BRATTLEBORO -- People need to start treating their brain as a muscle that needs exercise, and not just as a vital organ.
That’s the opinion of psychotherapist Dr. Michael Gigante, who will be part of the core faculty of one of two programs offered by the Northeast Psycho-Neuro-Immunology Institute (NEPNI) this fall.
"I’m really excited about it. I think it’s going to be a lot of fun," he said. "Laughter is good medicine."
The courses -- "Train the Brain to Retain" and "PNI Level I" -- are aimed at exploring evidence-based brain research while preaching techniques and practices to train one’s brain for memory enhancement and healing. In "Train the Brain to Retain," participants will learn how to increase memory by using tools proven through neuroscience. The group will explore 10 essential points for optimum brain health through activities, exercises, discussion, and resources in neuroplasticity (or the brain’s ability to change).
It is a seven-week course, with a potential three-week extension, and will meet Tuesdays from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. starting Sept. 17.
"PNI Level I" is for individuals with health concerns and professionals wanting to know more about this evidence-based approach to self-healing. The class, according to an e-mail from NEPNI co-founder Rupa Cousins, studies neuroplasticity and its relationship to the immune system. It explores the powerful healing capacity of our attitudes, thoughts, and emotions using effective visualization techniques, mindfulness, and experiential exercises. The Level I course also runs for seven weeks with a potential three-week extension, beginning Wednesday, Oct. 2.
All courses of both programs will be hosted at Gigante’s home at 41 Frog Hill.
Cousins said "PNI Level I" will consist of exercises and demonstrations to help people process their emotions and "become clearer with their own healing." She said the class will stress it is crucial to go through the difficult parts of recovery in order to fully heal.
Psychoneuroimmunology is defined as the study of the interaction between psychological processes and the nervous and immune systems of the human body. Anyone interested in participating should visit www.nepni.org, call Gigante at 802-254-8032 or send an e-mail to email@example.com.
Gigante told the Reformer "Train the Brain to Retain" is meant for people who are interested in neuroplasticity and brain cell regeneration. He said it was common understanding for many years that a brain cell is gone forever once it dies. The medical world now knows this is not necessarily true with proper input via one’s lifestyle.
Gigante, who runs a private practice out of his Brattleboro home, said NEPNI has amassed loads of scientific studies related to brain cell regeneration and put it all together to serve as the course’s curriculum.
"That’s the skeleton and we put the meat on the skeleton," he said. "We make it fun."
Gigante said there will be discussion about psychoneuroimmunology research, meditation exercises and brain teasers as part of the curriculum. He said it is important to view the brain as a muscle that must be taken care of, like the heart. The program, Gigante said, has improved and expanded since the spring, when it was a five-week course.
Michael Bosworth, who will act as an assistant teacher of the a class spearheaded by Heather Taylor, said he got involved with NEPNI due to his own personal experiences. He said she started to notice about 10 years that he was having trouble with his memory. Many of his peers expressed the same frustration and discovered the work Gigante and Cousins were doing after conducting some research online. He also helped with the previous five-week course.
"I will help with preparation and will go over different resources people can access outside of the course," said Bosworth, now 64. He mentioned he will advise participants to access "a bunch of books" available once the course ends.
Cousins told the Reformer she co-founded NEPNI a few years ago partially because her cousin was heavily involved in the early research of psychoneuroimmunology and he served as "an inspiration to me and inspiration of all that I do."
Cousins has been involved with body/mind integration for more than 30 years. In 1990, she became a Rubenfeld Synergist, a practitioner of a body-centered psychotherapy. She has presented at Rowe Conference Center, at Omega Institute and in Macedonia and Bosnia with survivors of conflict and war. She is also the president of the board or the Associated Psychotherapists of Vermont and facilitates the Brattleboro Area Interfaith Initiative.
Domenic Poli can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoli_reformer.