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Impulsivity, or acting before thinking, can show up in many different ways for people of all different ages. Often it can look like;
No matter how impulsivity manifests itself in daily life, it can happen for many reasons, including; ADHD, Borderline Personality Disorders, stress, anxiety, fear, or even boredom. When it occurs too frequently, it can feel like a burden to the person who struggles to regulate it, as well as those around them.
Whether impulsive decisions happen sporadically or persistently, understanding the cause is essential to choosing a support option that will be a good fit.
Dr. Bruce Perry, a psychologist known for studying the brain and its functions, explains one reason for impulsivity.
All experience is processed from the bottom up, meaning, to get to the top, “smart” part of our brain, we have to go through the lower, not-so-smart part. This sequential processing means that the most primitive, reactive part of our brain interprets and acts on the information coming in from our senses. Bottom line: Our brain is organized to act and feel before we think.
– Dr. Bruce D Perry
When a person is under stress, anxiety, worry, or fear, the brain’s top (or logical part) is not accessible, making any decision impulsive. That kind of impulsivity is situational.
Chronic impulsivity is typically due to various causes within the brain. A study from Harvard University and Massachusetts General Hospital highlights one example of this occurrence.
“Holmes and colleagues… found that study participants who [had} a tendency to act on impulse had reduced cortical thickness in brain regions associated with decision making and self-control, particularly in the anterior cingulate and the middle frontal gyrus.”1
Whether situational or chronic impulsivity begins in the brain,
it isn’t just a matter of “trying harder” or “thinking before you act.” It’s a matter of addressing the issue in the brain.
When it comes to supporting people to be less impulsive, the mainstream treatment for managing and decreasing impulsivity has commonly been medication. However, there is a natural developmental approach to help individuals inhibit these distracting behaviors.
The Listening Program (TLP) is a neuroscience-based music listening therapy created to help people of all ages achieve optimal brain function. TLP is a proven solution that parents, professionals, and individuals have been looking for to reduce impulsivity, whether chronic or situational. But how can music reduce impulsivity? The answer is in the science and intention of the design.
It’s common knowledge that muscles adapt to weight training. In that same way, research has found that the brain changes in response to its experiences, essentially “strengthening” or improving the function of different brain areas by stimulating them through scientifically designed music.
The Listening Program accomplishes this through four color-coded brain training frequency zones. Each training zone “exercises” the brain with specific frequencies, tempos, and sounds to provide targeted training for various benefits. The frequency and volume of music can bring about multiple brain benefits, including reducing chronic or persistent impulsivity.
Imagine, for example, a person who wears a cast on their arm for six weeks. After not using the muscles in that arm, they lose mobility and strength. Once the arm is ready for exercise, a person would use specific arm-strengthening activities to rebuild the mobility and function of that arm. That concept is precisely what zone training does in the brain.
The brain is musical; neuroscience has proven through functional brain imaging that when we listen to music, virtually the whole brain is involved.
TLP is engineered to train four brain training frequency zones across the spectrum of human auditory perception, supporting bottom-up (sensory input) and top-down (perception and response). Each music module is color-coded according to its corresponding zone.
View Zone Training Guide
Advanced Brain Technologies created four individualized TLP Core Programs to target specific areas of need. For most listeners whose primary goals are to reduce impulsivity and improve sustained attention, we recommend TLP Spectrum and TLP Achieve. These programs help develop a solid foundation for emotional regulation, executive function, and being more attuned to our surroundings.
TLP Spectrum quiets the body’s natural alarm system, supporting a person to be less sensitized, allowing more access to the “thinking portion” of the brain (as Dr. Perry refers to it).
The program activates “the vagus nerve [which] acts as a regulatory device, helping us respond to stressful situations and then return to a calm state. The vibration provided by modified music delivered through headphones with bone conduction improves vagal regulation in the head, neck, and chest areas, improving our physical and emotional integration so that we can more successfully engage socially.” – Healing at the Speed of Sound.
TLP Spectrum emphasized the low-frequency “Green Zone”, so it is an effective solution to systematically shift the brain from the sympathetic fight or flight response to the parasympathetic rest and recovery response, leading to the system’s overall calm & alert state.
When the autonomic nervous system is balanced, higher brain levels are accessible more often, allowing more conscious decisions, replacing the frequency of impulsive behavior.
Spectrum works by calming the mind and body, resulting in an overall sense of grounding, stress relief, and a reduction in impulsivity.
This exact shift happened for Max, a boy diagnosed with ADHD, who started using The Listening Program to reduce his impulsive behavior. His Mom remembered that before TLP, he would melt down often, couldn’t handle disagreements or disappointments, struggled to accept change, and was inflexible in his thinking. Each of those was a manifestation of impulsive actions and thinking.
After using TLP for a time, his entire family saw a profound change. His mom mentioned that at home, he was “more able to go with the flow,” and the last-minute changes in plans no longer get him worked up. He’s much more able to deal with frustration, can take constructive criticism, lose a game without melting down, verbalize feelings better, has fewer arguments with siblings or with us, can transition much easier.”
Overall, his impulsive behavior decreased dramatically, particularly when Max entered the orange and red zone in the listening program because his brain had been prepped for that change in the blue and green zones.
It’s worth it to have a more calm child who can more easily go with the flow.
– Max’s mom
TLP Achieve is an intermediate-level training program focused on the middle frequencies in the “Orange Zone”. It’s a perfect way to support a person who can maintain a general state of calmness on their own regularly. People of all ages show improvements in their performance primarily in the following areas:
Landon, a TLP Achieve listener, is an excellent example of someone who can benefit from mid-frequency training. He had previously completed the TLP Spectrum program to reduce his emotional, sensory, and physical sensitivities. After finishing TLP Spectrum, his brain was prepared to advance to TLP Achieve. Not all listeners need first to complete the Spectrum program first, however. Those who are typically more relaxed, calm, not sensitive to sensory stimulation can benefit from TLP Achieve without first listening to TLP Spectrum.
His parents and grandparents noticed a marked improvement in his impulsive tendencies.
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His impulsivity has reduced significantly, and he is more mindful of others, and he interacts much better with his siblings. His grandmother visited recently, and she commented, “Oh my goodness, I’ve noticed such a difference! He is not impulsive at all and very affectionate.
Whether the cause of impulsive behavior is stress, anxiety, or a brain difference, the gentle and scientifically designed music of The Listening Program can support a person to access the top portion of their brain more effectively and reduce impulsive behavior.
Wendy Bertagnole, MA. Ed.
As Content Manager with Advanced Brain Technologies, I help provide educational resources for people to understand how TLP can benefit people in different ways.
With a Masters’s Degree in Special Education, I learned early in my career that there’s a deeper root to almost any difficulty in life. Being able to show people how music can help their brains function better, to achieve goals like better sleep, less stress, better communication, or healing, is very rewarding for me. Helping people feel hope for the change that can take place through TLP is my passion.
Before ABT, I worked as a special education teacher, a supervisor of an Early Intervention Program, and created my own business coaching parents of kids with challenging behavior. I served as a Project Manager for ABT in 2021, which helped me understand the needs of our clients and the life-changing benefits of our programs on a much deeper level.
In my spare time, I enjoy being outside hiking, biking, seeing every waterfall possible, doing yoga, or spending time with people I love.
Tags ADD, ADHD, attention, auditory processing, Brain, Focus, Impulsivity, learning, listening, memory, Sensory Processing, The Listening Program, Therapeutic Music
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