Brain Balance Center?

Posted by: snowgirl

Brain Balance Center? - 04/15/10 10:07 AM

I saw this article in today's paper: http://www.denverpost.com/ci_14886346

Interesting. One of the children it discusses has ADD and Asperger's and is getting stimulation for the right side of his brain. I always thought (from Silverman) that people with ADD tend to be right brain learners, and that therefore it would be the left side that might have weaknesses. Aside from the fact that obviously my thinking was too simplistic, and that any individual, even one who is primarily a right-brain learner, could still have right brain weaknesses, it surprises me that in the article the doctors blame a focus on left-brain activities:

Originally Posted By:
Researchers debate just how much of that increase is due to better diagnosis and how much is an alarming jump in brain disorders. Some doctors blame more stress and environmental toxins for pregnant women and children, as well as technology — TV, video games and iPods — that keep kids sedentary and focused on fine-motor skills, functions controlled by the left side of the brain.

In Ricky's case, the right side of his brain is delayed, say his Brain Balance coaches — he misses the big picture and is obsessed with details, he tends to freak out when his routine is interrupted and he doesn't get the concept of personal space, affecting his ability to make friends.

I had been under the impression that weaknesses tend to be in the left brain because that develops later than the right. I've never heard anyone complain about too much focus on fine motor skills, but I suppose that a lack of gross motor movement could lead to all sorts of SPD issues. It sounds as though someone, maybe the reporter, got the causation backwards? (as an aside, I recall that when my dd9 was an infant, she spent more time doing fine motor stuff because she had gross motor problems - delay, hypononia, etc.; she didn't have gross motor problems because she focused on fine motor! Alas, years later, handwriting is still hard for her, as is slow processing speed when it comes to motor output.) I'm more inclined to believe that lack of gross motor activities, whatever the reason, will lead to poorer fine motor skills, which I think is what an OT would say. (Where are all these kids with the fabulous fine motor skills?) At the end of the article they do acknowledge the following:

Originally Posted By:
Some therapies for sale aren't necessarily based on widely accepted science, Gibson said. For example, she said, autistic children don't necessarily have a right-brain delay.

"We know it's a neurological disorder, but we don't know a specific brain site that has been identified," she said. "That hasn't been done yet."

Another tidbit that intrigues me:

Originally Posted By:
Founder Ken Gibson, a former pediatric optometrist, said kids with autism-spectrum disorder often have trouble blending sounds, which makes reading difficult. His therapy focuses on lengthening attention span, short-term memory and speed.

Hmmmm... If they could improve that sound-blending problem, that would be huge (two of my kids had issues with that, one of them majorly, and also I think it's a frequent feature of dyslexia)

Anyone have thoughts or comments? I know some of you out there have some more detailed theories on these issues smile
Posted by: MegMeg

Re: Brain Balance Center? - 04/15/10 12:06 PM

This is a load of snake-oil. If they have one jot of peer-reviewed, methodologically-sound evidence that these therapies work, I will eat my hat.

(My field is cognitive neuroscience, so I'm allowed to be snarky about it. wink )

Seriously though, everything in this article sets off all the standard alarm bells. The blithe over-simplification of the science, the claims of outlandishly large results, the childishly simple theraputic techniques (a buzzer in the left ear will help autism? Really?) -- all of these are hallmarks of the pseudo-therapy industry. Don't even get me started on EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing), or Facilitated Communication.
Posted by: snowgirl

Re: Brain Balance Center? - 04/15/10 02:04 PM

Thanks, I appreciate your response. The more I think about it, the more I think the article is an advertisement for the business.
Posted by: knute974

Re: Brain Balance Center? - 04/20/10 10:33 AM

Wow, your kid sounds similar to mine. DD8 was my fine motor kid -- putting together and pulling apart legos large stacks of legos for hours at 18 months. Although she walked at a year, other gross motor skills have always seemed a little behind. Now she has difficulty with handwriting and struggles with the tri-pod grip.

I also have been hearing a lot about the Brain Balance Center in Golden. Based on what I have read and heard, something just doesn't feel right about this place. I have a friend who had her kid evaluated. They diagnosed a visual problem that would severely affect a child's reading even though her child is a voracious reader who is several grade levels ahead. Hmmm. . .
Posted by: alli7

Re: Brain Balance Center? - 05/01/10 12:00 PM

The Brain Balance Program has come from 10 years of Dr. Robert Melillo's clinical experience and is backed 35 years of scientific research. His research can be found in his papers Autistic Spectrum Disorders as Functional Disconnection Syndrome which was published in Reviews in the Neurosciences which can be found on pubmed @ http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19774789 and Functional Brain Organization in Developmental Dyslexia which was published in Focus on Dyslexia Research or if you are interested in reading his text book it is entitled Neurobehavioral disorders of childhood: an evolutionary perspective.
He has also founded the F.R. Carrick Institute, now known as the Children’s Autism Hope Project to further research autism in children. You can look it up at childrensautismhopeproject.org/

He also wrote a book to help parents that can't afford the program or are not near a center entitled Disconnected Kids. You can find it on amazon.com.

