By AMERICAN HEART ASSOCIATION NEWS
ORLANDO, Florida — A noninvasive neurotechnology that uses sound to balance right- and left-side brain frequencies lowered blood pressure, improved heart rate variability and reduced symptoms of migraine headaches, in two small studies presented Thursday at the American Heart Association’s Council on Hypertension 2016 Scientific Sessions.
The studies’ results are the first to suggest that the therapy could provide cardiovascular and behavioral benefits in the treatment of high blood pressure.
The neurotechnology — called High-resolution, relational, resonance-based, electroencephalic mirroring, or HIRREM, uses sensors placed on the scalp to measure brain electrical activity and detect right/left imbalances, or hyperarousal.
“Most people have relatively balanced electrical activity between the right side and left sides of the brain,” said Hossam A. Shaltout, R.Ph., Ph.D., study author and assistant professor in the Hypertension and Vascular Research Center at Wake Forest School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. “Imbalance, with one side dominant, or more active, may reflect autonomic dysregulation associated with the effects of chronic stress, which is thought to play a role in high blood pressure, migraines, insomnia, depression, hot flashes and more.”
In real time, HIRREM monitors brain electrical activity and translates dominant brain frequencies into computer-generated audible tones that are reflected back simultaneously via ear buds.
“Gradually, and on its own, with no conscious, cognitive activity required, the electrical pattern tends to shift towards improved balance and reduced hyperarousal,” Shaltout said.
Researchers looked at HIRREM’s impact on 10 men and women with stage one hypertension at the start of one of the studies. After an average of 17.7 HIRREM sessions received during 10.2 in-office days, hypertensive patients showed an average reduction in their systolic blood pressure from 152 to 136 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) and a reduction in their diastolic pressure from 97 to 81 mmHg.
Insomnia severity and anxiety also improved. Heart rate variability — variations in the interval between heartbeats — increased from an average 42 to 57 milliseconds.
“The more flexibility and dynamic range the body has to be able to change the heart rate in response to the blood pressure, the better,” Shaltout said.
In another study, researchers examined the effect of HIRREM on 52 adults suffering from migraines. After 15.9 sessions during nine in-office days, they reported improvements for insomnia, mood and headaches.
The studies are part of a larger research program that includes more than 400 participants to assess the effect of HIRREM for multiple symptoms and conditions.
“If these findings are confirmed in larger controlled studies, HIRREM may prove to be a valuable new approach for brain-based health care,” Shaltout said.