By Brittany Sweeney-Lawson, Resource Facilitation Manager, Brain Injury Alliance of Arizona
It’s a story many brain injury survivors are all-to-familiar with— dealing with frequent pain and stress caused by post-injury symptoms, as well as scheduling appointments with a variety of doctors and specialists who more often than not don’t understand brain injury or see it as a legitimate, treatable condition. Dr. Sean Southland, director of research and technology at NeuroHealth Solutions and a frequent concussion flier himself, thought there had to be a way to help these stories have better endings.
During his high school years, Sean was an avid athlete and participated in a variety of sports, including motocross racing, football, soccer, and martial arts. As a result, he experienced several concussions (also known as mild TBIs), which led to hearing loss in first his left, then his right ear. He also had numbness in his head that lasted for over eight years straight. Sean became frustrated that the medical answers to his ailments were usually a cocktail of medications, or some variation of “you look fine; nothing seems to be wrong with you.” His own lack of understanding of brain injury at the time, as well as that of the people tasked with treating him, created a spark in him to learn how to improve the brain and nervous system’s functions.
While serving in the armed forces Dr. Southland was assigned additional duty as the Nuclear Biological Chemical Officer for our unit which required studies and training about the Neurophysiological and Neuropsychological effects of Toxins on the nervous system and blast injuries on the brain.
An important step in Dr. Southland’s brain injury education was realized when he completed pre-med rotations through the health professions program at ASU. He was fortunate enough to shadow clinicians in the fields of neurology, plastic & reconstructive surgery, emergency room trauma, forensics, and pathology. Also, during his time at the Maricopa Medical Examiner’s Office, he was introduced to research involving shaken baby syndrome and sudden infant death syndrome. “This opened my eyes to the need for further research on the brain,” he shares. It occurred to him that it would be crucial to not just study data, but to see real patients and assess how the injury was affecting their everyday lives.
By 2003, Dr. Southland completed his BS degree and the Health Professions program at ASU and went on to complete an online PhD in BioSciences with a concentration in Neurophysiological Human Performance where he focused on BioEnergetics, Thermogenics, Micro and Macro Nutrient Modulation. He soon began using his education and experience to work with athletes to optimize their brain and nervous system functions utilizing bioenergetics and thermogenics. His goal at the time was to help them enhance their performance without relying on steroids or other pharmacotherapeutics. In 2009, he began a graduate degree program at ASU that focused on physiology and human research, as well as how advances in neuroscience could be integrated primarily using simulator technology.
As fate would have it, around this time, Dr. Southland attended a charity event for an organization called Autism Speaks. To assist with their fundraising effort, he had brought a simulator for the attendees to test out. At the event, he was introduced to a child with autism and his parents. After a single-use of the simulator, the parents were impressed, as their child’s level of response was higher than they’d ever seen from him before. From then on, in addition to athletes, Dr. Southland began working with people with autism, using the simulation therapy and technology to help lessen their symptoms. “I felt like I had discovered something with great potential and knew I was onto something,” he recalls.
In 2012, Dr. Southland obtained his certifications in biofeedback and neurofeedback techniques used to train and control the body and brain’s functions via electronically-provided feedback. He also became certified in qEEG (Quantitative Electroencephalography), and neuro-modulation therapies, which also involve training and strengthening the brain. Prior to his certification, the majority of Dr. Southland’s focus had been on subjective qualitative studies, which are the end-results of how a patient feels from treatment. But he wanted to dig deeper; he wanted to know the how and why behind the patient’s results, which essentially required learning to interpret the raw, objective, quantitative data provided by the EEGs and qEEGs. Quantitative information is unique to each individual, and for Dr. Southland, helps provide the key to answering the mysteries of what the brain and body require in order to heal.
As his understanding of quantitative data and the technology he was utilizing and developing grew, Dr. Southland realized it could help people experiencing a variety of conditions—from addictions, phobias, and pain management, to TBI’s, strokes, and other neurological and physiological disorders. Not one to let an epiphany go to waste, he founded NeuroHealth Solutions (formerly Performance Research Sciences) in October 2014 to allow his research, knowledge, and therapies benefit a greater volume of patients.
