Self-control from autism to eating

Thanks for your interesting questions about the role of the ear in autism and in eating at

http://fiercefatties.com/2012/03/23/grave-dancers/?replytocom=14372#respond

The question of what causes weight gains and losses is complex; the degree to which choice is involved and how choice depends on the function of the dominant ear is where my expertise comes in. I will try to respond to that range of losses of self-control that span a spectrum from autism (little or no left cerebral dominance) to people with a specific behaviour issue where they have lots of left cerebral control except where they have low dominance in one area, such as food ingestion. As you will see, the reasons for losses of control do not depend only on the ear, but it may be the deciding factor where compulsions are concerned.

First, hyperacusis can be a sign of audio-processing deficits,and is usually is a sign of stapedius muscle weakness that is failing to protect the inner ear. Your ears have lost a protective mechanism. Hyperacusis can be helped by exposing the ear to very quiet high-frequency sound and very gradually (say, over a month of daily listening) gradually working up to normal (never loud) volumes of sound.

Autism Speaks have not studied the relationship between audition and autism. They call autism a “brain disorder” (linked to the immune system possibly), which is the common medical view of schizophrenia and all other “mental” illnesses. Few medical people know about Tomatis’s discoveries, for which he was decorated by the French government. His discoveries were in the 1950s, before there was good communication across the Atlantic. His colleague, Dr. Guy Berard published in journals and also wrote a slim  book. Neither doctor understood the mechanism of cerebral dominance that I have described,  so they were missing the overarching theory that explains the changes in behaviour their treatments brought about.

Tomatis was the first to cure a group of autistic children to the point that they could leave the mental institution and attend school. But that was a partial success because he could not defend those changes scientifically and his psychiatric theories were incorrect. The parents of other school children objected to “having those crazy kids in our school” and the almost-cured autistic kids were put back in their metal-cage cribs in the insane asylum.

I am talking about people who have used ear stimulation with high-frequency sound to completely cure or to greatly improve the symptoms of autism (infantile schizophrenia) and using the same or a similar method to cure adult schizophrenia (and other behaviour problems). My book and several other books describe such cures and improvements: you can Google — Annabel Stehli, Sharon Ruben, Tomatis Method, and AIT. Some researchers are finding that AIT works better for autistics when the treatment persists for months, not weeks, as I learned with Daniel and as Sharon learned with her daughter Ashley.

Not many people have watched a schizophrenic recover to become mentally normal. I have watched my son do that partially several times under the influence of his own music-making. But I watched him fully recover twice when he used focused listening. The first time I saw that happen, I realized the Tomatis Method must be able to cure schizophrenia as well as dyslexia and chronic fatigue and autism. But how?

The next time Dan became severely schizophrenic I started him on a listening program as soon as he could sit still long enough to listen. I began to see little changes in his behaviour that reassured me the treatment was helping, as it had two years before. I began to read about neurology and the brain. I found very little information about the ear and the brain in books on neurology. I started building a library of resources on the ear and behaviour from other sources.

I had noticed several things about Dan’s cognition during psychosis. One was that his levels of cognition fluctuated rapidly: he was less insane/more insane, every two minutes, all day long.  When I saw the differing abilities of the right and left halves of the normal brain discovered by the American neurologist V.S. Ramachandran, I realized that what I had been seeing in Dan’s psychosis was a switching back and forth between left and right cerebral  hemispheres: his four-minute cycle. I could see right away that music was changing that shifting so that he was becoming more and more left-brain dominant. But only when his EAR gained normal strength could his left brain become fully dominant. At that point, he lost all of his symptoms of schizophrenia.

Sound energy integrates the two halves of the brain at the speed determined by the frequencies of sound reaching the left hemisphere. I found part of the explanation for that neurology in Tomatis’s book The Ear and the Voice.

What does all that have to do with obesity?

Music cures mental illness and dyslexia and fatigue and has cured one of the worst forms of epilepsy. But various other symptoms from digestive problems to allergies and skin disorders often disappear at the same time, indicating that the hormonal and digestive systems are affected by ear function, too. That is because a fibre of the vagus nerve is attached to the stapedius muscle in the middle ear. The vagus nerve controls the function of most of the organs of the digestive system.

People with considerable left-brain dominance still feel that tendency of the right brain to assert an interval of dominance, even if complete alternation doesn’t occur. Slight left-dominance is the condition in infancy that we gradually strengthen by teaching the left brain self-control in dozens of ways — providing the child has normal ears and can learn normally.  It is during the right-brain surge of influence that addictions form, including addictions to food, cigarettes, alcohol, etc. People with low left-brain dominance (which may be low only in regard to specific strong urges such as hunger) cannot control their urges easily during those two-minute intervals of right-brain influence.

