FROM THE BOOK "THE BRAIN'S WAY OF HEALING" by Dr. Norman Doidge
A MIND-BENDING, MIND-OPENING BOOK; YOU NEED TO READ - Keith Hunt
III. Rebuilding the Brain from the Bottom Up
Autism, Attention Deficits, and Sensory Processing Disorder
For over a hundred years, most neuroscientists have thought of the brain as having a "top" and a "bottom." While scientists would disagree about exactly where to draw the line between top and bottom, almost everyone agreed that the frontal part of the thin outer layer of the brain, called the frontal cortex, was "topmost." This frontal cortical area was thought to process the "higher" human attributes, such as the ability to reason, plan, control impulses, concentrate for long periods, use abstract thought, make decisions, and imagine what others are thinking and feeling. This idea took hold, originally, because damage to those top regions led to problems with all those mental functions.
Since many psychiatric disorders of childhood affect those "higher" abilities, treatments for these problems were designed to target the frontal cortical structures. But those treatments are not especially effective. They generally aim to control or diminish symptoms, and none heal the brain or remove the problems permanently. In this chapter I take a different approach and show that sound therapy works initially from the bottom up; that it can rewire the brain for the better; and that these results are often permanent.
One reason sound therapy has not attracted more attention is that the structure of the brain that it has a major impact on—the subcortical brain—has been poorly understood. It is "sub" because it sits underneath the thin top layer of the brain, the cortex. So it is anatomically lower, or toward the bottom.
Unfortunately, the subcortical brain has at times also been treated as far less sophisticated than it really is. The reasons are several. First, because it is buried deeper in the brain, the subcortical brain was often difficult to access with the technologies that were available through much of the twentieth century. Thus it was hard to observe and to appreciate its full role. Second, the subcortical brain is the only brain structure in many simpler animals, and because these animals don't have the "sophisticated" thinking abilities of human beings, it was assumed that the subcortical brain is a simpler brain. As evolution proceeded, a thin outer layer of cortex developed, surrounding the subcortex, and was seen as "added on" to the subcortical brain. Since these more recently evolved animals, equipped with a cortex, appeared to be more intelligent, it was assumed that their higher intelligence came from the cortex, the crowning achievement of evolution. Human beings have the most cortex of all. Given the rigid localizationism of the time, it was assumed that all higher thinking abilities took place solely in the cortex. If a person had a problem performing a complex thinking activity, its cause must be in the cortex.
The fallacy in this reasoning is that it presumes that when a new structure developed in evolution, it was simply added on to the older structure and that it now works independently of it. But what really happened was that as a new structure was added, the older ones adapted; the presence of a new structure modified the old, and old and new now work together holistically. Recent studies in animals and humans have demonstrated this phenomenon beautifully: they show that as the cortex evolved and increased in size, the subcortical structures grew massively and were modified. Once again the lesson is that localization, while instructive, can be taken too far and often is. Our cortico-centric view has failed to take into sufficient account the contributions of the subcortical brain. Its relevance is demonstrated by the fact that when it is stimulated by sound, such stimulation can lead to astonishing improvements in the "higher" mental capacities of children with the common psychiatric disorders of childhood.
Some observers might have thought that Will's many different developmental problems meant that he had autism. But he did not suffer from what many clinicians now argue is the central clinical feature of autism, an inability to appreciate that other people have minds, leading them to have little interest in relating to others. Will, no matter how troubled he was, always sought connection to others. In some children, the absence of interest in connecting to others becomes especially obvious when it was present early in life but was then lost.
Jordan Rosen was a healthy, bright child who appeared to be developing fairly normally, much like his two siblings. His parents' only concern, and it was slight, was that at a time when most children have half a dozen simple words, he was still in the babbling phase. Perhaps it was a coincidence, but at eighteen months, one week after he was vaccinated, he got a bad stomach flu. Then he stopped all eye contact with people, ceased responding to his name, and seemed no longer able to read facial expressions. He also stopped playing and lost all ability to connect to others emotionally. His mother, Darlene, noticed that he didn't seem to understand that other people had minds and feelings, and that he treated them as though they were things. When he got a bit older, if he wanted a drink, he would pull her hand to the fridge, as though her hand were a tool to open doors. He became aloof, and when he was in a room with his parents, he acted as though no one was there. When he heard particular songs, he would run around the house holding his hands over his ears, screaming. He was enraged, unmanageable, and inconsolable; he would bang his head against the floor and wall and against Darlene throughout the day. He was eventually kicked out of day care for biting others. When the doctors couldn't believe how long and violent his tantrums were, Darlene filmed them. At three he still had no language, speech therapy didn't help, and the doctors said he might never talk. A developmental pediatrician and a child psychiatrist specializing in autism, affiliated with Toronto's Clarke Institute of Psychiatry, diagnosed autism.
