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What does Neural Plasticity have to do with OCD?

November 26, 2012 | General, Neuroscience

And where does Sound Therapy come in?And where does Sound Therapy come in?In the new field of neural plasticity we are being given the opportunity to shape our own brains. The discovery of neural plasticity was made over the last two to three decades through the work of numerous pioneering scientists. One of the key innovators was Dr Michael Merzenich, whose work is beautifully summarised in the book by Dr Norman Doidge, The Brain that Changes Itself.Did you see the fascinating 2 part series in the last couple of weeks on SBS with Norman Doidge called Changing Your Mind? If you missed it, you can view it online at this link

Also here is a transcript from the 7:30 Report interview with Norman Doige.

Today I want to talk about OCD, one of the topics covered in this series. Over the years people have asked me “would Sound Therapy help OCD?”The new neural plasticity research gives a glimpse into how conditions such as this can be helped and what is the process of change that needs to occur in the way the brain functions.Specialists in this field have found that you have to re-train the brain in order to overcome OCD. Due to recent neural plasticity research we now have more information on how to do this and how Sound Therapy can help. Changing the brain requires a combined approach of intentional awareness and retraining through repeated stimulation and repeated practice of new habits.

OCD is a brain circuit gone rogue. Taming it is a process of re-training and raised awareness.One of the key brain centres involved in OCD is the caudate. The caudate enables you to shift your focus onto the next thing. The caudate doesn’t work well in people with OCD and this is a key part of the disorder. This low function can be challenged by learning new thought patterns.Dr Jeffrey Swartz M.D. Associate Research Professor of Psychiatry at UCLA School of Medicine is a researcher in the field of self-directed neuro-plasticity who has developed specific treatment protocols for OCD.
The first step in overcoming OCD is learning to become the impartial spectator –the external observer, observing the self objectively. This is a uniquely human ability and interestingly is also part of the training encouraged in many types of spiritual practice and meditation.In OCD treatment, the patient has to learn that you don’t believe everything you think.
Dr Swartz has developed 4 steps for recovery from OCD.
Read more on this link
Here, very briefly, are the four steps.
Step 1: Relabel step back and be mindful
Step 2: Reattribute remember how the brain lock occurs – this is through a circuit between certain brain centres, the orbito-frontal cortex, the anterior cingulate cortex and the caudate.
Step 3: Refocus focus on constructive activity
Step 4: Revalue notice when compulsions are beginning to fade, re-evaluate and realise they can be ignored.
The fascinating discovery which truly shows the power of such retraining is that when you step out of the worry circuit the neurons stop firing.
So what is the role of Sound Therapy in this type of change? As we know, Sound Therapy listeners experience reduced stress, reduced worry and busy mind, an increased sense of inner calm and optimism. We know that the kind of sensory stimulation provided by Sound Therapy helps to build new brain pathways and a more useful integration and organisation in the brain. This certainly suggests that combining Sound Therapy with self-directed awareness for neural plasticity is going to be a valuable support to such programs.
The change process requires
1. Insight
2. Awareness
3. Effort
4. Focussed attention
Clients say “it allowed me to shape my own brain.”I would suggest a fifth addition to the list could be useful, challenging sensory stimulation, to physiologically assist with the process of restructuring the brain.
I would be very interested to hear from listeners or practitioners who have experienced or observed the impact of Sound Therapy on OCD.


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