Having spent 17 years in nuclear medicine in various medical settings, including, in some of the earliest testing for AIDS, I see remarkable similarities in what medical personnel face in Ebola care, and what drummers must contend with in the group play of a drum circle.
To outsiders, a drum circle may appear more like a bunch of wanna be hippies banging on drums & such around a make shift venue. But to seasoned percussionists and drum circle facilitators such as myself, I view it as much much more. In fact, the group dynamics and adapting to changing conditions in an Ebola care setting, is what makes group play in a drum circle so special.
In group drumming, the team concept in play is of the utmost importance. Each drummer or participant learns to trust in their fellow drummers to play their part that leads to the entire group sound & effectiveness. Each drummer, just as in medical personnel in Ebola care, bring their own expertise to the group setting. But, it is the interpersonal dynamics, communication, and discipline in the art that gives both the drum circle and Ebola care setting its exceptional qualities. Both also rely on a high degree of improvisation to adapt to rapidly changing variables. Communications in these setting are of the utmost importance. Each setting calls for heightened intuitive and interpersonal skills. And it is in these regards that Ebola care and group drumming have so much in common.
Group drumming owes much of its early development to the practice of “shamanism,” and similar mind-body healing arts which have been reported under anthropology. These modalities also form some of the earliest practices in modern medicine. And so it is today, that we find these practices continuing to intertwine as we contend with the complex dynamics in the Ebola care setting, and in trusting oneself and others around you. And in many cases, the biggest obstacle is in interpersonal dynamics.
I’ve been in hundreds of different drum circle and medical settings, and I can share that more than any other factor what leads to success, is the willingness of participants to set aside egos, trust in their fellow team members, and work for the good of the whole. Without this trust and willingness to stay in the “now”, mis-steps will most definately occur, and can dramatically effect the group outcome.
In my nuclear medicine work, I routinely worked with radioactive materials and infectious diseases, where protocol was critical, but you adapted to ever-changing conditions. As a result, I was inter-dependent upon my co-workers to make the appropriate decisions at key times in support of my efforts. And this is exactly what happens in a drum circle. The drummer participants are continually listening to and observing the moves of their fellow participants, and adjusting their play to what they see and hear from others in the group. The better you listen, the better the group play. There are over 150 different pieces of world percussion that are played in drum circles. And each participant will have varying exerience with these instruments, much as different medical personnel have in an Ebola care setting.
Because of the group dynamics in group drumming or drum circles, drumming workshops can be well adapted to a wide array of settings, including, team sports like football & basketball, military & police training, high risk operations like oil drilling, and many different business and technical settings.
Have you ever viewed the Internet as a big DRUM CIRCLE? Think again.
In this TED talk, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the Internet gives his view of a world-wide & open Internet, with free and open participation on the web. I’ll take the Internet a step further, and equate it as one massive “drum circle,” where each user freely makes their own contribution, and then the whole is more than the sum of the individual parts. Some of the TED Talk comments here support my reasoning. Still others describe the Internet further as an integral part of the “noosphere,” the collective thought of all people on Earth.
I put on a drum circle in conjunction with a Zumba class last Saturday in Los Angeles, and it was a hit.
Drumming is a great fit with Zumba because it also allows for creativity, initiative, and leadership. In addition, drumming is great for seniors, and Saturday’s drumming proved to be a fitness and confidence booster for all.
I have been facilitating drum circles for about 8 years now, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s the importance of understanding the specific “needs” of your group. Once you do, you can introduce exercises to touch on these needs and strengthen their role with the group.
My drum circle group last Saturday responded well to team play, to call and response exercises, and to solo play that I rotated during the program. When combined with Zumba and similar fitness activities, drumming affords a unique trust, leadership, and confidence building experience that is hard to match.
I have provided a brief update on Oct. 31, 2016 to this blog about the CNN TV program Weeds, by Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Please see my update and additional links on this topic further below. Dr. Gupta had presented some compelling medical evidence of some benefits of medical marijuana in neurological and seizure disorders, as well as benefits to those undergoing chemotherapy for treatment of cancer.
