AUSTIN EDITION Stimulating brain waves

Board members try special-education device

By Tim Ruzek

They sat wearing headphones and what appeared to be mirrored sunglasses.

Austin School Board members Kim Jacobson and Daniel Heins, however, weren't listening to their favorite tunes or protecting their eyes from the lighting in Banfield Elementary School's carpeted gym.


They were trying technology called Audio Visual Entertainment, which uses pulsing lights and rhythmic beats or tones to exercise a person's brain.

With parental approval, the district plans to use the technique in November with about a dozen special-education students at Southgate and Neveln elementary schools, Superintendent Candace Raskin said.

Each school has a $1,000 grant to try the program as part of a larger pilot study on its effect in special education. The selected students are not using medication for learning disorders.

Austin School Board received a report on Audio Visual Entertainment at its meeting Monday night, which was moved to Banfield because of water damage in City Council Chambers. Sheri Wilrodt, a teacher at Neveln, and Charlotte McKee, a Southgate teacher, gave the presentation.

The Audio Visual Entertainment program is a learning, stimulus-response strategy that exercises the brain, according to information given out at the meeting. The activity addresses a variety of conditions that appear to be tied to irregular brain patterns.

These conditions can include hyperactivity, attention deficit disorder, specific learning disabilities, conduct disorders, certain sleep disorders, depression, anxiety, chronic pain and headaches.

The strategy, which has been around for 15 years, is designed to stimulate activity in the brain, such as blood flow, glucose metabolism and electrical activity.

"It was interesting," Jacobson said of the Audio Visual Entertainment device, noting how the equipment sent sounds from one ear to the other.


Jacobson said she can see how the device helps connect right- and left-brain activity.

Audio Visual Entertainment improves brain-body function by training the brain to shift and maintain brain-body states of electrical arousal. The result is improved or higher-level functioning.

Wilrodt said the Audio Visual Entertainment technique has been referred to as "push-ups" for the brain. Some coaches use it to improve athletes' performance, she said.

Different areas of the brain respond to different lights or sound frequencies, McKee said.

Other strategies haven't worked well for the selected students, McKee said, and their parents "are very excited to try something different."

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