Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Emotion as a sensory need

When I step back and look at emotions from a cognitive rather than anatomical viewpoint, it appears to me that emotions act like a sense, and that we can discuss them in the same way we discuss other senses. That is, emotions can be well-regulated or poorly regulated and that a person can have emotional sensory seeking, emotional sensory aversion, low or high emotional registration and emotional modulation-driven behaviors -- just the same as they can for the anatomical senses: touch, taste, smell, hearing, seeing, movement and body sense (proprioception).

I see a boy who has pretty typical sensory processing skills with one exception. He is a seeker of sensory input. Not any special kind of input, just all sensory input. He is easily excited and has emotional outbursts. He is eight and mostly non-verbal, but he can say, "I want" and put a name top all of the things that he wants. And he wants a lot, and wants it now.

On the Sensory Profile, he scores as "definitely different" from peers in modualtion: social/emotional and sensory seeking. Were you to meet him, you would think of him as emotionally intense. We all know people that we consider to be drama queens and drama kings. In his own way, he is probably one.

I wonder what his need is. Is his emotion-seeking due to to low emotional registration? (I am suggesting a brain-level sensory need similar to tactile seeking.) Or does his brain for some other reason (perhaps chemical), have a greater need than most -- here I am thinking of our pleasure-seeking drives? (Or does chemical need and brain-level sensory need mean the same thing in the emotional arena?) Is he not seeking emotion but just demonstrating what appears to be emotional seeking behaviors as a by-product of poor modulation of emotion?

Friday, December 26, 2008

Walking the Walk with Sound Therapy

Sound therapy can be pretty complex stuff. A 1 or 2 day class is a good start in learning the regimen, but it doesn't teach a therapist how to veer from the prescribed path and provide a more customized program for clients.

I make an effort to try all the therapies that I provide for my clients so that I can gain a deeper knowledge of what's happening. In doing so, I've gotten any number of personal benefits. Practices such as improving the ergonomics of my computer station give me a fast return for my effort. Some of the deeper therapies, such as sound therapy, have longer healing cycles, and one has to be patient to reap the rewards. I find that it is necessary to listen slowly and steadily to each CD, noting the feelings that come up and the changes that seem to occur. There are small miracles that can occur from the listening.

I have been told that adults (and some children) can be highly sensitive to sound therapy. And for 3 of the 5 adults I've worked with, including myself, this was true (until we altered the regimen). What we noticed was feelings of heavy emotions including depression that arose a few hours after therapy and lasted for the better part of a day. And worse, it happened after each listening session. What I noticed was that after having endured that, I felt as if some difficult thing(s) in my past had been purged and that social interactions with difficult people were easier.

Now, small changes like that are nice, but no one is going to put up with going through days of depression for some small social gains. However, it turns out that being sensitive has an up-side. One can decrease the listening time to very small increments and still get large gains. I decreased the time to 1 minute per day to start with and then added 30 seconds each day. I did this for both Samonas and Therapeutic Listening. It worked for me and for two clients. In addition to decreasing time, right after the therapy, I listened to emotionally evocative music such as blues, rock, or passionate classical as a way of releasing the emotions from the listening.

So how is it going now? Great! I've gone through a few CDs - in the order prescribed by Samonas and Therapeutic Listening, and am able to feel each CD's therapeutic effects on my brain, senses and body. I've noticed lots of small changes and a few big ones, too, including auditory processing, handwriting and modulation. I was surprised by changes in motor areas such as improved handwriting (even though I'd seen it in my kids at the clinic) and my increased ability to handle spicy foods. It is also true that I have slowed down and am attending to things with greater diligence. (I guess I have listed about half of the areas in which we hope for change for our kiddos from a sound therapy program.) I just notice little improvements every few days, and they keep adding up.

I still have a number of CDs to listen to. I'll report on any increased tolerance for the music as evidenced by being able to listen for longer periods of time without ill effect.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

A few Links

I've added a few links to other blogs, etc. You will find them along the right side.

Take special note of Tic Toc Talk - an excellent source of information about the brain and intelligence. Kevin McGrew's blog has pointers to many other excellent sites.

Also check out McNattLearningCenter for information about Interactive Metronome and Tourette's Syndrome/tics.

More to come....

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Sounds and Rhythms

Rhythms and the Vestibular System
I am reading tons about sound and rhythm, and their affect on the auditory and vestibular systems. Currently, I am reading the 2001 version of Listening with the Whole Body by Sheila Frick and Colleen Hacker. (The new version is due in January!)

I didn't realize that the vestibular system (as opposed to the auditory system) picks up and utilizes sound frequencies in the 16-50 Hz. These low sounds are primal and input to the autonomic system as input to our fight/flight motor algorithms. Why? The sounds might come from thunder or from a predator and we may need to run.

Of course, this is not always the case, since low sounds can come from percussive instruments which the body can enjoy. The sensation of structured rhythm can be very organizing and calming. It is a useful tool in sensory-based interventions. My favorite rhythm CD for use with clients is Sacred Earth Drums by David and Steve Gordon.

A little more from the book: low sounds are multi-directional. They permeate the background. It's hard to tell where they come from (like thunder, for example). High sounds are uni-directional. They move to the foreground with very specific information about where they are. The auditory system can locate low sounds in the range of 500 to 1500 Hz, as well as mid-range and high frequency sounds.

1. Frick, S. M., and Hacker, C. (2001). Listening with the Whole Body. Vital Links, Madison, WI.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Pioneering Technological Interventions

With a 20+ year background in computer hardware, software and artificial intelligence, I enjoy using, reviewing and giving feedback on OT interventions that make use of technology. The process can be quite frustrating when products have unexpected quirks: software that doesn't work, technical manuals that are poorly written, and bugs that affect my clients. But overall, the process is a good one. Products like Interactive Metronome, Neuro Core:Tx, Samonas and Therapeutic Listening help my clients make speedier progress on their goals. My challenge is finding the "just the right challenge" for them. I want them to go slow enough that they can integrate the growth. Going too fast can produce side-effects such as sore muscles, act-out behaviors, headaches and emotional melt-downs. Going at the right speed can help them make gains over their entire being as the senses, brain and body all process the changes together.