In contrast to what many may think, the true medicinal aspect of marijuana, or cannabis, is not in the THC, the component that makes you high. Rather, it’s in the cannabinoids, a substance found both in the plant and as a neurotransmitter in the human brain. However, a rather complex purification process is required to produce the cannabinoids from the marijuana plant, which is produced as an oil for oral consumption.
One of the big challenges with medical cannabis, in my view, is in determining which strains and forms to use for your own medical challenges. This web site below list information on how to select your cannabis strain. And below, is a chart to assist in selecting a strain.
The most well known political victims with the use of cannabis in the last several years was Charlotte, a 2 year old girl living with a progressive seizure disorder. It was her story and the growers in Coloradothat really got the cannabinoids out of these plants, and catapulted these new uses in the U. S.
According to the center and published research, there are two different types of cannabinoid receptors in the human body, CB1 and CB2, found in different locations and which do different things. CB1 is mostly found on cells in the nervous system, including certain areas of the brain and the ends of nerves throughout the body, while CB2 receptors are mostly found in cells from the immune system. Because of their location in the brain, it’s thought that CB1 receptors are responsible for the infamous ‘high’ (known as psychoactive effects) resulting from using cannabis.
My Own CBD Oil Trial
In 2016, I underwent my own trial of CBD oil from a recognized supplier over a two month period. This entailed two different blends of CBD: A 4:1 blend of CBD/THC, and a 24:1 blend of CBD/THC. I tried doses between 5-20 drops at a time and placed it (sublingual) under my tongue. Most of my trials were in the morning. But I also tried it in the afternoon and evening. MY RESULT: I had hoped it might help with fatigue and/or sensory (SPD) sound challenges. However, I did not find any “measurable” improvement in my complaints during my trial with these CBD products. Each vial cost me $60. And this was not covered by insurance. I was provided a prescription letter by my neurologist. My purchase and correspondence was done online. And the two vials shipped to me via mail.
As for my other supporting online material on cannabis and other forms of alternative medicine, below is a blog I authored in Sept. 2015 on alternative medicine in addiction treatment, where I discussed cannabinoids and neurotransmitters, plus I’ve written about sensory processing disorder and cognitive accessibility. In the blog below, I also discuss the challenges that addiction and other neurological disorders pose in cognitive accessibility. Further below, is a blog I’ve authored on sensory processing disorder.
Below, is my web page on drumming for wellness, which I have found to be very helpful in neurological disorders, movement disorders, stress-reduction, and general wellness. And below that, is a case study I wrote up on my experience with drumming in cerebral palsy and autism.
Now it should come as no surprise that the country who has done the most amount of cannabis research is Israel. And the developed country that has done the least, is the United States. And for good reason, it is illegal to do research on it in the U. S.
Below, is a link to Dr. Raphael Mechoulam, the world renowned expert on medical cannabis:
I’m not trying to make a political statement other than to report on what Dr. Gupta is sharing on CNN. The most compelling benefits in his reports have been in seizure disorders in children, which may well be a variant of x-linked hydrocephalus, where the children often have marked developmental and birth anomalies. In addition, many patients with hydrocephalus suffer seizures, with reports ranging up to 1/3 of those with hydrocephalus. It would seem cannabis could offer benefits to these individuals with hydrocephalus.
Lastly, below is a blog I authored in late 2015 on Nootropics, which are vitamin supplements that help to raise levels of neurotransmitters and related chemicals in the brain, as well as improve memory and productivity.
You be the judge as to whether you think you might benefit from newer strains of cannabis and CBD oil. I would like to see further research done to better understand the types & amounts needed to provide benefits in a range of disorders. Unfortunately for me, this single trial of CBS oil did not produce any measurable benefit. But I feel that it is likely that further research will lead to new information on its use in illness.
Contact me for more information on speaking, consulting, or to schedule a drum circle.