Hope that helps anyone thinking about the Brain Balance program. It really is helping kids with ASD and other learning disabilities. They are growing fast so if one is not in your area there likely will be soon. You can check out locations and more about the program at http://www.brainbalancecenters.com




Posted by: ColinsMum

Re: Brain Balance Center? - 05/01/10 01:12 PM

I don't think MegMeg will need to eat her hat just yet. The PubMed indexed paper does not contain any evidence of the effectiveness of any therapy for any condition. (It may be interesting, it may be correct, it may even constitute a theoretical argument that certain treatment might work: I'm not qualified to judge - but it is easy to see that it isn't evidence of the effectiveness of treatment.) Focus on Dyslexia Research seems to be a book, not a peer-reviewed journal.

"Dr" Robert Melillo gets that title from being a Doctor of Chiropractic: he does not as far as I can find out hold either a PhD or an MD (a page dated 2008 described him as a "PhD candidate", i.e. a student). Anyone followed the UK Singh case?
Posted by: MegMeg

Re: Brain Balance Center? - 05/01/10 04:51 PM

Originally Posted By: ColinsMum
I don't think MegMeg will need to eat her hat just yet.
Whew! wink

More digging turns up further oddities: the PsycInfo database shows he has only three publications, just one of which is peer-reviewed (the one discussed above), and it is in a journal so obscure that I cannot access it through the University of California.

Originally Posted By: ColinsMum
Anyone followed the UK Singh case?

No, what's that about?
Posted by: snowgirl

Re: Brain Balance Center? - 05/01/10 08:05 PM

MegMeg, I'm interested to hear if you have an opinion on combination OT with listening therapy (a la Tomatis). The last time I looked into it (a few years ago when two of my kids did a short program of this at the Star Center), the listening therapy by itself was very controversial because the research did not show a benefit. (Not that there's any great amount of research re: OT for SPD anyhow.) The OT place wasn't using the listening therapy to treat APD however; they said it had something to do with making changes in the brain happen quicker. I never did get a satisfactory explanation for why it would help. Nonetheless, we did see some clearly positive, obvious changes from the program, though not exactly what we were expecting, and certainly at a significant cost (the majority of the cost was for the OT rather than the listening). I'm glad we did it but a few years down the road I'm more skeptical, and much too busy (we have more kids now) to concern myself with therapies with unclear success rates.

Something about the Brain Balance place reminds me of a weaker version of the OT with listening therapy (with even less research to back it up).
Posted by: ColinsMum

Re: Brain Balance Center? - 05/02/10 01:24 AM

Originally Posted By: MegMeg

Originally Posted By: ColinsMum
Anyone followed the UK Singh case?

No, what's that about?

Simon Singh, a distinguished British science writer (author of, for example, Fermat's Last Theorem (although how curious, it has a slightly different title in American), a beautifully accurate and accessible book which many of the mathy children here might enjoy), wrote an article for the Guardian in which he pointed out that there is "not a jot of evidence" that chiropracters can successfully treat many of the conditions they claim to treat. The British Chiropractic Association sued him for libel. To cut a very long story short, they lost (well, they withdrew because of a judgement along the way that made it clear to all that they'd lose). More details in the Wikipedia article and liberally scattered across the web, google singh bca.
Posted by: MegMeg

Re: Brain Balance Center? - 05/02/10 07:40 AM

Originally Posted By: snowgirl
MegMeg, I'm interested to hear if you have an opinion on combination OT with listening therapy (a la Tomatis).
Hadn't heard of it before, but I did a quick search. PsycInfo turns up 8 peer-reviewed journal articles, just two of which report data using appropriate experimental design. Neither of those articles found any improvement with Tomatis methods.

Originally Posted By: snowgirl
they said it had something to do with making changes in the brain happen quicker.
This is rubbish. Anyone who could demonstrate a way to literally speed up the physical processes of the brain would be winning a Nobel Prize in medicine, and we would have all heard about it.

Originally Posted By: snowgirl
Nonetheless, we did see some clearly positive, obvious changes from the program, though not exactly what we were expecting
Sometimes improvement happens anyway, just through the passage of time. A lot of quack therapies are kept afloat by this fact. On the other hand, it's possible that the OT portion of the treatment was effective, though I would be deeply suspicious of OT "professionals" who believe in the Tomatis method.

References:

Brief report: The effects of Tomatis sound therapy on language in children with autism. Corbett, Blythe A.; Shickman, Kathryn; Ferrer, Emilio. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. Vol 38(3), 2008, pp. 562-566

Two-year evaluation of the Tomatis Listening Training Program with learning disabled children. Kershner, John R.; Cummings, Richard L.; Clarke, Kenneth A.; Hadfield, Audrey J. Learning Disability Quarterly. Vol 13(1), 1990, pp. 43-53

Posted by: Cricket2

Re: Brain Balance Center? - 05/03/10 12:29 PM

Originally Posted By: snowgirl
Originally Posted By:
Founder Ken Gibson, a former pediatric optometrist, said kids with autism-spectrum disorder often have trouble blending sounds, which makes reading difficult. His therapy focuses on lengthening attention span, short-term memory and speed.

Is this the same Ken Gibson who founded LearningRx, which I posted about on this same forum last week? That thread also prompted the input of a first time poster who gave links supporting how LearningRx changes brain functioning.

