In the previous post, I explained an acute effect of mold on the nervous system, namely that toxins produced by mold act as a GABAA antagonist. But what happens when you have prolonged mold exposure? And what can you do about it? And how do you know if what you’re doing is actually helping?
The name given to mold/biotoxin patients completely explains what goes on when moving from an acute reaction to chronic problems. Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (CIRS) is a well-documented condition with an impressive amount of blood biochemistry work associated with it that explains many underlying mechanisms causing the characteristic symptoms in this patient population. However, it is important to note that these symptoms are not a direct response to mold/mycotoxins, but rather a result of the chronic inflammatory response initiated by mold exposure. That means that detection and tracking recovery can be a bit tricky.
Currently, the best and easiest method available to tracking recovery is the Visual Contrast Sensitivity test (VCS), which works on the principle that people with mold/biotoxin toxicity have poor circulation at the capillary level, meaning that oxygen is not delivered as it should be. Specifically for this test, oxygen is not delivered adequately to the rods in your eyes, which are responsible for contrast detection. In low oxygen conditions, these cells do not perform at their maximum potential, so people with mold/biotoxin exposure have a hard time performing this test where you are asked to distinguish increasingly subtle differences. The test is reported to have a 2% false positive rate and 8% false negative rate for detecting mold toxicity, which is very good, however, after completing it test myself, I do have some hesitations about it:
- The test uses very subtle changes in contrast, so the screen you are using to view the image must be highly accurate. The test requires that you go through an extensive calibration beforehand, which does increase the accuracy of the test, but a human calibration is never without error. Test requirements are shown in the image below.
In order to assess validity, I took the test twice back-to-back, using different devices each time. My first calibration (laptop) required me to sit at least 3 feet away from the screen, at which point my less-than-perfect vision became a factor.
When using a tablet (which was recommended over a computer), I found that the tilt of the screen greatly affected my ability to detect contrast, and it was hard to keep the tilt the same throughout the whole test, thereby partially offsetting the calibration done upfront.
I had vastly different results when I took the same test ~30 minutes apart from each other on different devices. My first test (laptop) indicated biotoxin exposure, while on my second test (tablet), I scored above average on all portions of the test. Thus one of the two was wrong (I assume the first one was since my Brain Gauge test just prior to that showed no signs of mycotoxin exposure).
There is a per-test fee. The $10 fee may not be disqualifying for most people, but it does start to add up. For a complicated condition that does not always have a straightforward, linear recovery, it is helpful to test relatively frequently to make sure that you are on the right track and your treatment is working. Recovery can be a long and expensive process and having an extra fee every time you need to test can be an added, unneeded stressor.
In contrast, using a Brain Gauge can mitigate or eliminate those problems:
The Brain Gauge is self-calibrating. The device is research-grade, highly accurate and precise, and requires nothing more than plugging in a USB cable in order to work correctly.
Confounding, peripheral problems are generally not a problem. Most tests work at supra-threshold levels, so even calloused fingers are sufficient for performing the necessary tests. Of course, there are some exceptions here—severe peripheral neuropathy or amputations being some of them, but either hand can be used to perform the test with equal accuracy, making it accessible to most people.
3/4. Since the stimulation and response are delivered not through the computer, but rather through a research-grade device, any computer can be used with equal accuracy, as long as it has a working USB port and Google Chrome.
- There is no per-test fee. For the home unit, there is either one up-front cost, or a low monthly fee that allows for unlimited testing for up to 5 people. This helps to mitigate cost as a barrier to having sufficient information to help you and your family recover. This can be especially helpful if mold exposure is from your house and multiple family members are affected.
But is it as accurate as the VCS test at detecting problems? Good question. At this point, we don’t have data to support the claim that it is, but we are confident that as we collect more data, we will be able to make that claim. What we can say is that it is very rare that we see a symptomatic person with any neurological deficit perform well on all Brain Gauge tests. Remember that chronic mold/mycotoxin related symptoms are simply a result of chronic inflammation, not a reaction to the mold itself (although we do hypothesize that mold exposure would directly affect at least one Brain Gauge test, see previous Mold post). Just as different people exposed to the same mold may experience slightly different symptoms, test results may vary depending on how your body specifically responds to the chronic inflammatory response. We do predict that Plasticity will be negatively affected by chronic inflammation, but other scores could potentially be markers as well.
If we’ve convinced you by this point that the Brain Gauge is a more accurate and reliable indicator of chronic inflammation than the current most widely used test, how do you go about using it? Similar to our post about acute mold exposure, you will simply be integrating testing into your treatment protocol, as you would the VCS test. Test, begin/continue treatment, test again, repeat as needed. Take note of which test(s) results are less than optimal and track your progress on those. It is possible for things to temporarily get worse before they get better as toxins are mobilized and removed from your system, which makes frequent testing even more important to make sure things eventually move in the right direction. If you don’t notice any changes at all, positive or negative, that’s probably a good sign that your treatment isn’t helping, and you can discuss altering your plan with your health care provider.
As we collect more data on this topic that is extremely prevalent, yet not always well-known condition, we will keep you updated on what we find!