Stephen Dolle Dolle Communications Drum Circle Facilitation, Neurological Hydrocephalus Consults, mHealth Email: contact[at]dollecommunications[dot]com
As tomorrow is Valentines Day, it seemed like a good time to talk about the brain health benefits of relationships, of fighting vs. kissing, and in confrontations vs. intimacy. They are actually our strongest emotions, and elicit a variety of chemical and hormonal responses in the brain. In simple terms, they are polar opposites to each other, as fighting or “intimidation” is based on anger & self defense, and “intimacy” is based on love & affection. And there’s a science of each. But first, let’s look at the practical barriers we face in meeting someone, and in eventually getting to that first kiss.
There are “two” energy fields an outsider must penetrate: an outer one for protection, and an inner one for intimacy.
Our outer space extends about 3 feet out from our bodies, and others normally need permission to enter this space, or we allow it when we are standing in a crowded setting. Our inner space then extends about 4-5 inches out from our bodies, and is designed for the intimate exchange of information, albeit private conversation, friendship, or sexual foreplay, the gateway to our heart, mind, and soul. Just as others must be invited into our outer field, entry into this intimate field is by invitation only. And each of us has our own preferences as to how one can gain entry into this intimate space, and it is these practices that comprise our unique identity.
When we kiss, according to research scientist Sheril Kirshenbaum, author of “The Science of Kissing” and a research scientist at The University of Texas at Austin, a spectrum of neurochemicals are released. Lip contact also involves five of our 12 cranial nerves as we engage all of our senses to learn more about a partner.
A passionate kiss acts like a drug, causing us to crave the other person thanks to a neurotransmitter called dopamine. This is the same substance involved in taking illegal substances such as cocaine, which is why the novelty of a new romance can feel so addictive. Dopamine is involved in sensations of reward, making us feel intense desire that can lead to feelings of euphoria, insomnia, and loss of appetite, and it is only one actor in the great chemical ballet happening in our bodies.
And then there are physical changes. A kiss can cause our blood vessels to dilate, our pulse to quicken and cheeks to flush. Our pupils grow wide, which is likely one reason that so many of us are apt to close our eyes. In other words, the body’s response mirrors many of the same symptoms frequently associated with falling in love.
Other scientists have reported on what are termed, pheromones, or naturally occurring odorless substances the fertile body excretes externally, conveying an airborne signal that provides information to, and triggers responses from, the opposite sex of the same species.
Scientists at the Athena Institute for Women’s Wellness identified four types of pheromones, spanning:
2.Mother-infant recognition pheromones – a signal that identifies which mother to suckle from, or which offspring to allow to remain in the nest.
3.Menstrual synchrony pheromones in women – causing women in close proximity to cycle together, menstruating at the same time of the month.
4.Territorial marking animal pheromones – a keep away from ‘my females’ signal.
Now fighting, on the other hand, involves a whole different set of responses and brain chemicals. produce the fight-or-flight response, the hypothalamus activates two systems: the sympathetic nervous system and the adrenal-cortical system. The sympathetic nervous system uses nerve pathways to initiate reactions in the body, and the adrenal-cortical system uses the bloodstream. The hypothalamus tells the sympathetic nervous system to kick into gear, the overall effect is that the body speeds up, tenses up and becomes generally very alert.
At the same time, the hypothalamus releases corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF) into the pituitary gland, activating the adrenal-cortical system. The pituitary gland (a major endocrine gland) secretes the hormone ACTH (adrenocorticotropic hormone). ACTH moves through the bloodstream and ultimately arrives at the adrenal cortex, where it activates the release of approximately 30 different hormones that get the body prepared to deal with a threat.
With Valentines Day coming up, you need to think through which effect you would like to experience: intimacy & kissing; or fight & flight.
I’ve enclosed some links and a cool video for kissing in case you need convincing.
As for me, I am a neuroscience researcher and specialize in drum circles for the brain, cognition and cognitive accessible designs, neuro-diagnostic programs, and hydrocephalus monitoring.
