Research Results Related to Conquering Concussion and Healing TBI Symptoms [Interview][Transcript]

carol_shifflett_mary_lee_esty_conquering_concussion2carol_shifflett_mary_lee_esty_conquering_concussionGuests: Carol Shifflett and Mary Lee Esty
Presenter: Neal Howard
Guest Bio: Carol Shifflett is a science and technical writer with a background in earth sciences, physiology, sports and martial arts. Her other books include Migraine Brains and Bodies: A Comprehensive Guide to Solving the Mystery of Your Migraines, Ki in Aikido, Aikido Exercises for Teaching and Training.
Mary Lee Esty, LCSW-C, Ph.D., is a licensed social worker with a Ph.D in health psychology. She is a Senior Fellow in Biofeedback and Neurotherapy with the Biofeedback Certification International Alliance (BCIA).

Segment overview: Carol Shifflett and Mary Lee Esty , co-authors of the book “Conquering Concussion: Healing TBI Symptoms with Neurofeedback and Without Drugs,” talks about the research and results of neurofeedback in a number of medical issues.

Health Professional Radio – Conquering Concussions

Neal Howard: Hello, welcome to Health Professional Radio. I’m your host Neal Howard, thank you for listening today. There’s a growing number of researchers and practitioners that are producing work that shows that neurofeedback is evidence based. But the question is, can we point to that work when we need it? Our guests in studio today are Carol Shifflet and Mary Lee Esty, both authors of the book, “Conquering Concussion: Healing TBI Symptoms with Neurofeedback and Without Drugs.” They’re in studio today with us to discuss the latest research and results of neurofeedback and a number of medical issues. Welcome to Health Professional Radio ladies.

Mary Lee Esty: Thank you, good morning to you.

N: Good morning, glad that you’re here with us. I am not familiar with neurofeedback, our listeners are mainly health care professionals, many of which who maybe familiar with neurofeedback and I’m certainly not familiar with neurofeedback as it relates to traumatic brain injury. Carol, tell us a little bit about your background and how it relates to TBI?

Carol Shifflet: Well, I had a TBI myself, several and I also had a lifelong history of migraines and I discovered this in part because of going to Mary Lee for treatment and I thought I was being treated for a TBI but intriguingly my migraines started to disappear, my life long incapacitating, debilitating migraines. So it was quite an experience and I would say, ‘Yeah, this worked.’ Once you have that, you want to know more.

N: And it was an unexpected success, yeah?

C: Oh very much so.

N: So Mary, in your experience is this something that you find common? Someone comes for treatment for one thing when in fact maybe 1 or 2 or a number of things are addressed positively?

Mary Lee: Oh, yes I mean just currently, for example I’m treating our combat veterans from Afghanistan and others for TBI and Post-Traumatic Stress. I have one study now in the Journal of Neuropsychiatry and I have an on-going study and primarily they come because of the cognitive problems after concussion, blast injuries and blunt trauma injuries and for post-traumatic stress. But this year we actually have an article entitled Neurotherapy for Chronic Headache Following Traumatic Brain Injury, it’s a military medical research. Because it’s very interesting that these people have really pretty terrible headache, when you get stuff thrown at you by a blast and we have people as close as 10 to 20 feet away from a suicide bomber. It’s a hydraulic injury, every cell in the body as these blast waves and vacuum waves followed just in a microsecond, miliseconds from each other. And just the training and all of the heavy weight and stuff that they carry causes a lot of headache and much to my surprise, I don’t pretend to understand why it happens – their headaches either disappear or just enormously reduced, so it’s as Carol described it I didn’t expect this to happen but I’m happy that it did. So there are more and more physicians now who are using neurofeedback especially psychiatrists who are extremely interested and some neurologists. Because we’re treating the whole system, it’s treating the whole body. When you treat the motherboard, the brain, all kinds of things can happen. So, yes it’s somewhat in its infancy but not really because people have been doing this for a long time. Enough body of evidence for example with treating people, adults and children who’ve been diagnosed with Attention Deficit or Attention Deficit with Hyperactivity finding that in fact the cause may have been and probably is early childhood injury, plus the same symptoms that follow a list of other post-concussion or almost identical to the items and the category for diagnosis, some deficits.

N: Mary, you’re talking about these results, you’ve mentioned the brain as the motherboard and you’re fixing, you’re treating the motherboard and these things and these other things that are miraculously, well not even really miraculously addressed because if we would have started with the brain realizing the connection on the first place may have address some of these issues sooner. Now you’ve both written this book, Conquering Concussion: Healing TBI Symptoms with Neurofeedback and Without Drugs. You’ve mentioned the popularity among psychotherapists and psychiatrists in neurofeedback. In the book, are the techniques the same, the treatment techniques because when it comes to physical TBI and then you’ve got the psychological issues that are going on, just talking about the military aspect, you’ve got the psychological situation whether they’re injured or not, but now they’re injured with TBI and they’ve got these mental stressors as well. Does the neurofeedback, is it applied or used in totally different ways?

