Randy Lyle | Marriage and Family Therapy Program Director

Randy Lyle, marriage and family therapy program director and professor

Q&A with Randy Lyle, marriage and family therapy program director and professor.

MMU: I understand you presented at The Foundation for Neurofeedback & Neuromodulation (FNNR), at Tanager Place, and for Ethical Perspectives, how did you become involved with these conferences?

RL: I submitted for a peer reviewed presentation on Ethics and Neuroscience for ISNR and my submission was accepted. Tanager Place and Ethical Perspectives both asked that I present for them. Tanager was a presentation on the problems related to brain development and trauma and the integration of neurofeedback for treatment. I was asked to join a panel discussion on forgiveness on the television show, Ethical Perspectives.

MMU: Can you give a quick synopsis of your presentation? What were you hoping conference attendees would walk away with?

RL: In the Tanager Place presentation, I discussed how much of our brain development is dependent on relationships rather than just genetics. This means that those earliest relationships have a profound effect on how a person will or will not function throughout their life. I described how specific regions of the brain effected by trauma; at what ages it is most critical and what sorts of trauma cause the most damage and in which gender. I then discussed how an alternative treatment modality called neurofeedback can facilitate healing that’s we never thought possible in the brains of those effected by childhood trauma, even into adulthood. My hope was that people would first realize that it is critical that we do all we can to help parents relate in healthy and beneficial ways from the very beginning, that the costs to our society of not doing this are extremely high, and that there remains hope for those who experience trauma to heal.

MMU: How did you become interested in these topics? Where does your passion for these subjects come from?

RL: I have been a marriage and family therapist and educator for nearly 30 years and have been active in integrating the brain into the field for 20. The early research into how the brain is effected by relational aspects was a life changer for me. If our relationships can alter how the brain is connected and functions then we have to put the brain back at the center of how we understand and approach working with people’s mental health.

MMU: How does your research or work outside of MMU inform what you teach in the classroom? In what ways do students benefit?

RL: There is very little research being done on the integration of MFT and the brain. In fact, there is very little on the brain and mental health. My research and work in this area puts our students on the leading edge of discovery and integration of important and critical ways of influencing individual and couples well-being and ultimately, the well-being of our society. 

MMU:  Was there an idea or bit of research you learned during the conference and found especially interesting? What did you walk away with?

RL: The brain coordinates of compassion and empathy was probably the most interesting bit of learning for me at ISNR. If we can learn what those coordinates are and how to influence them then we may have an entryway into a whole new realm of healing.


MMU: You recently published a piece of work titled “Exploratory Study of Low-Resolution Electromagnetic Tomography (LORETA) Real-time Z-Score Feedback in the Treatment of Pain in Patients with Head and Neck Cancer.” Will you give us a brief synopsis?

RL: The majority of people treated with chemotherapy for head and neck cancer experience severe pain in response to the treatment. The success rate for medications used to lower the pain is very poor. The research was a preliminary study of the effectiveness of a specific form of neurofeedback (LORETA Z score) to see if there was a possibility that this treatment modality might lower pain for these individuals. The results of the study were positive and justified moving to a more comprehensive study using LORETA Z score neurofeedback to treat chemo-induced pain.

MMU: How did you become interested in this topic, and why did you decide to focus your work on this topic?

RL: I have been involved with this topic for many years now as a result of a former doctoral student’s invitation to join her and a research group from M.D. Anderson Hospital in Houston, Texas. I have been involved in research using neurofeedback for treating a variety of issues for many years.

MMU: Will you give us a glimpse into your research, writing, and publishing processes? Did you face obstacles? If so, how did you overcome the obstacles?

RL: The obstacles to all of these things are time and money. I would not be able to do the cancer research if it weren’t for my colleague’s position at M.D. Anderson. Through that institution, she is able to use resources to search for and apply for grants and funding that make the research possible. I have been on a slow track garnering resources to acquire the neurofeedback equipment for our doctoral program so that we can facilitate our own research, although the projects will of necessity be small and generally preliminary at best.

MMU: What impact do you hope this publication has? If people take one thing from your work, what should it be?

RL: It is our hope that we will be able to demonstrate that there is an effective and relatively inexpensive method for freeing people from sever and unrelenting pain as they go through life-saving cancer treatment. There is currently no consistently effective way to help these people. Our treatment modality is showing itself to be significantly more effective than the current standard of care. We hope that as the word gets out insurance companies and doctors will begin to recommend and pay for the treatment.

MMU: What’s next in your work?

RL: The M.D. Anderson team continues to find funding to enable us to refine and improve our research around the use of neurofeedback in the treatment of chemo-induced pain. I am grateful to continue to be invited to participate with them. We are also slowly getting neurofeedback treatment and research up and running here at Mt. Mercy. I am anxious to get students engaged and active in this program.