Decibel meter apps are helpful in managing the ill effects of sound exposure in brain injury, hydrocephalus, ADHD, PTSD, and related sensory processing disorders. Sound Meter is best app on Android. The Pro version is $.99. Though either is good. SPLnFFT is said to be best app on iPhone. Many are accurate enough for these purposes. Plus, what you really need, is comparative analysis of sound to medical sequela in the same app.
The science in support of monitoring sound level exposure comes amid findings that “sound” can trigger medical sequela, and result in a combative child or even adult out in public. The sequela typically ares headache, nausea, decreased cognition, irritability, and behavioral outbursts, and occurs in persons suffering from a variety of neurological injury & disorders. Light, motion, and scents are also triggers. The sensitivity, and type of trigger, does vary somewhat from person to person.
The medical condition for this is termed “sensory processing disorder” or SPD, and sometimes termed “sensory integration disorder,” and these tend to follow brain injury, neurological surgery (numerous ones including hydrocephalus and tumor), and many types of neurological disorders.
At any given time, the effected person is vulnerable to a range and type of sound triggers. Yet, this sensitivity and vulnerability often may not be known until AFTER the exposure. Often all it takes is 30 secs of problematic sound exposure to set off a sequel of SPD complaints. Then, you’re dealing with a medical problem.
Certainly the big ones like loud machinery, music, and room noise are predictable. But it is the not so loud and obvious exposures that’ll get you. And NOT knowing at any given time what your sensitivity or threshold is. And this comes from trial & experience.
I recommend downloading one of these apps and using it regularly for a couple of weeks to learn of your LOWEST threshold decibel levels – for when you’re not feeling well, and for various venues. Then, you can do things with more confidence in that you know your thresholds and can take the necessary interventions SOONER to avoid an ill spell or “melt down” in public. Today I learned too late, after being near a store playing loud overhead music. It was registering over 80 db on my Sound Meter app. I had not checked the sound level when I arrived. Once your system is triggered, it is often too late for other interventions or measures, and you’re likely going to have to leave that venue.
Unfortunately, current apps do not measure frequency distribution or sharp spikes in sound. Sound between 5000 Hz – 10,000 Hz is often problematic for individuals suffering with SPDs. The other causative elements includes sharp spikes in decibel level, and disordered sound presenting as “white noise.” If you, or a family member, suffers from sensory processing disorder, you know what I mean.
I undertook a sound sensory study in 2002 using a metronome to evaluate SPD complaint responses to various rhythmic patterns, and I was able to show that the component in sound most responsible for SPD complaints was “lack of rhythmic pattern.” My findings explain why white noise, or room noise, is so problematic. Read my full study below:
There are many treatments today that have found varying degrees of success in raising a person’s threshold to SPDs. They include: EMDR therapy, music therapy, group drumming (in which I have conducted research), bio feedback, mindfulness, basketball, meditation, occupational therapy. A variety of mild barbiturate medicines find use as well. I can’t say enough about the importance of proper rest & diet, managing stress, and drinking plenty of water. Vestibular exercises, meditation, mindfulness, and biofeedback therapies seem to help raise an affected persons sound intolerance.
3) remove the affected person from the triggering noise source
4) administer barbituate, pain or calming medication
5) force hydration preferable with water
On June 4, 2015, I published an extensive blog on basketball – which includes methods in shooting baskets, mindfulness, biofeedback & relaxation, and including drumming with basketball – which helps the brain, movement disorders, intolerance to sound, post concussion syndrome, and relieves stress.
Understanding Sound Sensory Processing & your Intolerance Level
If you suffer from sound sensory processing difficulties, I suggest you try one of the available decibel meter apps. I use the Smart Tools Pro Sound Meter pictured below. It also has a built in Vibrometer to evaluate motion say on a boat or car. You need to become familiar with your sound threshold range and intolerance, and screen typical levels at places you visit. You’ll need to add further consideration if there is machinery or other problematic noise that the individual would normally not process very well. All it takes is 30 secs of a problematic sound exposure to set off a sequel of SPD complaints. Develop good rules of practice.
