in a comfortable semi-reclined position while wearing a beanie-like cap fixed with 19 electrodes.
The data gleaned from these scans is then compared to a data of millions of other scanned brains. Normal patterns are compared to abnormal ones, helping Silver offer insights into his patients’ struggles. “Done right, qEEG mapping can yield data that’s gold in terms of helping us understand what’s going on and why.”
Follow-up therapy often includes Silver working with psychiatrists to prescribe or modify a patient’s medication, recommendations for lifestyle changes and sometimes, neurofeedback treatments. Also known as EEG (electroencephalogram) biofeedback, neurofeedback is a computer-based therapy system that uses sound or visual signals to retrain the brain.
Silver is one of 150 practitioners in the United States who holds qEEG diplomate status because of his intensive training in the field. Silver often receives referrals from other medical practitioners, including pediatricians, psychiatrists and physical therapists to help patients who have reached frustrating crossroads in their efforts to feel better. “I don’t get patients who are doing well with treatment. I get the ones who are still looking for answers,” he says.
Who’s Trying It
There are some common challenges, many of them psychological ones, which compel patients to seek Gray Matters’ qEEG brain mapping services. They include:
ATTENTION DEFICIT DISORDERS
A recent teenage patient diagnosed with ADHD whose scan revealed brain activity related to anxiety. Silver worked with the teen’s psychiatrist who switched treatment from stimulant ADHD medications to a mild anxiety drug combined with neurofeedback treatments.
“Often, the person in front of you will be talking about their challenges with mood injuries, but the question we’re asking is are those mood injuries the result of a concussion?” says Silver. He is working closely with his Gray Matters colleague, concussion expert Dr. Audrey Paul, on a study related to head traumas.
“It’s incredible to see what severe psychological trauma can do to a brain, even years after the event that caused it has passed,” says Silver, who has worked with sexual assault survivors and war veterans suffering from PTSD.
AUTISM SPECTRUM DISORDERS
Silver often uses brain mapping, followed by neurofeedback treatments, to support patients with autism-related disorders.