A program focused on measuring and resetting brainwaves at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center has received a $600,000 grant to expand its research, including studies on insomnia and migraine headaches.
It is the program’s second grant from the Susanne Marcus Collins Foundation. The first grant enabled the center to launch a study on migraines.
The program is perhaps best known for clinical research that focuses on assisting patients with moderate to severe insomnia using Brainwave Optimization, a noninvasive technology that helps the brain achieve balance.
Dr. Charles Tegeler, a neurology professor at Wake Forest Baptist, said the $600,000 grant will enable the program to expand its insomnia and migraine research, as well as add projects on mild cognitive impairment and traumatic brain injury.
“(The Foundation’s) support made it possible to hit the ground running and cut years off the research timeline, which will make it available more quickly for people who need it,” Tegeler said.
“We hope to find new solutions for a number of conditions that are significant health issues for society, illnesses that affect large numbers of people and for which safe, effective, noninvasive treatments are lacking.”
Insomnia is the most prevalent sleep disorder affecting Americans, including up to 50 percent of adults.
Most options for treating insomnia include behavioral and lifestyle changes — such as sleeping patterns, muscle and breathing exercises, and when and what to eat and drink — as well as medicine and medical supplements.
The 2011 insomnia study was made possible by a grant from Brain State Technologies, based in Scottsdale, Ariz., whose founder developed the technology. Although more than 32,000 people have received the treatment worldwide, the Wake Forest Baptist study was the first researching a specific health problem in a controlled setting.
“Insomnia can be caused by stress or trauma that throws off the brain’s natural rhythms,” Tegeler said.
“In many instances, the brain rebalances itself over a few days but, when it doesn’t, it can become a chronic problem,” Tegeler said.
The technology works this way: Electrodes are affixed to the scalp and connected to a computer to detect the brain waves of various brain lobes. A brain wave is electromagnetic energy that can be broken down into frequencies.
Higher frequencies have more cycles per second. To reflect the brain’s own optimal wave patterns back to it noninvasively, the frequencies are assigned a musical tone and played back to the subject via stereo ear buds. As the brain resonates with the transmitted sounds, changes occur in the neural network.
“We are learning how the brain can balance itself, or autocalibrate,” Tegeler said.