Call for a Sound Sensory Processing Scale & Algorithm of Measurement
The current challenge is that these apps only measure level of volume. What we need, is a sound distribution EQ scale to equate how the brain processes sound (along with volume), which would require a convening of neurologists to scientists study this relationship, and establish a new sound scale to include the difficulty of processing of sound distributions. Sound engineers already know a great deal about the distribution or EQ of sound. To establish a sound processing scale, we would only need to equate various EQ sound patterns with the level of difficulty of processing by the brain. There are already sound identification apps that can identify patterns in music and ID them by song name. Two very popular apps are Soundhound and Shazam. We could use these existing sensors and algorithms to ID sound as very unforavorable vs acceptable in terms of ability to be processed by the brain. Persons with brain injury, learning and neurological disorders, and SPD (sensory processing disorder) have a diminished capacity to process sound, which I believe pares the degree and location of deficits in the brain. So, I have proposed the development of a sound processing scale and algorithm.
This new sound processing scale would encompass:
1. decibel volume and rate of change between volume levels (i.e. spikes)
2. EQ frequency distribution of the sound
3. rhythmic distribution and synchronization of the sound (i.e. white noise)
I host a larger blog on sensory processing challenges with examples of problematic sounds of machinery, etc. Just follow the link below.
If any app developers are reading this, I’d love to collaborate with you on building an SPD intollerance sound EQ app for screening of problematic sound. I can advise scientifically and in the UI (user interface, I have a good tech bkg-see page below). I’d like to couple an app with a Melon or NeuroSky EEG headband to try and correlate changes on EEG waveform with reported SPD complaints. SEE my extensive work in hydrocephalus monitoring and DiaCeph Test app design.
ADA laws with respect to sound protection for persons with SPDs is termed “cognitive accessibility.” There is an interesting legal case between families of children with autism and Disney, regarding Disney’s cancellation of the handicap pass to circumvent affected visitors standing in long lines, thereby forcing affected children to stand in line amid commotion and noise, which is unhealthful and can trigger behavioral outburst and a number of medical sequela in SPDs.
I am advocating for a new sound processing standard to encapsulate the brain’s role in processing sound. Persons suffering neurological disorders and from SPDs have a diminshed capacity to process sensory information, sound being the most common issue.
Athletic skill, like that necessary for everyday movement, is based on muscle memory, also known as “proprioception.” We ultimately achieve optimal muscle memory thru “rhythmic progression” of the patterns that are needed in an activity. I also discuss proprioception and movement in my blog on basketball.
With newer limits on NFL workouts in the pre-season, there have been an increase in non-contact injuries. Why? Because of faded memories of the prioception of the movements innvolved. Too offset this, you need to do more rhythmic progression work to re-establish muscle memory of the required athletic movements. The Examine story below points to some of the problems.
With the big increase of non-contact related football injuries felt related to not enough pre-season drills and such, I sensed the cause was due to insufficient rhythmic progression work this pre-season. These are the fine motor movements and timing needed in running and defending routes and such on the field. These need constant mental and physical re-connecting, especially 4-5 months off the field.
And I speak from not only having played and coached athletics, but also from my research and work with drumming, and in rehabing from a 1992 brain injury. In the latter, I came to personally realize how important rhythmic movements are in everyday life.
Since 2004, I’ve been involved in drumming and have studied rhythm and movement, sensory processing and cognition, and mobile mHealth apps. I found drums & rhythm particularly beneficial in movement, balance, and coordination. I eventually created exercises with bells, shakers, and clave to help with sophisticated movements.
In 2008, I began incorporating basketball into my rhythm & movement work, and noted ways it helped body movement and spatial awareness, beyond drumming. I then began to use basketball “free throws” and outside shooting as “applied kinesiology” or AK in stress management and mental focus. AK is what chiropractors use in evaluations, and is also used by psychiatrists and psychotherapists in helping clients to overcome emotional trauma. At its core, AK is a “truth test,” as negative thoughts weaken you physically, and distract you mentally from an activity.
