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Chronic fatigue also affects the brain

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May 11, 2004
Helen Chickering, NBC News

You may think of chronic fatigue syndrome as an illness that makes the body tired, but many patients and researchers will tell you the disease also wears out the mind. Now, a new therapy is helping patients gain a better quality of life, and a sense of control over this often-frightening illness.

It looks like a video game, but instead of fighting aliens, Polly Little is fighting an illness- chronic fatigue syndrome- a mysterious disease that debilitates both body and mind. "I wasn't even able to do simple things like giving a store clerk the right amount of change."

The video is actually part of a therapy called neurocognitive feedback that works to retrain abnormal brain waves researchers believe are responsible for the memory and focus problems many patients like Polly experience.

Myra Preston, PhD., and neurophysiologist says, "It's like a physical therapy exercise program for the brain."

The key is a brain map that documents the brain wave irregularities and tracks the progress of the therapy. Neurophysiologist Dr. Myra Preston patented the mapping method. "The brains of chronic fatigue patients look like those of people who are asleep."

Patient Judy Noblitt is having her map updated, so Dr. Preston can see if the feedback therapy is working. Like many CF patients, Judy quickly gives out and can't complete the mental task. A symptom common in chronic fatigue- and one that often leads to misdiagnosis.

Judy said, "They say you're depressed, you need to see a psychiatrist, there's nothing really wrong with you."

But the abnormal brainwaves on Judy’s brain map tell a different story. Her sleep waves dominate her brain activity while she's awake. But the map also shows feedback therapy is helping her sleepy brain stay awake longer. Overall, Judy’s brain is functioning about 40-percent better.

Doctor Preston notes the map and therapy can't cure the brain wave malfunction, but they can help patients like Judy and Polly gain a better quality of life. "I've been able to get off quite a few of my medications, and no other treatment that I've done have I been able to do that."

Victories that are helping these women regain control over their lives. Doctor Preston says her chronic fatigue patients average about 60 one-hour neurocognitive feedback therapy sessions.

There is also a home unit available. For more information on Doctor Preston and the neurocognitive biofeedback therapy for chronic fatigue syndrome, you can log onto www.siberimaging.com

posted at 10:05AM by dave.miller@walb.com

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