Health Care and Technology

Doctor provides brain training to fight Alzheimer’s, dementia

Fotuhi, Neurocore combine programs to help reverse symptoms.

September 9, 2016
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Neurocore
The brain performance center treats attention issues, sleep disorders, anxiety and stress by changing abnormal wavelengths occurring in the brain. Courtesy Neurocore Brain Performance Center

(As seen on WZZM TV 13) Americans fear being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease almost as much as they fear being diagnosed with cancer, but a local doctor said people have less to fear in regard to Alzheimer’s.

Dr. Majid Fotuhi, a neuroscientist who received his medical degree from Harvard Medical School and his Ph.D in neuroscience from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, is the chief medical officer at Neurocore Brain Performance Center in Grand Rapids. He said four out of the five causes behind Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and other cognitive impairments can be treated, and symptoms can be reversed.

Fotuhi said it’s important for people to realize only 11 to 14 percent of the elderly have pure Alzheimer’s disease.

“Everybody else has a mixture of reversible and treatable conditions,” he said.

Fotuhi said brain shrinkage occurs in patients with Alzheimer’s or dementia.

“There are five main things that shrink the brain substantially,” he said. “One, vascular problems such as obesity, hypertension or diabetes have been shown to shrink the brain. The second thing is a sleep issue, such as insomnia or sleep apnea, which can cause significant shrinkage in the brain. In fact, the degree of shrinkage in this part of the hippocampus correlates with the severity and duration of insomnia. The third thing is anxiety and depression issues. The fourth is concussion and brain damage, and the fifth is Alzheimer’s pathology.

“The good news is that four of those five categories are reversible or modifiable and treatable. More and more research shows when you do interventions to target those things that can be treated, like treatment of sleep apnea or insomnia, reducing stress or meditating, the brain grows.”

Fotuhi said by growing the brain, people can reverse the symptoms of memory loss they are experiencing and can prevent Alzheimer’s symptoms from occurring.

“You can grow your brain to what would have been your brain size and then keep growing it further,” he said. “If your hippocampus is bigger, you become more resilient to the effects of Alzheimer’s disease.

“So, even if you have the pure form of Alzheimer’s disease, if you’ve done all the things that have beefed up your brain size, you can have Alzheimer’s, and your brain can have no symptoms, because your brain is otherwise resilient.”

Fotuhi teamed up with Neurocore Brain Performance Center in Grand Rapids earlier this year to create a brain-training program based on his research and the center’s existing neurofeedback and biofeedback program.

Neurocore is headquartered in Grand Rapids and has seven Brain Performance Centers across the state. It also is opening two centers in South Florida this fall.

The centers specialize in customized brain-training programs focused on treating attention issues, sleep disorders, anxiety and stress by changing abnormal wavelengths occurring in the brain.

Fotuhi joined Neurocore in January and became its chief medical officer in April.

This fall, he is launching a Memory Boot Camp at all of Neurocore’s facilities.

The new program is a three-month brain-training program that will be targeted at people 55 and older who are starting to experience memory loss or who have a family history of dementia and Alzheimer’s.

Neurocore’s Memory Boot Camp will include neurofeedback to treat wavelength abnormalities that cause anxiety, depression, attention deficit disorders and sleep issues.

It also will include brain coaching, which Fotuhi said includes teaching clients how to improve their diet, implement exercise into their lives and make other lifestyle changes that can improve memory and brain vitality.

Fotuhi said there are proven ways to help people make long-lasting and significant behavior changes, which the new memory program implements.

The boot camp also includes individualized brain training.

Fotuhi said clients undergo an assessment to find out what weaknesses exist, and they undergo activities specifically targeting those weaknesses.

“You could fix those weaknesses, like a physical therapist would fix a shoulder,” he said. “We will establish the deficits and then do targeted brain training for those things.”

Fotuhi said the Memory Boot Camp is based on previous brain fitness programs he has implemented and studied during his career.

“My research had shown that these things should help in theory, and five years ago, I put the theory into practice,” he said. “I found that 84 percent of patients had statistically significant improvements.”

He also noted Neurocore has seen impressive results with its neurofeedback program. The company has achieved a success rate of more than 50 percent for its patients undergoing neurofeedback for attention deficit disorder, he said.

“When you give people medications to treat these issues, you are just masking the symptoms, not changing the brain,” Fotuhi said.

He said the Memory Boot Camp is a hybrid of his results and Neurocore’s.

“I have this brain fitness program with remarkable results for the aging population, and Neurocore has this program for attention deficit, anxiety and insomnia, and now, we’ve merged the programs together,” he said.

Mark Murrison, Neurocore CEO, said the Memory Boot Camp program will increase Neurocore’s outreach to older clients.

“Today, about 60 percent of our clients are kids,” he said. “They are coming in for ADHD, or anxiety, or struggles in school, like social behavior and academic challenges, and the 40 percent of adults are coming in for depression and sleep problems.”

Neurocore also has plans to grow its Brain Performance Centers across the country.

“We are a local company with national aspirations,” Murrison said. “Our expansion plans include opening 50 to 100 Neurocore Brain Performance Centers.

He said the centers will be located in retail corridors similar to its office in Grand Rapids; the company has an office in the retail plaza adjacent to Rivertown Mall in Grandville and another located at the Knapp’s Corner retail corridor.

He said Neurocore selected retail corridors for its centers to help remove any stigma associated with getting help for brain-related issues.

“We wanted to take it out of the medical office and move it to (the) main street,” he said. “It’s no different than other physical therapy or medical issues.

“It takes away the nervousness of the medical office.”

He also said Neurocore wants to emphasize the science and the technology behind what it does, so its spaces are designed to resemble a Tesla showroom and an Apple retail store.

“We wanted to create a welcoming, accessible and approachable environment,” he said.

Both Murrison and Fotuhi invite skeptics of their work to look into the evidence documented in research, some dating as far back as the 1980s, including the Nun Study of Aging and Alzheimer's disease, which began in 1986.

“There is compelling evidence in the last five to 10 years that the brain is malleable, and if you keep your brain healthy, you can postpone the age at which you will have symptoms of Alzheimer’s,” Fotuhi said.

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