Health Care, Human Resources, and Technology

Improving patient health through the brain

Neurocore focuses on diagnostics to improve focus, sleep and stress management.

June 6, 2014
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Neurocore
Neurocore has offices in West Michigan and on the east side of the state. Courtesy Neurocore

Running a company keeping you awake at night?

There might be some relief coming from Neurocore, a behavioral health solutions provider that specializes in diagnostics and optimization for the brain.

The Grand Rapids-based company measures, evaluates and trains the brain using data-driven diagnostics to produce long-term, noninvasive solutions to repair certain symptoms at the brain’s core.

Founded in 2004 by Dr. Timothy Royer, Neurocore uses brain-based diagnostics and treatments to improve focus, sleep and stress management in clinical, corporate and peak performance settings.

Royer said Neurocore works with approximately 60 to 70 percent of its clients in a clinical setting to improve different aspects of their lives, including sleep, anxiety, school performance, athletic performance, mood, focus and work performance.

“More traditionally you would see in the offices people who might have been diagnosed with ADHD, or some type of sleep problem, but it could also be what we would refer to as peak performance individuals, which are people who just want to do better with their brain,” said Royer. “They realize their brain is important to what they do … whether it is for academics, sports, or work.”

The Neurocore program begins with an assessment of an individual to measure quantifiable stress levels in the brain and body using traditional and medical testing, such as: personality and IQ evaluations; electrical activity in the brain using an EEG; measuring heart rate activity, respiration rates, and hormones in the body; and how the body and brain react to external stimuli.

He said the focus for the clinical group is to make accurate diagnoses, and a unique piece for the business is looking at data collected from evaluating how an individual’s brain is working rather than relying on subjective behavior.

“In the diagnostic side on the clinical end, we are working with a lot of people who already have diagnoses, but the diagnoses have been made primarily on behaviors and nobody has really looked at the brain. That is a big differentiation for us,” said Royer. “About 90 percent of the diagnoses made out there for people are just based off of checklists and behaviors that people see.”

In a corporate setting, Neurocore works with companies in various industries to assist in the evaluation of hiring new executives, and in the athletic industry help sports teams hire general managers or coaches. Neurocore has worked with DP Fox Ventures, a management company located in Grand Rapids; mutual fund organizations in Chicago; and CWD Real Estate Investment, a Grand Rapids firm specializing in commercial real estate.

“We have helped professional sports teams hire their general managers, their coaches, their operations staff,” said Royer. “We do a lot of brain testing in the corporate environment as well, and help those corporations improve the performance of their individuals who work there.”

The third arena the behavioral solutions provider focuses on is peak performance, with a primary contract with the NBA’s Orlando Magic. Neurocore has an onsite location in Orlando where players and staff have access to brain optimization services at all hours of the day.

After assessment, Neurocore works to optimize brain function through training by using biofeedback and neurofeedback. Royer said the two types of treatment operate on the same principles by using a reward system, or feedback from the surrounding environment, to reinforce how the brain should be working.

“In biofeedback I am learning to calm down my racing heart, and in neurofeedback we are actually catching the electrical current as it increases before the heart responds to that increase of electrical current,” said Royer.

According to an Association for Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback publication, the concept of biofeedback was first introduced at a conference in Santa Monica in 1969, and the clinical efficiency of the practice has been demonstrated for various disorders, including anxiety, attention deficit and hyperactivity, cerebral palsy, chronic pain, epilepsy, migraines, insomnia and neuromuscular disorders.

One program at Neurocore based on biofeedback teaches an individual to breathe properly through a reward system in which the client can watch a movie. According to Royer, the computer technology gives positive feedback when the breathing is correct through playing the movie.

Although the business has direct relationships with insurance companies, Royer said Neurocore does not have specific partnerships with hospitals. He said Neurocore’s services are fully covered by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and Blue Care Network participates for children from the ages of six to 18 who have attention deficit disorder or ADHD.

“There are medical arenas that we are working with … and when we do that we end up working secondarily with a lot of physicians who are then referring to us from their practices,” he said.

Royer said BCBSM determined the services Neurocore provided for individuals diagnosed with ADHD were as efficient to be put in the same category as medicine. A study comparing psychostimulants and EEG biofeedback in treating ADHD was published in the Journal of Neurotherapy in 1995, and stated a program with biofeedback treatment led to reduced cognitive and behavioral symptoms of ADHD after 20 sessions.

According to the study, the feedback treatment can be an alternative to medication proving ineffective or causing unacceptable side effects, but is not a cure for the disorder.

Neurocore clients do not need a physician referral to have assessments or treatment, and a majority of individuals come from previous clients.

Prior to founding Neurocore, Royer worked as division chief of pediatric psychology and founded the Neurobehavioral Center at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital in Grand Rapids. Although Royer considered his position a dream job, he ultimately decided to start his own company after seeing the prevalence of misdiagnoses in people ending up at the hospital years after starting treatment.

“If we are going to put a chemical in the brain to change it, it would make sense that we should be actually measuring the brain … developing the brain-based system for diagnostics and then a brain-based system for making the brain and body stronger, not just assuming a pill is going to solve every problem out there. We are about trying to shift a culture, because we believe the human brain is far more complex than just rating behaviors. There is so much more that it can do.”

The company has offices in Grand Rapids, Grandville, Holland, Grand Haven, Kalamazoo, Okemos, Sterling Heights, Livonia and Bloomfield Hills. Neurocore is made up of a five-person clinical team and has 11 clinical support staff across the different locations.

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