WHAT THE MEDICAL WORLD WILL STILL NOT ADMIT IS THAT SOME CHILDREN GETTING MANY VACCINATIONS WHEN YOUNG, COULD IN SOME BECOME AUTISTIC - THE MEDICAL WORLD SIMPLY WILL NOT EVEN ALLOW ONE CHILD BECOMING AUTISTIC FROM VACCINES - THEIR MINDS ARE FULLY CLOSED TO ANY SUCH IDEA. WELL A A FEW DECADES BACK THEY TOLD US TO NOT EAT EGGS, BUTTER, AND OTHER THINGS GRANNY AND PAPPY AGE, ATE FOR DECADES. THE REASON - FOR CHOLESTEROL AND HEART ATTACKS IT WOULD CAUSE……. NOW THEY HAVE BEEN PROVED TO HAVE BEEN IN COMPLETE ERROR - EGG ALL OVER THEIR WHITE COATS AND RED-FLUSHED FACES - Keith Hunt
One of the physicians wrote that "Jordan has severe impairments in verbal and non-verbal communication as well as reciprocal social interaction." These are core symptoms of autism. He also had "a markedly restricted repertoire of activities and interests including some obsessive behaviors," meaning he would do the same thing over and over again and not much else—another core feature of autism. Jordan repeatedly collected and lined up toy blocks or cutlery. He became so obsessed with certain videos that his mother had to buy a second machine to rewind the one he had just seen, because he would scream if one of his favorites wasn't playing constantly.
His parents were told that nothing could be done, and that they might have to institutionalize him permanently. As I looked over pictures of him before eighteen months, I saw a happy child with a sparkle in his eye; in all the pictures afterward, his eyes were blank or wary.
A support group for parents of autistic children reinforced the message of no hope. Someone mentioned Paul's Listening Centre, only to dismiss it as a pipe dream. "So," says Darlene, who is a spirited person, "I looked into it." After all, her son didn't listen and couldn't speak, and like many autistic children, he was hypersensitive to incoming sensation, most often sound.
When he was three, Jordan started working with Paul, who saw that the boy had no real language: he used the few "words" he did have as noises, out of context, without intention of communicating. After listening therapy, including the mother's voice, he started talking, and his behavior normalized. He then got boosts every six months over several years. He eventually developed friendships, went to a normal school, graduated with honors, and went to university in Halifax.
In December 2013 I caught up with Jordan to find out what had happened to him over the long term. Paul hadn't seen him since the mid-1990s, when he last treated him. Jordan is now a well-spoken, handsome twenty-three-year-old. His eyes sparkle, and he jokes with me, teasing. He's engaging. He recently completed a bachelor of management and globalization degree. He tells me that university, for him, "was the best time ever. Meeting people from different places and cultures—but mostly partying." He smiles. His relationships mean a lot to him, he tells me, and he keeps in touch with his circle of friends from Halifax, and has made new ones since moving back home to Toronto. "I keep my family close to me, too," he adds. His language is well developed, apt, and gently witty.
Jordan has a job in logistics, getting products from one country to another, and deals with people from all walks of life, from all over the world. It requires diplomacy and skill with people. I ask him if he has to deal with "difficult people." He explains that if he has to give criticism, he will protect the person's self-esteem by complimenting him or her. When dealing with someone who is particularly challenging, he first tries to find a nice way to handle that person. "You can always get angry as a last resort." This from the boy who was constantly—literally—banging his head against the wall. He clearly knows all about other people's minds.
The Listening Centre was the only treatment Jordan had for his autism, apart from the speech therapy, which didn't help him. When he was sixteen, he wrote a poem that included the lines:
The doctors said I was autistic
And it was as if I locked my mind up in a shell
They said there was not a solution
But to lock me up in a mental institution.
Instead, Jordan has become one of a growing number of children who have had life-transforming improvements in their autism. In his case, the word cure would be appropriate. Paul doesn't claim to perform such wonders with all autistic children. But he has found that most of the autistic patients who he thinks will benefit from listening therapy do improve significantly, though many will still have remnants of the condition.
MORE EXAMPLES ARE GIVEN