When you examine athletic preparation in sports from football to baseball, basketball, tennis, soccer, and the like, the one constant pre-game work-out is rhythmic progression and repetition of the movements of that sport. Repetition helps to put the movements back into muscle memory, while making it easier to execute without “thinking.”
My advice to those involved in athletics is to never cheat on your rhythmic progression warm-ups. These warm-ups and AK methods also help prepare your mind so you play more effectively, using more of the mind more for strategy, and muscle memory for execution. Being in a clear mental state does the rest.
Whatever your athletic requirements or movement needs, never forget the importance of preparation with rhythmic progressions. Best way to reach me is by email.
Last week on June 11, 2013, I held a drum circle at a group home for persons with schizophrenia. This was my first time conducting a therapeutic drum circle for this specific population and disorder, though I’ve put on drum circles in senior living homes and homeless shelters where some were schizophrenic. In my nuclear medicine work (17 years), I encountered this in some of my procedures and clinical workups. And in coaching of some 20 youth sports teams, I encountered a variety of behavioral issues.
I undertook some pre-event research of published works on the use of drumming and music therapy in schizophrenic populations. Mostly what I found via the Internet was with using music therapy, and most of this focused on supporting happiness and self-worth, where the latter was widely used towards sustaining employment.
With little published on the use of drumming here, I mostly relied on my broad experiences in drumming and in the neurosciences. I felt if today’s group were made happier by the drumming, then I would have achieved most of my goal. But there are also going to be family present. And I knew family would have questions, and attendees may well have questions too. There was also some pre-event discussion on how this mighty become an ongoing workshop. Still, I was undecided on which methods I would use today. I felt I should just go with the flow, and see what jumps out at me. And it did.
As I arrived, I was welcomed by my own heightened intuitive senses, and I picked up on many of the thoughts, energies, and emotions of the attendees and family. This may have been precipitated by a recent hectic schedule and limited sleep, but it could well have been due in part to a long talk I had the day before on traumatic brain injury. I relied upon my “intuitive direction” on how to facilitate this event, some of which I discuss in my blog below
Nonetheless, I was feeling highly insightful, and it led to some really warm discussions on earlier rock music and drummers, and this paved the way for my use of an “informative” approach with the drum circle, where I spoke and discussed the instruments, something I normally don’t do a lot of. It was a “busy” drum circle as we were in a fairly cluttered room with lots of furniture, some 15 people anxious and curious to play, and a lunch in waiting upon our finish. Below is a photo of me putting on another drumming workshop at a private home – that I share so readers can see what a “drum circle” is about. Privacy laws would prohibit me from sharing photos of patients/clients at a group home.
We got started on a simple rhythm. But, just as it was starting to gel, one of the attendees (John) jumped on the tan tans (bass) I had moved aside, and said I didn’t feel they’d fit without a skilled drummer to lead, as I would facilitate from djembe. As you might imagine, the bass killed the rhythm. I regrouped, and this time assigned John to play a simple bass pattern. But that didn’t work either, so I had to emphatically put the tans aside.
Over the next 45 minutes, we played a number of rhythms, and I think all were pleased. Then we enjoyed a nice pot luck lunch and social, followed by the group’s scheduled support session that I did not participate in. I was told after that the drumming seemed to cause a lot more participation and dialogue that usual. And the parent who arranged for my drum circle shared he felt the drumming really benefited them today.
I’m not able to provide photos of this event to due privacy reasons, but I have written other blogs that discuss the scientific challenges and integrative medicine mechanisms that are similar to that see in schizophrenia. The science of movement in basketball is very applicable to this disorder, as movement helps quiet the mind. Drumming for addiction is similarly applicable. As is drumming for autism. My related blogs include:
As I reflected back on my drum circle and session, it occurred to me that what this group really wanted and needed from me – was acceptance and HEALING! Drumming turned out to be the activity that brought everybody, and it was the service they paid me for. As a drum session facilitator, I felt rewarded to be able to work with this group.