When Lee Gerdes founded Scottsdale-based Cereset and developed new technology that balances your brain via brain-initiated sound, it wasn’t because he wanted to.
It was because he had to.
Around age 45, Gerdes was attacked in San Francisco. A group of young men beat Gerdes with a baseball bat, coming at him from behind.
The encounter was so traumatic that he suffered eight years of posttraumatic stress and a mild traumatic brain injury.
“The symptoms became worse and worse,” Gerdes said. “And every time I tried something new, I got worse, not better.”
Neurofeedback sessions didn’t help him. Shamanism did nothing. Self medication didn’t work, either.
Gerdes was left with years of high stress, paranoia, sleepless nights and misery.
“I was really disrespected because nobody believed that there was something wrong with me, because nobody could see it,” Gerdes said.
It even reached a point where Gerdes specifically ate in corner booths at restaurants so no one could come up behind him. And he would shop late at night, from 10 p.m. to midnight, so the aisles were relatively clear.
“It’s a whole different way to be in the world, and it’s not fun,” Gerdes said.
So, armed with his extensive knowledge in mathematics, physics, computer software development, theology and psychology, Gerdes took it upon himself to develop new technology.
Gerdes started with an EEG, a test that detects abnormalities in brain waves. He placed electrodes instead of sensors on his scalp and tracked the activity in his left and right hemispheres.
“When I was feeling really bad, I saw that they were highly asymmetrical,” Gerdes said.
Typically, a left hemisphere-dominant brain leaves people in a numb state known as the freeze response. And a right-side-dominant brain leaves people in a state of active anxiety known as the fight-or-flight response.
“When I was feeling less bad, they were less asymmetrical,” Gerdes said, adding that he checked his brain’s activity 40 to 60 times over a few months.
Following these tests was Gerdes’ big eureka moment: What if the brain wasn’t asymmetrical at all? And can you make it symmetrical?
“That’s what I set out to do,” Gerdes said.
Not to be confused with neurofeedback – trying to tell your brain to act a different way – the Cereset’s BrainEcho technology allows a person’s brain to naturally balance itself. It tells itself what to do.
The non-invasive process uses only brain-initiated sound to relax and reset the brain.
During a session, the brain “hears” itself through musical tones generated by sensors place on the scalp. The client wears a set of ear buds and hears these tones.
As the client relaxes, most of the time falling into a deep sleep, the brain is telling itself what to do, creating new neural pathways or new “roads” for healthier, more balanced brain signals. This is called neuroplasticity.
“What we have to do is simply get the brain to relax so it can re-engage,” Gerdes said. “It’s like a clutch that pulls it apart and can come back and then re-engage.”
After one session, he said, the client typically experiences better sleep that night.
Multiple sessions can help people manage anxiety, enhance learning and memory, increase energy levels and restore happiness.
“It takes time for the brain to integrate the changes,” said Cereset Client Center Director Sonya Crittenden. “Typically, it takes about three weeks for a new pathway to be formed in the brain.”
Of Cereset’s 130,000 clients, better sleep is the No. 1 reason people come in.
“Fifty-four percent of the population doesn’t sleep well two weeks a month or more,” Gerdes said. “So that’s our market.”
“If we can get people to sleep better, everything across the board is changed,” he explained. “It’s true for dementia, Alzheimer’s, weight management, emotional stability – all of those things are sleep dependent.”
Another large population Gerdes has helped with Cereset’s HIRREM technology is veterans with PTSD or phantom pain in missing limbs. HIRREM is also used for people who have specific indications, including insomnia, concussions, hot flashes and pain.
“We’ve done probably 6,000 or 8,000 soldiers or vets, providing service to them,” Gerdes said.
A clinical study conducted over a 12-day period by the Department of Neurology at the Wake Forest School of Medicine in North Carolina showed that Cereset’s non-invasive technology not only reduced symptoms of military-related traumatic stress but also improved brain function.
According to the study published in the “Journal of Neuroimaging” recently, participants – including active duty and veteran U.S. military personnel with symptoms of post-traumatic stress – showed significantly different network connectivity on MRI brain scans after Cereset sessions.
Participants also experienced significant reductions in symptoms of post-traumatic stress, insomnia, depression and anxiety. Reduced symptoms lasted at least six months.
“The fact that this technology is non-invasive, is a non-pharmacological intervention and does not require that the recipients ‘do anything’ other than let the brain repair itself, is very exciting,” said Dr. Charles Tegeler, neurologist at Wake Forest School of Medicine and lead researcher and co-author of the study, in a press release.
Following the success of this clinical study, Cereset received a $2 million grant from the Department of Defense to conduct a two-point study on vets at Fort Bragg in California and at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Washington, D.C.
“The Department of Defense found [the clinical trials] to be very, very consistent with well-being,” Gerdes said.
In addition to helping with sleep, Cereset has helped adults fight addictions.
“It can help with addictions because with addictions those networks get locked in and then you have that impulse where they need to feed that addiction,” Crittenden said. “The technology helps to loosen that and then create new options for the brain. It doesn’t have to go down that addiction pathway.”
On the rise are athletes and CEO clients.
Cereset’s demo used to be about 70 percent female and 30 percent male; however, it has shifted over the years to 60-40.
“It’s because a number of males are becoming much more keen; they want the edge,” Gerdes said. “They don’t want to put up with being compromised any longer.”
Children have come in for sessions, too.
The youngest child Crittenden has worked with was 3.
Gerdes said children have been brought in for sleeping issues, attention-deficit disorder, autism spectrum disorder and behavioral issues, including anger issues.
Cereset has franchise facilities across the United States and sessions range from $1,200 to $2,500, depending on if the session is conducted at the facility or at home using Cereset’s take-home headband, which uses the same BrainEcho technology.