I had seen the study that was linked on that other thread and had some questions about it as well including the fact that it was not a peer reviewed published study. I haven't looked at the links on this thread re Brain Balance Center, but I remain dubious across the board.
Posted by: twogirlsdad

Re: Brain Balance Center? - 06/10/10 12:43 PM

I understand some of the concerns posted here, but approaching my research on brain balance centers without any bias, I don't understand why the biggest detractors have no first hand knowledge of the outcomes and yet the seemingly biggest supporters and best reviews of the brain balance program come from parents of children who went through the program and showed measureable progress.

Are they imagining it?
Posted by: ColinsMum

Re: Brain Balance Center? - 06/10/10 12:57 PM

Originally Posted By: twogirlsdad
I understand some of the concerns posted here, but approaching my research on brain balance centers without any bias, I don't understand why the biggest detractors have no first hand knowledge of the outcomes and yet the seemingly biggest supporters and best reviews of the brain balance program come from parents of children who went through the program and showed measureable progress.

Are they imagining it?

For full discussion of this very common phenomenon, I recommend Singh and Ernst's book "Trick or Treatment?",
http://www.amazon.com/Trick-Treatment-Undeniable-Alternative-Medicine/dp/0393066614
To tell whether a treatment works you need science: systematic empirical investigation, coupled with consideration of possible mechanism. There are many reasons why an individual might have the (honest, understandable) impression that an ineffective treatment has worked for them. Important ones include regression to the mean (the tendency to seek treatment when the condition is worst, so that the only likely place to go is up), the placebo effect (which doesn't just mean they're imagining it), and the natural desire for a treatment one has sought out and often paid for not to have been a waste of time and money.
Posted by: twogirlsdad

Re: Brain Balance Center? - 06/11/10 06:05 AM

Again, I understand the healthy skepticism, but I have still not found a single parent whose child completed the program who says that either 1) their child did not make significant measureable improvement or 2)that there was any regression from those advancements. Even 6-9 months down the road.

Did you have a negative experience?
Posted by: ColinsMum

Re: Brain Balance Center? - 06/11/10 07:50 AM

No, I'm just anti things that take advantage of desperate parents, and it happens rather too often that people join parenting forums and then never do anything other than promote some therapy. If this method is as effective as you say, it will be very easy for its proponents to get multiple convincing studies published in reputable peer-reviewed journals. Once that's happened, I'll happily remember this therapy and mention it to anyone to whom it seems relevant.

Now, assuming you have some reason for being here other than to promote this therapy, which is the only thing you've done so far, welcome to the forum and I suggest you go and post about whatever it is that did bring you here.
Posted by: twogirlsdad

Re: Brain Balance Center? - 06/11/10 08:48 AM

I am not promoting or endorsing anything, I don't know how i could have given that impression.

I merely stated that I find it odd that for any parents who have enrolled their children in the Brain Balance program that there are only positive testimonials and no negative ones (at least not that I've been able to find). I heard about Brain Balance (and a few other centers including Learning Rx) as something I may want to look into as a way to help an autistic child of a close friend and We've become intrigued by the whole Right Brain/Left Brain disconnect approach, As it is accepted science which i can GENERALLY understand.

I have no horse in this race other than to find out through first hand experiences whether parents believe this program is helping or not helping their children, Independent of how many studies have been published and peer-reviewed. But to your point, You are right, more peer reviewed studies would obviously make the research quite a bit easier.
Posted by: Val

Re: Brain Balance Center? - 06/11/10 09:36 AM

Originally Posted By: twogirlsdad
I understand some of the concerns posted here, but approaching my research on brain balance centers without any bias,

Are they imagining it?


Without a proper study, they might be. Here are a few tips to help you sort out facts from unsupported claims:

Originally Posted By: twogirlsdad
I have no horse in this race other than to find out through first hand experiences whether parents believe this program is helping or not helping their children,


I wouldn't advise you to put much faith in scattered reports (or worse, reports on the center's web site).

Scattered reports are just that: scattered reports. The center wants people to use its service, so there's a conflict of interest in anything on its website. People selling something often exaggerate how great their product is. This is why we need things like peer-reviewed studies and FDA approval of medical treatments. They help us decide if a medicine or treatment is helpful or not.

Here's another point: reports from people who say they believe in something are called self-reported data.

Self-reported data has lots of problems. In this case, one of them is that you don't know if everyone who used the service has made a report on it. Maybe lots of people tried this method and it didn't work for their kids. Maybe some of the kids who tried the method weren't definitely autistic. You also don't know what kind of autism the autistic ones had. How bad was it? Was it Asperger's? Was it something else? Did the kids have other problems?

You don't know any of these things because the guy in charge of the center hasn't published studies that give people ALL the information.

Peer-reviewed studies force scientists to be careful about their work and force them to prove that what they say is true.

Sometimes the system breaks down, but it's way, way better than the other option, which is no oversight at all. If there were no peer review and no FDA, people would be selling all kinds of garbage and making crazy claims about it.

In fact, they still do, but we have the FDA and peer-reviewed studies to help us sort out the garbage from the good stuff.

Unfortunately, autism is a field that's got a lot of garbage in it. I have a lot of sympathy for people with autistic kids because so many people are trying to fool them.