At NeuroHealth Solutions, Dr. Southland fills the roles of director of research and technology, as well as neuroplastician (a fancy, scientific word for a specialist who works with the brain’s natural plasticity and capacity for healing). Using data from the EEGs and qEEGs, he and his team of neurobiologists, sports medicine doctors, neuroplasticians, neuro-cognitive rehabilitation specialists, and psychologists develop an individualized treatment plan that addresses a patient’s specific needs. From there, the specialists are able to communicate with each other and the patient about any adjustments to lifestyle, frequency of therapies, and other conditions involving the patient’s rehabilitation and health.
While being able to interpret the quantitative data is a crucial part of NeuroHealth Solution’s process, equally important is for the data to translate into results. By utilizing advanced simulation therapy (a multi-layered process involving advanced simulation equipment), and restorative cognitive rehabilitation, the goal of Dr. Southland and his staff is to help individuals improve their quality of life, wellness, and performance with non-invasive, non-pharma therapies and training techniques. “I don’t believe in tricking [the] system,” Dr. Southland says, “I want to understand and fix it.” The NeuroHealth plans are designed to maintain and manage neurological issues, as well as lessen related symptoms. For Dr. Southland, helping people determine and successfully address their health concerns is the main part of what makes his job so fascinating and rewarding.
Although there are many success stories from his work with patients that have influenced and amazed him, Dr. Southland recalls one woman’s experience that was especially poignant. She had coils put in her brain to help alleviate the pain from her post-traumatic headaches, but they weren’t working. “She could barely keep the job she had cleaning houses and would be down for two-to-three days at a time,” he recalls. The woman worked with Dr. Southland doing acute stress response training, which introduces the body to small amounts of acute stress, increasing the amount over time, in order to build resilience. “After six-to-eight weeks [of training], she was headache-free,” he shares, which was all-the-more liberating, considering the three unsuccessful neuro surgeries she’d previously undergone to try to rid herself of them.
Due to the positive outcomes he’s seen as a result of NeuroHealth Solutions’ programs, Dr. Southland hopes to be able to expand and grow their services even more in the future and obtain the funding to open new locations in every major U.S. city. He is currently working with ASU to create a program where students interested in neuro research could intern at NeuroHealth Solutions. He’d also like to establish an institute to train integrative neuro-optimization therapists. As Dr. Southland is also a firm believer in the importance of brain injury educational training, programs, information, and resources, he decided to make NeuroHealth Solutions a sponsor of an organization providing these services—the Brain Injury Alliance of Arizona. “I look forward to working with [BIAAZ] and providing essential services for the many people who could benefit from them,” says Dr. Southland.
Dr. Southland is an expert in Integrative NeurOptimization Training modalities and developed Advanced Simulation Therapy in which he holds a provisional patent. His background has been concentrated in biological and physiological human performance. He founded Performance Research Sciences (PRS) in 1999, specializing in proprietary protocols for recovery, rehabilitation and peak performance as well as product and services to remediate symptoms of neurological and physiological ailments where traditional healthcare standards have failed. Dr. Southland has a forensic background in head injuries and is a Certified Brain Injury Specialist. His team assesses, analyzes and develops cognitive rehabilitation protocols for patients who have suffered head trauma in personal injury cases
Dr. Southland has been involved with athletic performance, optimization training and scientific research for over 25 years. He co-founded the IDEA Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation dedicated to helping children suffering from autism and other neurological disorders, where he currently serves as President.
Dr. Southland has completed hundreds of case studies and thousands of clinical neuroptimizaton sessions for Alzheimer’s, ASD’s, cognitive disabilities, PTSD, Stroke, TBI’s, and Parkinson’s.
On a daily basis, Dr. Southland helps people improve their quality of life, offering non-invasive drug-free protocols addressing neurological diseases, neuromotor dysfunctions, conditions affecting the elderly, sports & accident trauma victims and post-war injuries suffered by many veterans.
About the author: Brittany Sweeney-Lawson oversees a team that helps connect survivors of brain injury, their families, and the professionals who serve them, with resources and information tailored to their personal situations and needs. She also edits and writes articles for the BIAAZ’s quarterly e-zine, The Noggin.
Contact Neurohealth Solutions at 480-696-5796 or visit www.NeuroHealthPlan.com. Located in Scottsdale at 10555 N. 114th St., Suite 105, we offer a variety of plans and options to Optimize the Mind; Activate the Body; and Improve Quality of Life!
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