For years, 24-year-old Andrew McFarland of Denver struggled with severe depression and suicidal thoughts.
“I was on so many medications for so many years and no doctor could really tell me what was wrong,” McFarland said.
It was a therapist who finally brought up the possibility that he may have suffered brain injury from his youth spent playing football. That led McFarland to McWhorter Chiropractic and Neurological Rehabilitation in Centennial.
Dr. Jeffrey McWhorter offers a therapy called neurofeedback, which can correct deficiencies in the brain that have led to emotional problems like anxiety or depression.
“A large percentage of the population that deals with longstanding neurological deficits, it’s almost normal that eventually we start having some emotional distress associated with those functions,” McWhorter said.
At the first session, a patient is fitted with a cap that measures activity in different parts of the brain. In subsequent sessions, the patient will have certain parts of the brain stimulated with audio or visual feedback. The brain’s reward centers respond to the feedback, gradually teaching the brain to respond in a positive way.
“It’s almost like Pavlovian training. If I condition the brain that if it performs in a target aspect of performance that it gets a reward, eventually that brain tissue starts to perform in that aspect more frequently,” McWhorter said.
While most of McWhorter’s patients have suffered brain injuries, neurofeedback can benefit anyone looking to optimize their mental health, focus, or even sleep.
“I have a patient population of executives that just want to be sharper, quicker with their wit or their processing speed in the boardroom,” he said.
McWhorter says the number of sessions varies, but in most cases the physiological changes to the brain stick after anywhere from 30 to 60 sessions. The treatment can be used on its own, or as a complement to talk therapy or other mental health supports. It’s been so successful for McFarland, he’s no longer on any medication.
“Things are just so much easier, I don’t get irritated at little things as much as I did in the past,” McFarland said. He has repaired relationships with his family and plans to move back to Florida.
“Everything here has changed my life for the better,” he said.
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