Honestly: if the treatment really worked, the guy who owns the center would be more likely to run some clinical trials. If his method worked as well as he says it does, he could:

1. Get FDA approval so that insurance would cover the treatment;

2. Help millions of kids.

3. Become a famous researcher who made a breakthrough in a very high-profile condition;

Val



Posted by: MegMeg

Re: Brain Balance Center? - 06/11/10 10:28 AM

Hi twogirlsdad,

Maybe you should turn your question around and ask yourself, why are you taking anecdotal evidence as your gold standard? Personal stories 1) don't tell you what the overall success rates are (an individual anecdote may be wildly unrepresentative), and 2) they rely on subjective impressions of success rather than measured improvements.

There's also a burden-of-proof issue here. Proposed therapies basically need to be assumed ineffective until proven otherwise. The fact that this therapy has not managed to generate a shred of research in its favor is a very bad sign.
Posted by: MegMeg

Re: Brain Balance Center? - 06/11/10 10:42 AM

Originally Posted By: twogirlsdad
We've become intrigued by the whole Right Brain/Left Brain disconnect approach, As it is accepted science which i can GENERALLY understand.

I also want to address this specifically. It is simply not true that any "right brain/left brain disconnect approach" to autism is accepted by serious researchers. Details upon request.
Posted by: twogirlsdad

Re: Brain Balance Center? - 06/11/10 06:51 PM

MegMeg,

You don't believe in the science behind delineating right brain/left brain processing? Thats well beyond being generally scientifically accepted. Even from a laymans persepective.
Posted by: Val

Re: Brain Balance Center? - 06/11/10 08:14 PM

Originally Posted By: twogirlsdad
MegMeg,

You don't believe in the science behind delineating right brain/left brain processing? Thats well beyond being generally scientifically accepted. Even from a laymans persepective.


Hmm. Seems to me that you missed the point of what she was saying.

The existence of left and right brain processing isn't relevant to this argument. My impression of the discussion is that it's about the wisdom of advertising untested ideas as valid medical treatments.

I think that the fiasco over vaccines and autism is a really good example of what can happen when bogus medical ideas take hold in the popular consciousness. A person named Andrew Wakefield published a study linking the two. It was completely and utterly bogus and it turned out that he had a significant financial conflicts of interest. The study has been retracted by most of its authors and the journal, and Wakefield lost his license to practice medicine in the UK. No link between vaccines and autism has ever been proven in spite of many attempts to do so, but millions of people chose to avoid vaccinating their kids because of what he did. Undoing the damage he did will be a lot harder than creating the problem to begin with was.

And the result is that a couple children who didn't get vaccinated because of his garbage died of measles, and more have ended up on ventilators. Plus other vaccine-preventable diseases are on the rise.

So I guess the moral of the story is to be very, very careful of unsubstantiated claims about medical treatments.

Val
Posted by: MegMeg

Re: Brain Balance Center? - 06/12/10 06:37 AM

Originally Posted By: twogirlsdad
You don't believe in the science behind delineating right brain/left brain processing? Thats well beyond being generally scientifically accepted. Even from a laymans persepective.

I'm a neuroscientist by profession. Most of what laypeople know about left-brain/right-brain is wrong. I would be happy to give you a quick tutorial about what we do know about the specializations of the left and right hemispheres, but I don't think you're really listening.

Posted by: aline

Re: Brain Balance Center? - 06/12/10 03:48 PM

I'm listening! I think I'm up to date as alayman but would love a few citations.
Posted by: MegMeg

Re: Brain Balance Center? - 06/12/10 05:42 PM

Originally Posted By: aline
I'm listening! I think I'm up to date as alayman but would love a few citations.

Hi aline -- happy to oblige!

The quick version is:

Both hemispheres have areas for
- visual processing
- auditory processing
- identifying familiar objects
- processing spatial locations and spatial relationships
- processing information coming in from the body
- planning body movements
- reasoning and decision-making
- and much more

The left hemisphere
- has a few areas that are specialized for language (but may be more generally for fast temporal changes)

The right hemisphere
- is more strongly involved in spatial processing
- is specialized for some "large scale" language stuff (e.g. discourse processing)

All this is just for right-handers. Left handers may be the same, reversed, or mixed.

The popular media have drastically over-exaggerated and over-simplified these issues. The whole "right brain equals logical, sequential, detail-oriented, mathematical; left brain equals intuitive, wholistic, artistic" mythology is just simply made up.

The two hemispheres are connected by a thick band of communicative fibers called the corpus callosum. The two hemispheres function together as a single system. Everyone uses both. There is no such thing as a "left-brained person" or a "right-brained person."

As for citations, well, the literature is vast. Your best bet is a good undergraduate text in cognitive psychology or cognitive neuroscience. My personal choice is Reisberg's text, but it's quite pricey (they all are).

Please feel free to ask me any more specific questions you may have!

Meg
Posted by: DeeDee

Re: Brain Balance Center? - 06/12/10 07:58 PM

Meg, what (if any) is the science on "sensory issues" or "sensory processing disorder"? This is another area where there are ostensible disorders diagnosed only by the people who claim to be able to cure them, and peer-reviewed literature seems rather scarce.

