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How I retrained my brain naturally

VR could have accelerated the process and help me recover from my brain tumor

Innovation series by Rebecca Mandel
March 15, 2019
Short URL: http://vator.tv/n/4d76

Rebecca Mandel will be presenting her company Lucid Care at #InventHealth - Future of Mental and Behavioral Health on April 4 at UCSF in San Francisco. She has a remarkable story of courage and will. She's also taken her experience to build solutions. REGISTER!

Here's her story.

When I was 15 years old I was rushed to the hospital after having a seizure in class. I was diagnosed with a brain tumor in my right frontal lobe and operated on three days later. I woke up to discover I was a completely new person. My personality changed. I now had epilepsy, memory loss and mild cognitive impairment. My neurologist told me that college may not be an option.

Understandably, I developed anxiety as I continued to discover the new “me” and mourn who I once was: cheery, laid back, and a high achiever. I was given antidepressants to cope, however, the medications produced adverse side-effects, which only exacerbated the problem. After 18 months, I stopped taking them and became committed to changing my behavior and retrain my brain with meditation, mindfulness, and steely resolve.   

Through the skin of my teeth, I graduated high school in time and went to college. During my senior year, I wrote a thesis, which took six months writing for eight hours a day. At that time, I couldn’t organize my thoughts or understand the right order of my words. I had to come up with creative ways to get by and wrote my papers by printing out each thought on a separate sheet and physically try to fit the paragraphs together. Through many long nights a “miracle” happened: something clicked in my brain and suddenly, I could effectively communicate my thoughts in writing.

This experience made me realize that my brain is not a black box and CAN change, just not overnight. Neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to reorganize itself as neurons compensate for injury or disease. This means if you have a chemical imbalance in the brain, healthy habits (exercise, rest, sunshine) and nutrition can help heal it. Chemical imbalances can include a deficiency in dopamine, norepinephrine, and epinephrine, which can all be increased naturally.  

Repetition, meditation

Meditation also played an enormous role in my recovery. Although it takes longer to see results than anti-anxiety meds or anti-depressants, this was a better, less invasive, and more long term solution for my need. It helped me calm my anxiety and have the courage to try again every day. Learning how to breathe deeply and focus in the moment helped me maintain my motivation and concentration. However, establishing a meditation practice took me years and continues to be a life-long process. In particular, visualization is something that is quite challenging for me, and it wasn’t until I was exposed to Virtual Reality (VR) while working at Samsung that I understood this was the missing link to accelerating behavioral change through meditation.

The birth of Lucid Care

Fast forward, I started Lucid Care, which uses Oculus VR headsets to help patients in drug and alcohol rehab centers stay in treatment by helping them reduce their anxiety and cravings. Every minute counts when it comes to preventing relapse, and anxiety is a major contributor to patients dropping out of treatment.

My company is helping patients with cognitive impairment from substance abuse accelerate behavioral change by developing positive daily habits like meditation to replace alcohol and drugs as their coping mechanisms. Having co-developed the first VR anxiety reduction study at Stanford Children’s Hospital, my co-founder Yahav Tako, who developed the first FDA approved VR product to train neurosurgeons, and  I applied our knowledge of VR to build a platform catered towards behavioral health. Since June 2018, we’ve been working with some of the largest treatment centers in LA and have shown promising results in our pilots. Over a 90 day period, 150 active Lucid Care users showed an average of 57 percent reduction in anxiety, a leading cause for the 60 percent dropout rates in the industry.

There are 40,000 centers in the US alone, generating $35B in revenues annually. With high patient dropout rates, medical centers are losing billions of dollars due to low insurance reimbursement (they get paid per day or per program completion) and high operating costs. Lucid Care offers a VR platform that increases patient adherence by developing positive daily habits that enable them to stay in treatment. We create and analyze proprietary patient data, enabling clinicians to offer personalized, results-based care and intervene high risk patients before they drop out or relapse.    

Lucid Care brings in a specialist and runs one-hour sessions with roughly 10-15 people. After the session they are more clear-minded and calm, and are (theoretically) more able to cope with their anxiety. These sessions are conducted two-to-three times a week, though some patients request three times a day.

We’re getting great results. Our patients are adhering. We’re still at the early stages. But just like my journey getting through my brain tumor, the 24 million Americans struggling with a substance use disorder can also change their brain and habits. Our goal is to continue helping them experience initial results within minutes that helps them discover life-long coping mechanisms.


Related companies, investors and entrepreneurs

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Lucid Care
Startup/Business
Description: Lucid Care increases patient adherence for centers treating drug and alcohol addiction The opioid epidemic is on the rise. With high pati...
Bio: Co-Founder and CEO at Lucid Care

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