Rhythmic Integration

Rhythmic Integration Therapy combines aspects of bilateral tapping, alpha-theta training, vagus nerve stimulation, emotional-body awareness, rapid-fire sentence completion, and neurofeedback to strengthen connections between the limbic and frontal cortices. This approach is especially well-suited to resolving traumas. It is also useful in kids with restlessness, attention issues at all ages, the empathy-challenged, autism, dementia, addictions, reducing inflammation (including as a consequence of autoimmune disorders), and impairment after strokes. Practice optimizes our self-awareness, creativity, and intuition.

What to Expect

Drumming on the body with a simple left-right-left-right alternating pattern synchronizes the hemispheres of the brain and entrains motor, somatosensory, and auditory centers. One drums with a metronome set to tempos in the alpha and theta frequencies (4-10 Hz); this functionally enhances awareness of conscious thought in the frontal cortex with body awareness in the parietal cortex with the emotion and memory processing within the limbic cortex, as the intrinsic neural activity of the limbic system is generated at these frequency bands.

While drumming, we move the location that we are tapping on the body to stimulate the vagus nerve, which reduces anxiety through the release of endorphins, enkephalins, and catecholamines, and a decrease in circulating stress hormones. This body high feels good and is experienced as an active, alert calm. We also identify where we feel different emotions in the body and drum on these locations to increase our awareness.

Rhythmic Integration Therapy combines aspects of bilateral tapping, alpha-theta training, vagus nerve stimulation, emotional-body awareness, rapid-fire sentence completion, and neurofeedback to strengthen connections between the limbic and frontal cortices. This approach is especially well-suited to resolving traumas. It is also useful in kids with restlessness, attention issues at all ages, the empathy-challenged, autism, dementia, addictions, reducing inflammation (including as a consequence of autoimmune disorders), and impairment after strokes. Practice optimizes our self-awareness, creativity, and intuition.

What to Expect

Drumming on the body with a simple left-right-left-right alternating pattern synchronizes the hemispheres of the brain and entrains motor, somatosensory, and auditory centers. One drums with a metronome set to tempos in the alpha and theta frequencies (4-10 Hz); this functionally enhances awareness of conscious thought in the frontal cortex with body awareness in the parietal cortex with the emotion and memory processing within the limbic cortex, as the intrinsic neural activity of the limbic system is generated at these frequency bands.

While drumming, we move the location that we are tapping on the body to stimulate the vagus nerve, which reduces anxiety through the release of endorphins, enkephalins, and catecholamines, and a decrease in circulating stress hormones. This body high feels good and is experienced as an active, alert calm. We also identify where we feel different emotions in the body and drum on these locations to increase our awareness.

When we are distracted with engaging our bodies with drumming, we don’t have the resources to filter our internal narrative. In fact, most people initially find it difficult to have a conversation while maintaining a consistent pattern of drumming. We use this distraction to engage with rapid fire sentence completion exercises that are designed to increase self-awareness. The result is that we are better able to access unfiltered emotional awareness and to bring it into our conscious awareness.

A study entitled, Drumming Through Trauma: Music Therapy with Post-Traumatic Soldiers showed that “a reduction in PTSD symptoms was observed following drumming, especially increased sense of openness, togetherness, belonging, sharing, closeness, connectedness and intimacy, as well as achieving a non-intimidating access to traumatic memories, facilitating an outlet for rage and regaining a sense of self-control.”

The Rhythmic Brain

The increase in neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin while drumming enhances our ability to form and strengthen new connections in the brain. The caudate nucleus is activated, which activates our dopaminergic reward system and facilitates serotonergic prosocial behavior. The limbic system’s slow-wave electrical discharges strongly synchronize the frontal areas of the brain with ascending discharges, integrating nonverbal information from lower brain structures into the frontal cortex and producing insight.