Thanks--
DeeDee
Posted by: Cricket2

Re: Brain Balance Center? - 06/12/10 09:15 PM

This is a very interesting conversation to follow although I've had nothing to contribute. Thank you MegMeg smile!
Posted by: MegMeg

Re: Brain Balance Center? - 06/14/10 08:03 AM

Originally Posted By: DeeDee
Meg, what (if any) is the science on "sensory issues" or "sensory processing disorder"? This is another area where there are ostensible disorders diagnosed only by the people who claim to be able to cure them, and peer-reviewed literature seems rather scarce.

Hi DeeDee,

Argh. This label seemed to appear out of nowhere a while back. I've been ignoring it and hoping it would go away, or at least get clarified. But because you asked, I went and did a search on it.

It turns out to be a term invented by occupational therapists, and mostly promulagated by OTs and other paraprofessionals (i.e. not medical doctors or academic researchers). The PsycINFO database has 42 articles. (Which is really really few. To put it in perspective, the search term "autism" turns up 18 thousand articles.) Of those 42, there are:

- 11 books, book chapters, or book reviews (not peer reviewed)
- 6 dissertation abstracts (not peer reviewed)
- 4 articles actually about something else (e.g. schizophrenia, deafness)
- 3 case studies (not generalizable)
- 3 opinion pieces
- 2 articles about the use of terminology by professionals
- 2 duplicate entries in the database
- 1 publication in a vanity journal (authors pay to be published)
and finally,
- 10 peer reviewed journal articles about actual research

Of those 10:
- All are in obscure specialty journals, mostly in applied fields (e.g. OT, nursing), rather than venues where "basic" scientific research is published
- 2 assume the existence of SID and look for a relationship between it and something else (temperament, family environment)
- 5 look at how tests for disorders or subsets of disorders cluster together
- 3 look at treatment outcomes. One found no effect. The other two did not use appropriate control conditions.
- NONE looked at underlying causes, brain organization, or even whether this is an independent syndrome that can't be accounted for by other disorders.

Hope this helps! Cheers,

Meg

Posted by: blob

Re: Brain Balance Center? - 06/14/10 08:18 AM

Tks Meg. I'm really interested as well because DS has been undergoing OT 2x a week and it's costing a bomb. I do see some improvement especially for gross motor issues, possibly because he's forced to practice maneuvres he'd not normally do, and also because it's part of DS' developmental schedule. Handwriting though, which is what we're really trying to improve, is not happening at all frown.
Posted by: DeeDee

Re: Brain Balance Center? - 06/14/10 08:36 AM

Meg, that's about what I thought it would be, but I'm glad to have your expert view.

I have had OTs look me in the eye and tell me things about my child that seemed like utterly unsupportable pseudoscience. But I always like to have my facts straight before I politely decline to accept their advice.

Keep teaching us about the science of these matters-- it is much appreciated.

DeeDee
Posted by: Kriston

Re: Brain Balance Center? - 06/14/10 09:35 AM

I am COMPLETELY on-board the peer-reviewed, scientific evidence train. The plural of anecdote is not data. I can't even begin to tell you how strongly I agree!

However...

I think it's important to add that I'm similarly skeptical of the notion that because we don't know about something right now, it doesn't exist. I think we have to be very wary of accepting the current thinking as the ONLY POSSIBLE thinking, especially when it comes to the brain.

The fact is that we don't know it all, and if past history is any indication of the future of science, some of what we think we know isn't 100% correct yet. Science is always evolving, happily.

Lack of peer-reviewed evidence is not evidence that something doesn't exist or isn't happening. It may just mean that it hasn't yet been studied. Lack of peer-reviewed evidence isn't the same as a debunking.

With that said, I completely agree that lack of evidence of effectiveness is a *very* good reason to think twice--or 3 or 4 or 5 times!--before handing someone your money for an unproven treatment for a disorder that may not even exist.

Basically I dislike blind faith in anything, even science!
Posted by: MegMeg

Re: Brain Balance Center? - 06/14/10 03:27 PM

Hi Kriston,

You raise an important issue. It's one that I think is very much misunderstood by the non-scientist public. First, scientists would be the first to say that we don't have all the answers yet! Especially when it comes to understanding the brain, everybody in the biz knows that we have barely scratched the surface.

But that is a separate issue from, second, whether a particular proposal has any truth to it. This is where scientists start to get impatient and sound like know-it-alls. Because, really, we've been around that block SO many times, it's like playing whack-a-mole.

This is where the burden-of-proof issue comes in. It is incumbent upon the person proposing a theory to provide SOME reason, ANY reason, why it should be taken seriously, before asking people to waste their time and scarce research funds looking into it. Our culture has this myth of the persecuted genius (think Galileo) who is eventually vindicated by history. But that kind of thing is rare. Vanishingly rare. Meanwhile, there is a river of crackpot ideas that will never be anything but crackpot.

It's like being asked, "You don't believe in the Easter Bunny? Why not? Give me all your reasons and arguments, in explicit detail. Oh, okay, I guess that sounds kinda convincing, but what about Santa Claus? Why don't you believe in him? Don't you think you're being a little closed-minded? What about Ganesh? Leprechauns? Aliens who built the pyramids? Absence of evidence isn't evidence of absence, ya know."

This analogy might sound rather snarky and unfair, but it's really pretty accurate. Because another feature of these kinds of theories is their sheer implausibility. Their quality of pulled-out-of-nowhere-ness. Their complete lack of fit with everything else we already know.

