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Chiropractor works to reconnect signals in the brain
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Chiropractor works to reconnect signals in the brain

Chiropractor works to reconnect signals in the brain

By EMILY CHRISTENSEN, Courier Staff Writer

WATERLOO --- Joe Culbertson once suffered from migraines that kept him out of school for 29 days.

At his lowest point, doctors had diagnosed him with attention deficit disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, Depression and Tourette's syndrome. He was on as many as six medications to stabilize his medical and mental conditions.

Administrators at Expo High School told his family it would take six years for him to graduate.

That was three years ago. Culbertson, now 17, will graduate next month --- a year ahead of his former classmates at East High School.

He credits his success to Dr. Kurt Kuhn, a Waterloo neurochiropractor who specializes in treating children and young adults with attention deficit and autism-related disorders. Kuhn said the symptoms from these diagnoses manifest because of a condition recently coined functional disconnection syndrome. The condition results in a functional breakdown in the neurological pathways, which in turn causes the brain to perform at a level below what is required for higher cognitive function. The human brain's efficiency depends on a seamless transition of signals from one area of the brain to another.

Culbertson said the treatment he received at Kuhn's office has made him a changed man.

"Now I am not afraid of anything," Culbertson says. "I want to get the word out so people can know, I pretty much hit the bottom rung and have climbed back up."

Kuhn has offered the specialized treatment for about two years, though technology continually changes his methods. He is one of only three neurochiropractors in the state. There are only about 600 such chiropractors in the world. In general, neurochiropractors use standard neurological tests and chiropractic adjustments to increase the brain's capacity.

After an initial consultation, Kuhn starts a rigorous program using neurological tests to determine each patient's cognitive capacity.

The first, called a go or no-go test, measures a person's ability to pay attention. The 22-minute test gives Kuhn an insight into how fast a person's brain fatigues. On Culbertson's first visit, it took just five minutes for him to lose interest.

"Too many times we find kids with five-minute attention spans who are stuck in 55-minute classes," Kuhn says.

Another test, the interactive metronome, works by challenging the patient to synchronize a range of hand and foot exercises to a computer-generated tone. Studies have shown that over the course of care, patients learn to focus for longer periods of time, increase their physical endurance and filter out internal and external distractions.

Once the tests are completed, Kuhn begins therapy sessions, which can continue include both tests and a series of other exercises. One of Culbertson's favorites to master was drumstick twirling. Kuhn has an entire book that outlines dozens of spins. The repetitive activity builds brain capacity slowly, allowing Kuhn's patients to repair their neurological pathways.

"Every kid, well almost every kid, wants to be a rock 'n' roll star," Kuhn says. "We know this is something every kid will actually do."

But as soon as Culbertson learns a new spin, he must move on.

"These activities are only useful as long as it is a challenge," Kuhn notes.

Other activities, like the "whack-a-mole" game often found at carnivals, are also used to build brain capacity.

But Kuhn must start small. In the beginning, he often sees a patient daily, though for a very short visit.

"They only have a small brain capacity. It would be like going to a gym --- if you are a 98-pound weakling you will need to spend a lot more time at the gym than someone who is already fit," Kuhn says. "We are always trying to build up more brain power, but there has to be the fuel to support it."

The same types of treatments can also work for children with autism. Kuhn said results aren't always as profound and may take longer, but many parents have seen improvement in their children.

"I have seen many autistic children who were locked in when they came to me," Kuhn says. "Now they are talking."

Contact Emily Christensen at (319) 291-1482 or

Copyright © 2005 Waterloo/Cedar Falls Courier

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