The posterior cingulate cortex (PCC), dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (dACC), lateral and medial prefrontal cortex (LPFC, MPFC), and insula modulate their activity and strengthen their connectivity with respect to three important brain networks: the default mode network, the salience network, and the executive network. The interplay of these networks determines our ability to maintain attention, to monitor and identify the most important and relevant external and internal events, and to regulate emotions and impulsivity, thereby making good decisions.

Our Difference is the Science

Shamanistic drumming as a healing art has existed for centuries across many cultures. Anthropologists have determined that originally, shaman would use drumming to induce a trance-like state during which they would communicate with mystical beings to determine how to cure an illness. In more modern times, shamanistic drumming unites a group who all seek to share this ecstatic state to heal themselves through the power and connection of community.

The approach at Brain Health Northwest differs in several fundamental ways.

First, the intention behind the drumming is to induce an optimal brain-changing state during which your personal therapeutic goals are being addressed.

Second, while the result of this therapy will improve your connection with community, the immediate goal is to foster an improved, compassionate connection with the self.

Third, we will monitor your brain at various stages during this therapy to provide objective evidence of progress towards brain regulation.

We believe there is a great deal wisdom in historic approaches to healing. But as evidence-based scientists and clinicians, our modern day shamanistic approach requires metrics for our magic.

Additional Reading

Bensimon, M., Amir, D., & Wolf, Y. (2008). Drumming through trauma: Music therapy with post-traumatic soldiers. The Arts in Psychotherapy35(1), 34-48.

Bittman, B. B., Berk, L. S., Felten, D. L., & Westengard, J. (2001). Composite effects of group drumming music therapy on modulation of neuroendocrine-immune parameters in normal subjects. Alternative therapies in health and medicine7(1), 38.

Dickerson, D., Robichaud, F., Teruya, C., Nagaran, K., & Hser, Y. I. (2012). Utilizing drumming for American Indians/Alaska Natives with substance use disorders: A focus group study. The American journal of drug and alcohol abuse38(5), 505-510.

Fancourt, D., Perkins, R., Ascenso, S., Atkins, L., Kilfeather, S., Carvalho, L., … & Williamon, A. (2016). Group drumming modulates cytokine response in mental health services users: A preliminary study. Psychotherapy and psychosomatics85(1), 53-55.

Fancourt, D., Perkins, R., Ascenso, S., Carvalho, L. A., Steptoe, A., & Williamon, A. (2016). Effects of group drumming interventions on anxiety, depression, social resilience and inflammatory immune response among mental health service users. PLoS One11(3), e0151136.

Friedman, R. L. (2000). The healing power of the drum. White Cliffs Media.

Ho, P., Tsao, J. C., Bloch, L., & Zeltzer, L. K. (2011). The impact of group drumming on social-emotional behavior in low-income children. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine2011.

Hove, M. J., Stelzer, J., Nierhaus, T., Thiel, S. D., Gundlach, C., Margulies, D. S., … & Merker, B. (2015). Brain network reconfiguration and perceptual decoupling during an absorptive state of consciousness. Cerebral Cortex26(7), 3116-3124.

Kokal, I., Engel, A., Kirschner, S., & Keysers, C. (2011). Synchronized drumming enhances activity in the caudate and facilitates prosocial commitment-if the rhythm comes easily. PLoS One6(11), e27272.

Metzler-Baddeley, C., Cantera, J., Coulthard, E., Rosser, A., Jones, D. K., & Baddeley, R. J. (2014). Improved executive function and callosal white matter microstructure after rhythm exercise in Huntington’s Disease. Journal of Huntington’s disease3(3), 273-283.

Tsai, C. G., Fan, L. Y., Lee, S. H., Chen, J. H., & Chou, T. L. (2012). Specialization of the posterior temporal lobes for audio‐motor processing–evidence from a functional magnetic resonance imaging study of skilled drummers. European Journal of Neuroscience35(4), 634-643.

Winkelman, M. (2003). Complementary therapy for addiction: “drumming out drugs”. American journal of public health93(4), 647-651.