This leads to my next point, which is the myth that scientists are dismissive of any idea that hasn't already been proven. In fact, scientists LOVE new and promising ideas. Think of the history of AIDS treatment research. There were numerous ideas and approaches that seemed promising and raised scientists' hopes, that turned out to be dead ends, before real progress finally started happening. Those early treatments were taken seriously because there was some reason to think they could pan out. For example, maybe a certain effect worked in the petri dish, but just didn't scale up (or whatever). This is one of the important features that distinguishes viable theories from theories that make scientists roll their eyeballs.

Thanks for raising this important issue, and giving me a chance to do another Public Service Announcement! smile laugh wink

Meg
Posted by: twogirlsdad

Re: Brain Balance Center? - 06/14/10 05:16 PM

MegMeg,

That's great that you're a neurologist, but with all due respect that is a fact independent of the issue I am enquiring about, which are the outcomes that are being reported with respect to programs like Brain Balance.

Perhaps I should ask the question this way. As a trained neurologist, why is it that from your perspective the science and medical training you have received refutes or discounts this as a viable program for treating autism or other afflictions on the autism scale?
Posted by: master of none

Re: Brain Balance Center? - 06/14/10 05:35 PM

I believe that was already addressed when the basis of the treatment was discussed.
Posted by: twogirlsdad

Re: Brain Balance Center? - 06/14/10 06:05 PM

My apologies, I had not refreshed my page from earlier in the day when i had responded and missed her last reply, so I think i understand your/her point on refuting a negative.

That said, I am still having a hard time with deriding the program based on nothing but the lack of peer review in the face of significant positive feedback from parents who have enrolled their children vs. No or little negative feedback from same. I'm trying to get past the discussion about peer review to asking why the SCIENCE could generate the skepticism.
Posted by: DeeDee

Re: Brain Balance Center? - 06/14/10 06:22 PM

You can't tell from anecdotal evidence whether this or any program helped the child, whether it was something else the family was trying at the same time that helped, or whether the child learned some skills because s/he was developmentally ready to do so.

From the parent's point of view it looks like success, and that's great for them; but there is no way to determine whether the success is attributable to the program or to other factors.

Scientific studies are designed to remove all those other irrelevant factors from consideration, so that you can actually tell whether and under what conditions the program would likely work in future cases, or whether its apparent success was likely coincidental.

Seen from this point of view, it's not a "mere" lack of peer review: anecdotal evidence just doesn't get you far. It might give you things to try if you're floundering and desperate (hence the preying on families of kids with autism) but it doesn't give you information you can trust will help.

As far as the science generating skepticism: this relates to MegMeg's post earlier. If there's no reason based in currently accepted scientific thought why we should think something ought to work, it seems reasonable to be skeptical. Not to say we understand it all, just to say an idea is more worth testing if it is plausible based on what we already know.

I'm not deriding this particular program-- I know little about it. But I have to be skeptical of programs where the main people providing a diagnosis are the same people selling the solutions, and programs that solve poorly defined problems based on strategies that don't make sense to me.

DeeDee
Posted by: no5no5

Re: Brain Balance Center? - 06/14/10 06:43 PM

I'll say this: Peer reviewed or not, scientists don't convince desperate parents to spend thousands of dollars by spouting pseudo-scientific claims that they can cure their kids of anything by means of methods that have not undergone scientific testing. Scientists hypothesize that a particular treatment might work for certain conditions, get IRB approval, test it on volunteers, and then and only then conclude that it either does or does not help. Period. Perhaps these methods do help. But the "science" on the website is absolutely, shockingly, long on buzzwords and short on meaning. You don't need science to generate skepticism, when common sense will do as well. smile
Posted by: no5no5

Re: Brain Balance Center? - 06/14/10 06:47 PM

Originally Posted By: MegMeg
I call troll. Let's stop feeding the troll.

(I've enjoyed the discussion with the rest of you, though!)


Probably. But thanks for the info about right/left brain function. I've often wondered why people make that division when it seems so unlikely. smile
Posted by: Kriston

Re: Brain Balance Center? - 06/14/10 07:34 PM

MegMeg,

I'm happy to give you the chance to issue the PSA. smile And yes to not feeding the troll.

I think I have just been running into a lot of doctors in the past 10 years or so who are NOT excited to investigate and try new ideas. Several times I have run across doctors who a) have no solution that will actually work for a given problem, and yet b) dismiss cheap and easy potential solutions, instead prescribing pricey diagnostics and powerful meds that they know are not likely to yield any better results than snake oil.

In such a case, maybe trying something that's untested--provided it is cheap and won't do more harm--is not a bad idea.

I'm not talking about Santa Claus solutions, but things that make some sense. In my case, I asked my doctor if I should get off artificial sweeteners because I had read that they might cause migraines. He said there was no evidence, and instead he prescribed a pricey MRI and anti-depressants that were far worse than my migraines.

I did everything he told me to do, but I had more migraines than ever. Desperate, I just decided to start eliminating things to see if it helped, effectively conducting my *own* study, insofar as that was possible with a group of one... The first thing I did was quit using artifical sweeteners. Surprise, surprise, the migraines have almost completely stopped.

Cheap, easy, probably better for me anyway, but my doctor dismissed it. Why? Because there was no proof yet. Um...

