July 14, 2016


Imagine the following scenario:

You’re on a road trip with a friend when your car breaks down. There’s an auto shop down the road, so you decide to push the car instead of waiting for a tow. You and your friend have two options—you can push it at the same time the entire way, or you can push the car one at a time until you reach the auto shop.

This scenario illustrates the difference between temporal summation and spatial summation, which are two different approaches to therapy that our Functional Neurologists utilize at Plasticity Brain Centers. “Temporal,” here, has nothing to do with the temporal lobe. Instead, temporal as a term refers to time, or the passage of time.

While these terms sound highly technical, their meaning is fairly simple. Essentially, our ReceptorBased® Functional Neurologists have the same options as our hypothetical roadtrippers in the above illustration. When administering therapy, we can either provide therapies one at a time in sequence (temporal summation), or we can provide multiple stimulus therapies at once (spatial summation).

Therapies that target your receptors will utilize different signals to stimulate brain function:







●Light therapy

At Plasticity Brain Centers, our Functional Neurologists use the above therapies (and many others) to target parts of the brain where our patients have lost function or require better performance. Each receptor is processed by a different region of the brain, so by targeting receptors, we can rebuild neural pathways that have been damaged, or make current pathways more efficient.


However, what happens when a client’s brain is far too sensitive to stimulus? For example, the brain of a patient suffering from a concussion is in a hypermetabolic state. In this condition, the brain does not have the oxygenation required to process information efficiently—making it susceptible to overstimulation. If you imagine the brain as a computer, a concussion causes it “overheat” and shut down when it’s doing too many tasks at once.

(As a sidenote, this is why clients with concussions need to deprive themselves of all sensory input for a little while as they recover. Lying in a room with no TV, music, noise, or lights can help the brain recover without overtaxing its limits.)

People who suffer from epilepsy have a similar issue—too much visual stimuli causes their brains to function poorly. Whether they are suffering from concussions, seizures, or any kind of stimulation disorder, these patients are said to have a low neurological fatigue point. The neurological fatigue point is the point at which an individual is not able to effectively handle stimulation.

That’s where temporal summation comes into play.

See, when a patient is unable to handle too much stimulation, our Functional Neurologists create a plan that exercises their brain without causing it to overload. This approach is ideal for people who require slow and gently therapy. Therapy might include a session of massage, then visual light therapy, then vestibular rehabilitation exercises, and so on with breaks between each session.


So temporal summation is ideal for patients who need gentle rehabilitation, who are neurologically fragile. However, spatial summation is far more robust, with 3 or 4 different therapy modalities happening at once in a single session. Spatial summation almost causes overstimulation purposefully in order to bring brain performance to a far higher level.

At Plasticity Brain Centers, our clients are not just injured patients. Our clients include CEOs, champion athletes, and other professionals who require high-level brain function at all times. Their therapy is less about restoringfunction as it is about enhancing it.

For instance, a CEO’s session may include doing exercises while standing on a balance board, following moving targets with his or her eyesight before touching the target—all while sound is being played in one ear. Forcing the brain to process several types of information at once builds its strength and makes it process more efficiently.


In the world of athleticism, training often includes periods of recovery and restoration, and periods of intense strength-building. Restorative workouts are often as robust and effective as any other workout, but their purpose is to help the body achieve more efficient function without causing fatigue or further damage to injured areas.

Strength-building, however, requires fatigue. Taxing the body past its limits is how an athlete reaches new heights of strength. Muscles only grow in capability when they have been microscopically torn from exertion. These tears stimulate the body to grow stronger muscle tissue in an adaptive response. As a result, overexertion (or stimulus) in the right amount can result in increased function. When an athlete is already at their optimum levels, strength-building takes them further.

Exercising the brain is similar in this sense. Temporal summation allows our Functional Neurologists to address brain injuries gently while facilitating healing and recovery. Spatial summation allows us to take healthy, high-performing brains and take them to the next level (albeit without causing any actual damage to the tissue!).

For professional athletes, pilots, high-level corporate officers, politicians, and more, the ability to process multiple levels of information at once could prove invaluable to their personal and professional lives.

Whether you’re looking for therapy to address a neurological injury or you’re looking to improve your brain’s daily performance, contact Plasticity Brain Centers today. Our highly-trained Functional Neurologists all utilize research-based therapies developed by the Carrick Institute. Call our office today.

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