Jan 122009

Rhythm. Rhythm in music. Rhythm in words. Rhythm in patterns, on the floor, in wood.

Rhythm appears in the sinuous movements of dance; sounds out from fingers dancing on piano keys; heard in the staccato beats of hand clapping hand. Hidden, our hearts beat out rhythms, and our breath, lulled into meditative depths, inhales and exhales at about 0.1 Hz, while our brains cycle with the earth at the Schumann Resonance frequency. We are wired into rhythm, and now physicians are working with psychologists to understand and use rhythm’s power to unhook dis-rhythmic stress from our hearts and our brains.

When the cardiologist today talked to me of music, through its rhythm, entraining breath into a relaxing, de-stressing state, I thought of the brain biofeedback and audiovisual entrainment I’ve been using these past few years to recover from my brain injury. Beta music, I was told, enhances the production of beta waves, the brain waves of problem solving and thinking, the brain waves that were so suppressed in me by injury. Brain biofeedback stimulated my alpha waves from the lower frequency section they had dropped into back into the higher frequencies. Audiovisual entrainment brings my brain out of its somnolent delta-wave territory and into relaxed, focused attention of the SMR waves. (Only problem is that going into SMR induces immediate sleepiness in me, a known but infrequent response.)

But all these rhythms and their healing aspects that I learnt about, I learnt from psychologists and only one physician who works with a psychologist. No independent medical doctor, certainly no neurologist or cardiologist, had ever mentioned this aspect of the human body as a way to understand and to heal it. Until today.

I have “perfect breathing” apparently, a beautiful sine wave with a tail at the end of inhalation and exhalation at 6 breaths per minute. My HRV, on the other hand, is a dyspeptic line of sudden heights and depths, straight paths, and angry waves. Deep breathing is known to reduce stress, to relax the body, calm the mind. Healthy HRV syncing with deep breathing, in matching sine waves — a rhythmic mathematical construct I used to love creating in high school — cancels the negative effects of stress on the heart and body. At the moment, my HRV may be a lost cause, but finding a way to get me to deep breath regularly and to provide feedback so as to keep me in rhythm is something both my brain treatment providers and my new cardiologist may finally find an answer to.

While they work on the problem and I wind my way through tests, I will try the metronome method. My new cardiologist suggested I set it to 60 beats per minute (Largo) and inhale at about 2 and a bit and exhale at 3 and a bit. It felt fitting that after the brain injury stole my piano playing from me, I am now getting back the comforting metronome, at least until a permanent solution is found. Only problem is, it’s awfully loud. But I remind myself that it has to be to be heard above fingers dancing on piano keys in chords.