C: Yeah, it’s interesting. In around 2007 the journal of the American Medical Association had a study by Colonel Hoge, Charles Hoge 2000 some … veterans and they were trying to find a way to distinguish diagnostically between post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury or concussion and found that they really can’t do it. If you’re in a situation that is life-threatening, in combat you’re probably also involved of some kind of physical damage regardless the whole system changes. We, in fact, I think one example of this is the really sometimes very long list of prescription medication that people are on after they come back to … or just come home to try to deal with the symptoms but the symptoms that they are dealing with are both the body pain, it can be the body pain and the psychological problems of sleep and hypervigilance and what we have demonstrated and studied that’s published in the Journal of Neuropsychiatry is that just doing the same protocol with everyone, exactly the same protocol, lots and lots of these medications are no longer needed and they were taken off of them and that continues. We recently had a medic here who is on prescription meds for a variety of symptoms, neurological symptoms, depression, sleep, totalled if taken exactly as directed 76 pills every day.

N: Wow, 76 fills a day that’s.

C: 76 fills a day, I mean we have a picture of all the bottles. And by the time we were about halfway through our study protocol which is 25 half hour treatments, only 2 were being taken.

N: That’s amazing.

C: And that was because she needed a blood thinner… (Crosstalk) touches many, many, many systems in the brain.

N: Now Carol, in your experience, have you been able to latch onto any feedback from the military? They prescribe 70 plus drugs to returning vet and with your treatment they need 2 or maybe none of these drugs. What kind of feedback and response do you get when someone says ‘Hey, our methods are just blowing yours out of the water?’

C: A lot of what is said when somebody comes back and says, ‘Wow, look at this.’ is pretty much along the lines of, ‘Oh it must be placebo effect.’ And my feeling about that is ‘Well if this is placebo, bring it on.’ I spent years and years and years and years and years and years and years and years not getting a response to any of the migraine treatments that I went through and I tried everything. But you have people for example light sensitivity is a very, very common symptom of migraine but also of head injury and it’s amazing to have somebody walk in one treatment, they come back the second time and they’re not wearing dark glasses anymore and that’s not placebo.

M: Now just one answer that goes to the military, we have people from, well … Special Forces, medics … sending us people they have not been able to help because they’ve seen what can happen. That same observing knows results also again, speaking only not for military and these includes fighter pilots, paratroopers, rangers, SEALs, you name it. So we have just finished the study with the tragic injury research program at … which is a long, it’s an acronym for a long name, it’s a military medical school here at Bethesda and actually some of the researchers there said and I quote, ‘We’ve never seen anything this fast, this good.’ And the reasons that the service members really like this, because unlike the traditional programs now where for post-traumatic stress for example, you’re to talk repeatedly about the traumas you’ve been through. They never ever have to tell me anything they’ve been through and the changes still occur.

N: Absolutely, that’s great. Now where can our listeners get a copy of this book, “Conquering Concussion: Healing TBI Symptoms with Neurofeedback and Without Drugs?”

C: It’s in bookstores, Barnes and Noble and so forth and also of course on Amazon and we’ve just released the Kindle version.

N: And do you have a website of your own?

C: Mary Lee’s website is

N: Okay, could you repeat that for me just one more time?

C: Mary Lee’s … that.

N: Absolutely great. Well I thank both of you all. Yes go ahead.

C: I’m sorry. That includes book information but it also have a number of testimonials from these wounded vets.

M: And we have videos, wonderful videos of them describing their experiences and what they’re doing now in college… one getting a doctorate now in Neuroscience.

N: Great. Absolutely wonderful.

C: Who could not read after injury.

N: Who couldn’t read after injury?

C: Yeah.

N: And everything is working out now?

C: Everything is working. (Crosstalk) She’s in college… and given to a doctor programs (laughs) … she is having a great time.

N: That’s everything is working. (Laughs) Great.

C: Well enough.

N: Well I thank you both for coming in the studio with us today. Thank you so much for joining us here on Health Professional Radio and I’m hoping you’ll return.

C: Thank you so much Neal.

N: Thank you. You’ve been listening to Health Professional Radio, I’m you host Neal Howard with Carol Shifflet and Mary Lee Esty, both of which authored the book “Conquering Concussion: Healing TBI Symptoms with Neurofeedback and Without Drugs.” Transcripts and audio of this program are available at and also at and you can subscribe to this podcast on iTunes.

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