Is It All in Your Head?

Anthony Silver and his team at Gray Matters say that quite often the emotional and physical problems plaguing us can be traced back to the way our brains are wired and how they are functioning—or malfunctioning. A family therapist by training, Silver practices what he describes as the science of “making the invisible visible” by using complex brain scans and often neurofeedback sessions to diagnose and treat problems ranging from mood and attention deficit disorders to emotional trauma and head injuries such as concussions.

After fifteen years in practice in Westport, Silver opened an East Putnam Avenue location of Gray Matters earlier this year to cater to a growing Greenwich clientele. At both Gray Matters locations, he and his team regularly consult with patients who are frustrated with their attempts to address lingering physical and mental health challenges.

“I try to help people connect their difficulties and symptoms with how their brain is working,” says Silver. “Our goal is to help people get better, no matter what it takes.”

Silver explains that clients will often sign up for a brain scan (qEEG or quantitative electroencephalogram) followed by neurofeedback sessions. Also known as EEG (electroencephalogram) biofeedback, neurofeedback is a computer-based therapy that uses sound or visual signals to retrain the brain.

“We find it is incredibly calming for people dealing with things like anxiety, ADHD and depression,” he says. While Silver says neurofeedback “can sometimes make the
difference medication can’t,” he adds that many
patients also use the treatment in combination with prescription drugs.

While the efficacy of brain mapping and neurofeedback have been questioned by some medical practitioners because of the lack of an expansive body of clinical research documenting their benefits, Silver says the treatments are increasingly considered mainstream. He notes, for example, that qEEG brain mapping results are now considered admissible in civil courts in most states when injuries are being evaluated.

Still, he cautions that seeking out clinicians with a strong expertise in the field is critical, because charlatans are out there. “Not everyone who is doing this is doing it well or ethically,” he says. “Done well, neurofeedback and qEEG is very, very good, but it has to be done well.”

How It Works
A qEEG brain mapping session takes about two-and-a-half hours and begins with a comprehensive clinical history of the client. “Because we are therapists, we’re really interested in finding out what’s been going on and how it’s impacting their life,” Silver explains.

That’s followed by a brain mapping session. Patients wear a beanie-like cap affixed with nineteen electrodes and sit quietly as their brains are scanned for about twenty minutes. Then, Silver or one of his colleagues sits with the patient to review what they’ve found. “It can be very overwhelming, and a lot of times patients cry when we review the results, because we are taking something very abstract—how you feel—and showing you it’s not that abstract at all. We can see it, measure it and quantify it.”

A qEEG brain mapping session costs $1,450 and is not covered by insurance. Neurofeedback sessions involve an additional cost.

Getting Ahead of Concussions
Since chronic concussions syndrome has become a hot topic in professional and amateur athletics, Silver is now offering baseline qEEG brain mapping sessions to Greenwich area youth athletes. “Having a baseline done before the season begins is a great way to assess the damage that’s been done if something happens,” says Silver. “Having that information is really helpful, and we can store the data so you have a basis of comparison.”

Silver notes Gray Matters is currently involved with a concussion study that is looking at the brains of MMA fighters before and after matches to assess possible injuries during their bouts.

Meanwhile, he’s networking with Greenwich area athletic programs to offer the services to school and youth travel programs in a variety of sports.

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