Next, the pressure of unsatisfied urges increases the strength of the urges, eventually overwhelming the capacity of the left brain for “will power.” That “driven” behaviour reinforces the strength of the right brain’s emotional connections and further compromises the ability of the left brain to dominate the emotions and primal urges mediated in the right brain. Various ways of strengthening the left brain to break that vicious circle include cognitive behavioural training (CBT) and 12-step programs and counselling, all of which tend to ask the person to LISTEN carefully for extended periods of time, which exercises and strengthens the stapedius muscle in the dominant ear — although most doctors and laypersons are not aware of what the effort of listening accomplishes in the ears’ muscles and, hence, in the brain. However, the churches and other religious institutions are founded on that neurology of listening attentively, and usually of singing and listening to music as well.

Once the person learns how to protect and exercise the ears with music, the muscles of the middle ear remain fit (“tonic” ) because they are exercised constantly by sound in the environment that they have become more receptive to. Flexible middle ear muscles allow the person to learn to control states of consciousness (the level of integration of the cerebral hemispheres) the way normal people do. The ear is the source of ALL rational, self-controlled (i.e., successful decision-making) behaviour, which of course includes choices about the ingestion of food and drink. .

The ear-controlled cerebral integration system is what makes people capable of all other behaviour within the range of “normal.” The ear controls your ability to go to sleep, wake up, be highly attentive, daydream, meditate and  pray, perform highly creative and complex tasks, learn, recall, and so on. The ear establishes your sense of time, the logical structures of language in your left brain, the tone and pacing of your voice (emotional prosody), the co-ordination of your limbs, the function of the digestive and hormonal systems.

Sound accounts for 90% of the brain’s need for energy apart from glucose and oxygen, according to Tomatis. If people cannot access that sound energy in their environments because of weak ear muscles, they have behaviour problems that include digestive disorders etc. (remember the stapedius connection to the vagus nerve that innervates most of the digestive organs). Such people (including me) experience fatigue and seek that missing sound energy in food (glucose) because energy is a genuine and desperate need of the brain and the need for sound has not been recognized and taught (socialized) except haphazardly. Also, people with normal ears but who live in sound-deprived environments (such as monasteries or remote locations) can develop behaviour and digestive etc. problems similar to  those of people with deficient ear muscles. he brain needs sound energy to function normally and direct the body’s processes.

Many or most people do not want to be “cured” of their schizophrenia, autism, bipolarity, depression, or other forms of behaviour that deviate sharply from “norms.” That may be OK if they are cool with their environments. However, most environments are not cool with such behavioural extremes. For example, most parents don’t want their children to remain autistic if there is an alternative. Society tends not to want to have schizophrenics running out of control, especially if they have access to firearms and other weapons. Subcultures form as people with audition problems try to protect themselves from hostile main-streamers. I am against electric and chemical shock, pharmaceutical controls and other coercive treatment of mentally ill people, although for their protection and the protection of others incarceration may be necessary. However, people with such extreme behaviours might be happier with the option of listening to music that will change their behaviour than with the option of being locked into special buildings that protect the community from them and them from self-harm but without changing their behaviour.

I am not suggesting high frequency sound is a cure for obesity. I know my obesity is complicated by other factors and I am not even sure what the definition of “obesity” should be or if we should have one. But it would be interesting to know how much change might be brought about in people seeking change simply by exercising the ear Focused listening is the easiest exercise program I have ever heard about.

Thanks for listening!

Laurna

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Welcome to Mental Health through Music

Lively discussions about the paradigm of mental health and mental illness proposed in our first book, Listening for the Light: A New Perspective on Hemispheric Integration, both face to face and online, have led me to open this conversation about the relationship between the ear and the brain.

The discoveries of Dr. Alfred Tomatis about the neurological relationship between the ear and the voice opened a door of new hope to those suffering audio-processing deficits that affect their behaviour. One dyslexic young man who stepped through that door was carrying some serious baggage: addictions to street drugs. His amazing recovery from dyslexic syndrome when he was treated with music by the Tomatis Method was followed by his return to substance abuse, which plunged him into psychosis and a diagnosis of hopeless schizophrenia. Yet, that young man has normal brain function today.

Over a period of 10 years I learned incrementally how to support his recovery as Daniel himself reached out again and again to music for healing. What was it that Daniel knew within himself when he said, entering a psychotic episode, “I’m dyslexic again”? Things I had noticed about his behaviour and my own research into neurology eventually showed me what Daniel knew about his interior world. That discovery led me to a new definition of the etiology of dyslexic syndrome and of schizoaffective disorders; but also to the realization that most human behaviour within the range of normal depends on the capacity of the dominant ear to maintain the dominance of one (or the other) cerebral hemispheres. Losses of dominance, whether sudden and brief, or regular and prolonged, describe a spectrum of behaviours usually called “mental” that proved, in Daniel, to originate in the ear. Stimulation of his right ear with music gradually repaired his right ear-left brain neurological connection to restore dominance and normal behaviour.

The health of the middle and inner ear is essential to normal behavior. The spectrum of human behaviour, including so-called “mental” illnesses, is generated in the ear.

I hope that by sharing our experiences of the long, difficult journey towards healing that readers of this blog will be inspired to explore the ideas here on their own paths to health through music.

Daniel’s story is available at http://www.northernlightbooks.ca/Bookstore.htm

Laurna Tallman

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