I have other anecdotes from my own experience. (My first childbirth experience was a biggie.) But basically, I am now skeptical of every solution someone proposes: show me why I should believe. Absent an emergent situation, doctors have to prove to me that their solutions are worth my time and money just like everyone else, and they need to give me a darn good reason why my cheap/free and easy solution shouldn't be tried. Otherwise, I'm starting there and saving the MRIs and mind-altering drugs for a last resort!
Posted by: Iucounu

Re: Brain Balance Center? - 06/15/10 02:29 AM

The problem seems to be that the thing you're here to laud has no proper scientific basis. I am unable to assess such things, since I'm not a neuroscientist.

However, things like lack of peer-reviewed scientific journal articles, etc. etc. etc. are more compelling to me than postings from essentially anonymous supposed parents, who even if they are bona fide will have paid thousands for a treatment and will thus be psychologically invested in not feeling bilked.

As an example of how baseless claims can result in loss to the public, consider the Q-Ray bracelet, which was sold through claims of pain relief that were never substantiated: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Q-Ray

So no, it's not wise to just take advertising claims on faith, least of all faith from people who may be suffering from the placebo effect.

Let's say, hypothetically, that a Brain Balance salesperson decides to create an anonymous account on a website to sell the product, and he picks a website where lots of people with autistic-spectrum children go. Of course that salesperson will say positive things about the product, ignore the fact that it goes against or is not founded on any established science, ignore the fact that it's created by a chiropractor, make claims based on testimonials from parents of the "cured" without any proper corroboration, say that there is no proof that it doesn't work, etc. Such tactics have already been handily debunked previously in this thread.

Like no5no5, lots of red flags go up for me when I see lots of buzzwords accompanied by little or anything of substance, and lots of money spent on what sounds like basic academic drills, not left-brain/right-brain retraining.

If you're not a Brain Balance salesperson, you'd make a fine one. smile Your post is indistinguishable, to me, from spam posts selling products that pop up on websites fairly often, and I think that's what some others are seeing. I apologize if you really are a parent questing after answers who has simply bought into the buzz about this product.
Posted by: twogirlsdad

Re: Brain Balance Center? - 06/15/10 04:14 AM

I am not a Brain Balance salesperson, Nor am I in anyway associated with Brain Balance !! If you read my earlier posts you will see that I am completely open to both sides of the story. I am here for no other simple reason than to make a decision for myself as to the effectiveness of this program, plain and simple!! I was introduced to the concept and I am simply trying to learn about it. If anything, perhaps you are a salesperson for a competing supplemental learning center or neurology clinic. That seems increasingly likely.

I would like to discuss the merits and demerits of the program (See Thread Name) on this forum. Its obvious that this and all programs should be approached skeptically, and i am totally open to all the scientific and outcome testimonials that would sway my thinking either way. So far there is none emanating from this (Brain Balance) thread.

All I have learned from this thread is that:
1) MerMeg is a neurologist
2) There are no/no major peer reviews studies on the BBC approach
3) MegMeg is a neurologist
4) MegMeg believes We've only scratched the surface in understanding the Human brain
5) MegMeg is a neurologist
6) There is no one on this board who is willing to discuss the outcomes of the Brain Balance Program either to say it was successful or unsuccessful for their child.
7) MegMeg is a neurologist

But listening to megmeg discuss the potential merits or demerits of the program via the science is tantamount to bringing a Lamborghini to a high-priced mechanic, only to look inside his (her) shop and see that they have a mechanics certification on the wall but only duct tape and a sledge hammer in their tool chest to fix the car. I'm always skeptical of mechanics who diagnose a car's problems without looking under the hood and don't generally like to explain how an engine works to customers.

As I mentioned above, this thread is titled "Brain Balance Centers". That is why i signed on, looking for positive or negative commentary on its effectiveness. I will obviously stop looking on this board and pursue speaking with more parents directly who have sent their child to a center.
Posted by: Iucounu

Re: Brain Balance Center? - 06/15/10 05:09 AM

You started by attacking detractors of this unproven Brain Balance system. That alone tends to show bias, to me. You later stated that Brain Balance is based on (or is) "accepted science", when it doesn't seem to be in reality. You then muddied the waters by writing of delineating left-brain/right-brain processing differences, which was correctly pointed out to be irrelevant.

Multiple people have explained problems with your approach (depending on self-reported or anecdotal evidence, claiming that absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, etc.), and yet you seem not to understand, over and over. It's quite simple: one runs the risk of falling prey to scams by believing in things without proof. As others have stated, the field is rife with crackpot science (I personally don't have experience but believe it).

That's why people have a "show me" attitude. Any reasonable person who's watched an infomercial or two knows not to depend on glowing end-user reports alone. When scientists in a field also discount those glowing reports, I listen. And when a self-described layperson making scientific claims resorts to ridiculing someone with in-depth knowledge, my opinion of the layperson goes down, not up-- no offense.

You seem to be an excessively trusting person, if everything you are saying is true. I personally would trust an expert. But I certainly understand how someone can grasp at any source of seeming help when one's child has a problem.
Posted by: MegMeg

Re: Brain Balance Center? - 06/15/10 06:46 AM

Hi Kriston,

Okay, now I get where you're coming from. The types of examples you're talking about are a whole different kettle of fish. Zero cost, zero harm, and easy, so why not give it a try? Also, definitely some surface plausibility. We know so little about the effects on our bodies of recently-invented chemicals. And finally, it's the kind of thing that is so easy to implement that anecdotal evidence starts to be worth considering. Ordinary people can execute their own "A-B-A-B" design (alternating control condition and treatment) and observe the effects.

