Mold Exposure: A Step-by-Step Guide to Tracking Recovery with a Brain Gauge

You may think of mold as a relatively harmless part of cheese that’s been in your fridge a little too long, or maybe as the penicillin that you take when you get an infection. But for some with genetic susceptibility, exposure to mold/mycotoxins and other biotoxins (like Lyme disease) can have extreme negative effects on their health and can cause symptoms as diverse as brain fog, fatigue, chronic pain, and/or debilitating psychiatric disorders. The large range of usually nondescript symptoms can leave those afflicted confused and frustrated and at a loss of answers, sometimes for years on end before they get a clear diagnosis. And even once that happens, it can be difficult to tell once you’ve completely removed the offending toxin from your system.

Toxic effects of mold/mycotoxins on mammals has been known for a long time, as farmers noted that feeding moldy food to livestock caused them to develop neurological problems, but the problems would generally resolve with time as mold was removed from their environment. In 1964, it was documented that toxins produced by mold cause rats to develop tremors (Wilson and Wilson 1964), and in 1987, Gant et al. showed that these toxins act as a GABAA receptor blocker in the brains of rats. GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter and blocking its action does explain the development of tremors. Working off of this discovery, we can also make predictions about how mold exposure effects Brain Gauge scores. Primarily, we expect to see a significantly elevated AD Simult raw score in mold exposed patients, particularly in comparison to the AD Seq raw score. This is because AD Simult is dependent on GABAA, while AD Seq is not as dependent (see previous post for details; note that toxins produced by mold are a “GABA antagonist”). And indeed, this is the pattern we have observed anecdotally with multiple mold patients from multiple practitioners.

As you start to delve into the literature of mold exposure, there’s a lot to unwrap with that topic, especially as it becomes chronic. We’ll dig into it deeper in another post, but for now, let’s look at how you can use your Brain Gauge to detect acute reaction to mold exposure and how to use your results to track progress back to health. For those of you familiar with the topic, you’ve probably heard of (or even used) a Visual Contrast Sensitivity (VCS) test to determine when you have a mold problem. While it can be a useful tool, as noted in previous posts about Reaction Time, any visual test has inherent levels of inaccuracy and shortcomings (again, we’ll go into more details on this in another post). But if you are familiar with the VCS test, you can use the Brain Gauge in the same way that you would that test, just more accurately (at least in our opinion).

  1. Find a doctor/health care practitioner trained in treating mold issues.

  2. Before beginning treatment, use your Brain Gauge to test your brain function. Depending on the length of time you have had mold exposure problems, you may have deficits in multiple tests. However, if you currently have mold in your body, we expect to see AD Simult raw scores in the range of 100-200+ (normal range is 20-40). Main thing to note is that AD Simult raw score will be much larger than AD Seq raw score. This will impact both your Accuracy and Plasticity metrics.

  3. Begin treatment as prescribed by your health care practitioner.

  4. The first step in the commonly used Shoemaker protocol is to remove the mold/offending toxin from your environment, so that’s probably the best place to start.

  5. As you remove mold from your external environment, hopefully you’ll start to have decreased symptoms. If internal mold levels have decreased, you should see a decrease in your AD Simult raw score (and an improvement in your Accuracy score). If you do, great! Keep up the good work! You can continue testing periodically (1x/week at first) to make sure you’re still on track and your body is clearing the toxins from your system. Once your AD Simult score has dropped to normal range (~20-40, and approximately equal to your AD Seq score), you can decrease testing frequency to ~2x/month in order to detect early signs of mold creeping back into your life.

  6. If scores have not improved, then you either still have toxins in your external environment, or you are part of the 25% of the population genetically incapable of removing mold/mycotoxins from your body. Regardless, now might be the time to talk to your health care provider about either genetic testing and/or a detox protocol to help clear the mold from your system.

  7. As you work through your detox, we recommend re-testing at least 1x/week to make sure what you’re doing is working. As internal mold levels drop, AD Simult raw score should drop as well (and your Accuracy and Plasticity scores will get better). If you are not seeing any change in your AD Simult score, your detox protocol is probably not working, or you still have frequent exposure to mold in your environment!

  8. As you work with your health care provider to make adjustments to your treatment, continue testing at least 1x/week to make sure that what you’re doing is actually helping. Again, if AD Simult score is not getting lower (i.e., your Accuracy & Plasticity metrics are not improving), you probably aren’t effectively removing mold from your body. The more often you test, the more quickly you’ll be able to note trends (or lack thereof) to see if your protocol is working.

  9. Once you have successfully removed the mold from your system and AD Simult scores are within normal range (~20-40, and approximately equal to your AD Seq score; your Accuracy and Plasticity metrics will improve), you can test less frequently (~2x/month). But since you know you are susceptible to the toxic effects of mold, it would be smart to test whenever you start to feel symptoms returning or if you move to a new house or workplace in order to detect early signs of mold exposure. Don’t wait until you have a full-blown set of symptoms again! If you start to see your AD Simult score rise (and Accuracy fall), you can test more frequently to see if it is trending upward or just a temporary spike. The sooner you detect the problem, the easier it will be to turn things around and get back to a healthy state.

It is important to note that once mold exposure has become a chronic problem, many other cascading problems can occur as a result of chronic inflammation. An elevated AD Simult score is simply a reflection of mold that is currently blocking your GABAA receptor sites (i.e. you have mold in your body). For many, once the mold is removed, symptoms persist due to the chronic inflammation cycle that has been initiated, which will be the topic of another post.

We should also note that we do not have any peer-reviewed, published data to support our claim that mold exposure causes an increase in AD Simult score. We simply have knowledge of peer-reviewed basic science that dates pretty far back (Gant et al. 1987), knowledge of how the brain works and how the presence of GABA (or the lack thereof) impacts Brain Gauge scores, and numerous case studies that support our hypothesis. GABA plays a very important role in brain processing, and we have seen many observations of what happens with abnormal levels of GABA both experimentally in animal studies and in studies of other neurological populations, and GABA plays an enormous role in lateral inhibition. If you are interested in some of those observations, just use GABA as a search term on the Insights front page. There’s plenty to read!

Gant DB, Cole RJ, Valdes JJ, Eldefrawi ME, Eldefrawi AT. Action of tremorgenic mycotoxins on GABAA receptor. Life sciences. 1987 Nov 9;41(19):2207-14.

Wilson BJ, Wilson CH. Toxin from Aspergillus flavus: production on food materials of a substance causing tremors in mice. Science. 1964 Apr 10;144(3615):177-8.

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