Mobility Improves For Genesis Neurofeedback Patient
When she recently arrived at the Valley Fair location of Genesis Physical Therapy, Rebecca Bovenmyer had a prominent limp and was experiencing weakness in her legs.
After about 40 minutes of neurofeedback with occupational therapist Michelle “Mickey’’ Owens, the improvement was just as prominent. Bovenmyer appeared to be walking normally.
“It’s working already. Take another video,’’ the smiling Bovenmyer said to Owens, who recorded video when Bovenmyer arrived for the session. “Look at the difference.’’
For the past 8 1/2 years, Bovenmyer has undergone countless tests and procedures to try to determine a cause for tremors and significant weakness in her legs.
Parkinson’s disease, Multiple Sclerosis, Guillain-Barre Syndrome and stroke all have been ruled out at least once by several physicians.
Bovenmyer said it has been frustrating to know something isn’t right but no one has been able to identify a reason for the weakness and decreased function of her legs.
“Finally, I had a doctor tell me ‘we don’t have all the answers and we may never know what is going on,’’’ Bovenmyer said. “They don’t know if it is genetic, environmental exposure, brain injury as a child … they just don’t know.’’
In simple terms, Bovenmyer has a brain abnormality preventing signals from getting to the right place to allow her to walk normally. She has been told the neurons in her brain may be constricted. She often uses a cane, walker, or sometimes a wheelchair for mobility.
“In my dreams, I still walk perfectly, but only in my dreams,’’ she said.
Even without a diagnosis of the core issue, Bovenmyer was hopeful for improvement when Alicia Duyvejonck, a nurse practitioner with Genesis Neurology Consultants who treats Bovenmyer, suggested neurofeedback.
“Neurofeedback was something I brought up to the patient (Bovenmyer) as a potential treatment after finding no answers or diagnosis following her evaluation at the University of Iowa Neurology Clinic,’’ Duyvejonck said. “Neurofeedback is a treatment I have been utilizing with Mickey Owens for headache and brain injury patients.
“We’re recommending this novel treatment more with the development of a headache clinic at Genesis. Several patients I referred have reported very positive benefits.’’
Twice a week, Bovenmyer sits in front of a screen with Owens at another computer recording brainwaves from Bovenmyer’s brain as Bovenmyer looks at landscape and landmark pictures. Pieces of the pictures come together on a screen like a puzzle. There are tiny wires attached to her head and earlobes to record the brainwaves but Bovenmyer doesn’t have to do anything. Nor does she feel anything. She sits and watches the pictures come together and the signals are recorded.
Her brain is rewarded with “beeps.’’ The idea is to retrain the neurons to do their jobs properly.
“Neurofeedback allows improvement of the brain function,’’ said Conway Chin, D.O., a doctor of physical medicine and rehabilitation at Genesis. “To use the analogy of a car, it makes the electrical system of a car work better. It allows us to test drive the brain to see how it can function better.
“It helps with concentration, attention, cognition and processing speed. On other areas of the brain, it can help with motor skills, or restful sleep, anxiety reduction, anger reduction, and mood stabilization.’’
Neurofeedback Debate Continues
The benefits of neurofeedback continue to be debated. Bovenmyer personally has no doubt she has benefited.
“After about the seventh session and I was done, I got out of the van after driving home to Wilton and thought ‘that was easy.’ It was usually a struggle. That night for the first time in 8 1/2 years I was able to walk around the block without a cane or walker,’’ she said. “At first maybe I could walk normally for a block or two. Now I can walk completely normal for a few hours after a session here.
“The difference has been huge. Each time I have neurofeedback, the hours I can walk normally increase. I’m up to about 16 hours. I sleep better, too.’’
“This helps me focus and has improved my memory.’’
Duyvejonck has received positive reports from other patients she referred for neurofeedback sessions.
“Some patients have reported improvements in multiple symptoms, including headaches, memory function, sleep, anxiety and even ADHD symptoms,’’ Duyvejonck said. “Rebecca is the first of my patients sent for neurofeedback treatment to address more day-to-day mobility and functional issues. I am very impressed with the results she has had.
“I think neurofeedback could potentially be used in a variety of specialties, including neurology, rehabilitation, psychiatry and pain management. I expect that non-pharmacological treatments such as neurofeedback will gain additional attention in the coming years as we continue to fight the opioid epidemic.’’
Bovenmyer has quick recall of the date her health crisis began … March 24, 2011.
“I came home from work and my legs felt weak. It kept getting worse. The next day I went into the hospital for five days of blood tests, an MRI, EKG, about everything you can think of they did,’’ she said. “They weren’t able to determine a cause.
“I got so I could barely hold myself up.’’
Bovenmyer said the involuntary jerking has improved over the past 3-4 years with the help of medication.
“Now I have new goals. I want to get back to hiking, dancing and running,’’ she said.
Neurofeedback is not widely available but is available at Genesis.
Research is being done at Ohio State University to study treating children with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) by retraining the brain with neurofeedback. If effective, the hope is neurofeedback use could possibly reduce the need for ongoing medication for treatment of children with ADHD.
To learn more about neurofeedback and the other services available at Genesis Physical Therapy, Valley Fair, call (563) 421-3495.
--By Craig Cooper