That doctor sounds like a jerk. Regular doctors, the type who just see patients, aren't actually trained as scientists. They're basically just technicians. And they vary a lot in how savvy they are about evidence, etc. Some of them (like in the discussion of teachers going on in another thread!) have a lot of ego invested in being the authority. And to be fair, some of them are just sick to death of patients coming in and saying, "I read on the internet that blah blah blah [insert thoroughly discredited idea here], so why should I take my pills?" So they have a knee-jerk reaction. Which doesn't make it right, just maybe a little more understandable.
Posted by: kcab

Re: Brain Balance Center? - 06/15/10 07:58 AM

Originally Posted By: MegMeg
That doctor sounds like a jerk. Regular doctors, the type who just see patients, aren't actually trained as scientists. They're basically just technicians. And they vary a lot in how savvy they are about evidence, etc. Some of them (like in the discussion of teachers going on in another thread!) have a lot of ego invested in being the authority. And to be fair, some of them are just sick to death of patients coming in and saying, "I read on the internet that blah blah blah [insert thoroughly discredited idea here], so why should I take my pills?" So they have a knee-jerk reaction. Which doesn't make it right, just maybe a little more understandable.
Yes, I wanted to say this too, doctors are not necessarily scientists.

I'd go further than MegMeg in this as I have seen examples at very high levels in the medical profession. Not such that it is endangering, but more in that the approach to data can be biased. This can be encountered in any research; it is always a good idea to think carefully about how the research was carried out and what assumptions were made. Unfortunately, it may be wise to consider how money and power influence results as well.
Posted by: Kriston

Re: Brain Balance Center? - 06/15/10 08:30 AM

But doctors/psychologists/technicians are the people most of us turn to for scientific answers. They're our filter for scientific info. And many of them are, indeed, ego-invested jerks who accept happily that lack of peer-reviewed evidence = debunking. It does not. This doctor was no more jerky than any other I've been to, and really, he was a lot less than most. At least he took the time to listen to my question and answered with respect. Most want to write the scrip and get out.

I think you're very right, kcab, that money and power have a lot to do with it. I think it's in the doctors' interest to medicalize problems whenever possible.

We are considering vision therapy. I'm not diving in without careful consideration, of course, but I'm also not willing to write it off because it hasn't been studied well enough. Every treatment or therapy was new once.

I'm doing what I can to figure out what exactly is going on with DS6 before we spend a dime, of course. But I have enough anecdotal evidence from people I trust to think that it might be worth the money *if* he has a specific sort of problem and *if* we don't have to spend a lot, even if what he's getting from it is a specific sort of attention from a specialist more than a real "treatment."

Caveat Emptor, basically. Even with medicine.
Posted by: Val

Re: Brain Balance Center? - 06/15/10 09:14 AM

Twogirlsmom doesn't strike me as being a troll. And honestly, some of what I've read in this thread comes across as condescending, whether it was meant that way or not.

TGM, if you're looking for people who've used the centers, it seems that no one here has.

I think people here are suspicious of what they see as an unproven, yet widely advertised medical treatment. The BB Center's website looks nice, and the parental testimonies all sound great. But the thing is that the BB Center is hardly going to publish lots of critical reports. This means that you probably need to do some more digging if you want to find all sides of the story.

Here's an example of something you could look into: I couldn't find anything saying that they accept insurance. I could be wrong; maybe insurance companies do reimburse them. But if the insurance companies won't reimburse for treatment there, well, that's not a good sign. Alternatively, if the insurance companies do cover the costs of treatment, that's a better sign.

You could also call state medical associations to ask about them.


Here's a thread with a lot of concerns similar to the ones voiced here. Note that the person who's thinking about using the BB Center is frustrated with conventional medicine. This, plus the big promises the centers make, is a common tactic used by people who are trying to take your money:

* You're vulnerable
* You're frustrated with conventional approaches
* We can make your problem disappear! No one else can!

This is why people here and on the other thread are so suspicious. Honestly, if I was going to make a recommendation a new or different medical treatment (especially for a child), I'd start on the suspicious side EVERY time, even if I was being handed an FDA approved pill. I'd still check it out. Actually, I even tend to check out a lot of well-known stuff too. But that's just me.


Val
Posted by: cricket3

Re: Brain Balance Center? - 06/15/10 09:36 AM

Thanks, Val- well said.
Posted by: Mark D.

Re: Brain Balance Center? - 06/15/10 11:58 AM

I'm going to close this thread because I think everything has been covered here. One of the posts on here was removed because it was inappropriate for this forum, and the poster was warned that they will be banned if they post in that manner again. However, nobody will be banned yet, because up until the inappropriate post, I didn't see anything wrong. If I do find that a poster is spamming and here just to sell their organization or a product, then i certainly will ban them and put an end to them posting here.

I would also like to remind everyone to be respectful of all posters and to not "talk down" to anyone, whether they have been here for a while or are new.

Thank you and please contact me via Private Message if you have any questions.

Best regards,
Mark