Edit 30 November 2023: I just stumbled across a randomized controlled trial showing positive results from an “amygdala and insula retraining” intervention for long COVID. The paper was published this year, and links to other trials using the same program, plus some related research that looks interesting (like this paper). Would be a fun rabbit hole for anyone interested in nervous system/brain retraining.
“Brain retraining” has become an increasingly common approach to chronic illness. It’s especially popular for conditions like multiple chemical sensitivities, EMF sensitivity, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, and POTS, but people have had success with an enormous range of chronic mental and physical conditions, from depression and anxiety to IBD and other autoimmune disorders.
I’m a bit biased because this is where my focus currently is for my own health, but I do think brain/nervous system approaches are the missing piece for many with chronic illness, especially people who have tried every diet and supplement regimen under the sun and still haven’t seen much improvement.
The central ideal of these approaches is that it isn’t the environment that’s the problem – it’s the way your body is responding to it. Maladaptive response patterns can be conditioned into us in a number of different ways and at any point in our lives, but the common denominator is that the body has learned to operate from a “threatened” mode, rather than a “safe” mode. It’s not quite as simple as the classic dichotomous “fight or flight” vs. “rest and digest,” but that idea does roughly get at what’s going on.
The body does not heal efficiently when it feels threatened, so all these programs use various tools to teach the body that foods and social experiences and exercise and other environmental stimuli do not need to be defended against; that it is safe. (If this sounds a little intangible or pseudosciencey, I hear you – one of my current research goals is to bring some concreteness to these approaches!)
The Dynamic Neural Retraining System (DNRS) is the only program that I have direct experience with so far, but there are many “brain retraining” programs out there, and I’ve listed them all below so you can explore.
- Dynamic Neural Retraining System (DNRS)
- ANS Rewire
- Back to Joy
- CFS School
- Gupta Program
- Lightning Process
- Limbic System Rewire
- Pathways to Improvement
- Primal Trust
- Rewire Therapy
- Vital Side
From what I can tell, they’re all based on the same principles and follow similar structures, so I’d suggest just reading/watching their free material and choosing whichever one you resonate most with. I probably would’ve chosen differently if I’d been exposed to the others prior to buying DNRS, but I have no doubt DNRS will be sufficient to get me where I want to go, so don’t stress too much over the decision – just pick one and commit to the process!
*I think this is a bit different from the others – more psychology-focused and not specifically attempting to address physical maladies – but sounds like it may use similar brain-rewiring principles so I’m including it anyway.
I’ve found a couple places that discuss similarities and differences a bit: a series of posts from Luanne Hopkinson (part 1, 2, 3, 4), and a YouTube video from Lorelei Lew. But most of the specific content of these programs is shrouded in mystery; since, again, the basic ideas are the same, similarities and differences can’t really be discussed without giving away each program’s specific proprietary method.
The one thing that weirds me out is that none of these programs seem to mention each other, and each acts like it’s the first program to come up with this revolutionary idea. I had thought that DNRS was the “original” and that all others were copies, but a comment on this video claims that Annie Hopper (DNRS creator) modeled her program after the Lightning Process, so who knows.
I don’t think there’s anything wrong with recreating something that already exists and adding your own twist to it, because different people resonate with slightly different approaches, but I wish people would explicitly name where they got their inspiration and information from, what they’ve added to it that’s unique, etc. But that’s probably too much to expect from the internet.
Anyway, if you have any experience with “brain retraining” programs, leave a comment with your experience! I’d love to do a true compare/contrast between the different programs available, but I don’t think I can justify spending hundreds of dollars on a bunch of different online programs purely for the sake of science.