Friday, August 14, 2009

Brain rhythm treatment efficacy: Can we fine-tune our brain clocks?

Brain rhythm. Got it? Need it? Is it important? Can you modify your brain rhythm to improve cognitive or motor performance?

I'm pleased to announce the availability of the Institute for Applied Psychometrics Research Report No. 9: The efficacy of rhythm-based (mental timing) treatments with subjects with a variety of clinical disorders: A brief review of theoretical, diagnostic, and treatment research (McGrew & Vega, 2009).

As faithful readers of the IQ Brain Clock blog know, I started this mental-timing niche blog after serving as a consultant on a neurotechnology intervention treatment program that produced positive academic outcomes in elementary school-age children (Taub, McGrew & Keith, 2007). Since that time I've systematically tracked research related to the concept of human temporal processing and mental timing--which I often refer to as the "IQ Brain Clock." Whenever I've found a research report of interest I've tried to share it via a short blog post. As these studies accumulated, it became clear there was a huge empirical and theoretical literature base, across a very diverse array of disciplines (e.g., neurorehabilitation, biology, neurobiology, neurochemistry, music perception, psychology, neuropsychology, rehabilitation sciences, etc.) that supported the importance of mental time-keeping in understanding an array of human behaviors. As a scientist this has had me intellectually curious for a number of years.

Yet...the applied hat I also wear constantly gnawed at me regarding the potential applied relevance. Even though there was clear evidence for some kind of neural-based brain timing, were there any practical implications? More specifically, could this research lead to improved diagnoses/classification of clinical disorders (and/or atypical development) in a number of human behavior domains and, furthermore, did it have potential treatment implications. I had seen the potential treatment implications in the Taub et al. study, but that was only one study.

Over the past week I, together with Amy Vega (Clinical Education Director at Interactive Metronome; IM), finally gathered together all the research citations I had been accumulating (over the past 3-4 years) and decided to investigate whether mental timing (temporal processing) research had potential diagnostic implications. More importantly, we wanted to see if mental timing-based treatments (specifically brain rhythm perception and production) had positive implications for education and rehabilitation.

Our "first cut" of this effort is the above IAP Research Report. Below are a few quotes from the report:
does sufficient evidence exist to support the temporal processing (mental timekeeping) theory-diagnosis/classification-treatment three-legged stool? With a few caveats, we believe that collectively the preponderance of positive outcomes (across the 23 listed studies) indicates that rhythm-based mental-timing treatments have merit for clinical use and warrant increased clinical use and research attention
positive treatment outcomes were reported for all four forms of rhythm-based treatment. Positive outcomes were also observed for normal subjects and, more importantly, across a variety of clinical disorders (e.g., aphasia, apraxia, coordination/movement disorders, TBI, CP, Parkinson’s disease,
stroke/CVA, Down’s syndrome, ADHD)
One notable observation of interest is that 15 of the 23 studies (the RAS, AOS-RRT and SMT treatment studies) all employed some form of auditory-based metronome to pace or cue the subjects targeted rhtymic behavior.
We conclude that the use of external metronome-based rhythm tools (tapping to a beat, metronome-based rhythmic pacing, rhythmic-cuing via timed pulses/beats) is a central tool to improving temporal processing and mental-timing.

Our concluding statement was:
given the converging research that points toward a possible neurologically-based domain-general internal mental-timing mechanism (i.e., a potentially modifiable internal brain clock), it is possible that the efficacy of all four classes of rhythm-based treatments are operating (in their own way) on “fine tuning the temporal resolution of the human brain clock.” Our temporal resolution fine-tuning hypothesis is consistent with the temporal resolution power (TRP) hypothesis (Rammsayer & Brandler, 2002, 2007) that indicates that oscillatory brain process are responsible for the efficiency and speed of neural-based information processing. We hypothesize, via the temporal resolution fine-tuning hypothesis, that the positive outcomes for rhythm perception and production based treatments may be due to these treatments increasing the efficiency and speed of information processing in brain-based neural networks responsible for the planning, execution and synchronization of complex human behaviors.

We urge both academic and applied researchers to embrace the temporal processing (mental timing) theory--diagnostic/classification--treatment literature reviewed in this report and increase efforts to understand the links between the three legs of the mental timing stool. The positive effects of current “brain rhythm” treatment programs for many types of disorders, across a variety of human performance domains, is encouraging, particularly when placed in the context of the emerging science and theory of the human brain clock.
We consider this report as a first step--providing the foundation for future expanded manuscripts and potential research. The PDF text of the report can be downloaded or viewed by clicking here. The report also includes three appendices. Appendix A (click here), B (click here), and C (click here). Please note that Appendix A and B are large (approx 11 and 9 MB each) and you might want to download then when hooked directly to the internet (not via wifi).

Finally, we would be remiss if we did not report our potential conflicts of interest. These are noted on the cover page of the report. Amy Vega is Clinical Education Director for Interactive Metronome (IM), one of the four major brain rhythm interventions covered in this brief research report. Myself, I'm not employed by IM, but I do serve on the IM Scientific Advisory board.

Enjoy the report. Tune up your brain...get it in rhythm with this emerging field of brain-based science and applied technology.

PS - Appendix B includes "foundational" basic or theoretical mental timing research reports. Unfortunately, our PDF software technology did not allow for the integration of all the PDF files in this appendix. If you want the read the additional six manuscripts, they can be found under the Key Research Articles section of this blog---they are designated with an asterisk (*)

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7 comments:

Anonymous said...

I have seen pictures of students reading and memorizing holy works and have wondered if their rocking back and forth helps with learning and memorization. Any thoughts?

Kevin said...

That is a VERY interesting observation. I have not run across any research that would shed light on your observation but will broaden the scope of the titles of articles I review in me weekly literature searches to see if there might be a connection.

Haakon Rian Ueland said...

I am looking forward to reading your report.

Have you also looked into the work done by Luciana & al (http://ibva.co.uk)?

Kevin said...

Haakon...thanks for the information. I'll take a look at the research you suggested.

E. Jonathans said...

Levintin, Daniel J., author of This is Your Brain on Music, cites Harvard Professor Jeremy Schamahmann's work. He has amassed evidence that the cerebellum not only controls timing and movement but also has massive connections to the amygdala - our brain's emotional center.

This reinforces why adolescent ADHD boys have improved impulse control and reduced aggressive behaviors after completing IM training.

Also witnessed similar effects with ASD/Aspeger patients I've trained [often Autie's are co-Dx'd w/ ADD or ADHD].

p.s., its also a great read...

E. Jonathans said...

Levintin, Daniel J., author of This is Your Brain on Music, cites Harvard Professor Jeremy Schamahmann's work.

Schamahmann's amassed evidence that the cerebellum not only controls timing and movement but also has massive connections to the amygdala - our brain's emotional center.

This reinforces why adolescent ADHD boys have improved impulse control and reduced aggressive behavior after IM training.

Also witnessed similar effects with ASD/Aspeger patients I've trained [often Autie's are co-Dx'd w/ ADD or ADHD].

p.s., its a great read...

Teresa said...

You and Amy did a wonderful job pulling together the massive amount of research material needed for this review. This paper should finally enable important cross-fertilization of ideas in the many fields performing mental timing research.