First Person: Cynde Margritz, CEO of Peak Neurofitness, 52, Alexandria
December, 2014 edition
Interview by Amanda Long
I had a head injury as a kid. I was 5, standing on concrete steps, and another girl grabbed my ankles and pulled my feet out from under me. I whacked my head. When I came to, I didn’t want to leave school. I loved school so much that I didn’t want to go to the hospital.
My mother took me. They whacked my knee, said my reflexes were fine and sent me home. I’ve learned since that anytime the brain is injured it can go into an anxious state. By the time I was in second grade, I had severe anxiety, almost agoraphobia. I would only go to school if the neighbor boy would hold my hand in class.
My mother was a teacher, so it was really embarrassing. They started paying me an allowance, a quarter, every day to go to school.
In college, I paced in the back of the classroom. I don’t know if it was to keep my brain activated or relieve my anxiety. The biggest thing was getting my brain going and motivated [to do] what I wanted to get done in my life.
I was exploring neurofeedback, but my anxiety caused me to think, I don’t want anyone else messing with my brain. I wanted to do it myself. I took the first class in 2006. We had to train each other in a method where you find the frequency at which your brain operates best. We got to one, and I was like, “Wow.” This little fog that I never knew I had lifted. It’s called the “clear windshield effect.” I decided, I want this, and I want to do this for other people.
We train brains. We train them to focus better, sleep better, to not have a migraine, to control emotions, to feel a state of flow. When your brain works better, a lot of the symptoms of brain-based issues — migraines, depression, anxiety, ADD, PTSD, OCD — go away. [Neurofeedback] works like an electronic coach. We place sensors on your temples that pick up signals from your brain. When it’s performing better, you hear a reward sound. Basically the brain goes: “I did this. I got this response, so I’m going to continue doing it.” If we’re working on attention, we might be telling the brain to make more fast waves in the left and right prefrontal lobes. We’re getting them to wake up. If you see kids who are hyperactive and moving all the time, that’s what they’re trying to do. We’re teaching their brains to do it instead of their bodies.
I still train myself because I like being in the zone. Things are much more effortless. It’s really a joyful state. I’m constantly hearing how much happier I look. At my high school reunion, I heard about how organized and outgoing I am now. People seem attracted to whatever vibe, or happy factor, that is. We’ve met people on the street, on airplanes who say, “ I want some of whatever you have.”