Patients diagnosed and treated for a long-term potentially fatal diseases such as cancer, can accumulate distressing and traumatic experiences along the way. A new study from the Marcus Institute of Integrative Health at Thomas Jefferson University examines how the brain is activated when the Neuro Emotional Technique (NET) is used to help cancer patients process traumatic memories. The research, published in the Journal of Cancer Survivorship, also adds to the basic understanding of the pathophysiology of traumatic stress in general and the underlying mechanisms involved with resolving it.
"The results of this study are a breakthrough in understanding how an intervention like NET works, particularly in regard to the cerebellum's role in the regulation of emotional experiences. We now understand that the cerebellum does much more than coordinate motor activity," said principal investigator Daniel Monti, MD, MBA, Director of the Marcus Institute of Integrative Health who is also a member of the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center at Jefferson.
The intervention, Neuro Emotional Technique (NET), is unique in allowing the practitioner to not only gauge the patient's subjective distress but also how the nervous system is reacting to that stress, using biofeedback tools. This provides information that is not usually part of standard interventions, and is what potentially makes NET an especially efficient and efficacious therapeutic solution for traumatic stress. By showing the link between the cerebellum, limbic (emotional) centers, and autonomic nervous system, the present study expands current understanding of traumatic memories and how and intervention like NET can significantly alleviate the suffering associated with them.
"This is the first study that offers a demonstrable solution for cancer patients with traumatic stress symptoms. It also expands our understanding of the importance of the cerebellum in coordinating traumatic emotions, and the body's response to them," said Dr. Monti.
This new data suggests that a brief therapeutic course of the NET intervention substantially alters the brain's response to traumatic memories, and it elucidates the potential importance of the cerebellum in regulating the brain and body's response to traumatic stress. (Previous research from the Marcus Institute demonstrated the efficacy of the NET intervention for relieving stress in cancer patients.)
"Just four to five brief NET sessions result in significantly less emotional and physical distress, and these improvements are associated with connectivity changes throughout the brain," said Dr. Monti. "Patients, even those who were skeptical at first, have reported the NET intervention as 'diffusing a bomb' on 'the worst anxiety ever.'"