As the one-year anniversary of the Thomas Fire nears, Martin Wuttke, founder of the Wuttke Institute of Neurotherapy in Santa Barbara, will give a talk on the effects of trauma, grief and anxiety on the brain, and using neurofeedback as a complimentary intervention.

The free 45-minute talk is at 6:15 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 25, in the Montecito Library meeting room, followed by questions and discussion.

“The potential for individuals to develop long-lasting stress responses as a result of the Thomas Fire and subsequent mudslides is widespread in our community,” Wuttke said.

When an individual experiences trauma, the architecture and the networks of the brain are changed. The trauma is indelibly imprinted on the brain via a neuropathway, a biological function for self-protection, Wuttke said.

This imprinting allows our brains to remember traumatic events, so it can respond appropriately in a similar situation, he said.

In the case of a traumatic situation, the brain defaults to releasing stress hormones and chemicals to motivate action, a response referred to as the fight-or-flight response.

This response is instigated by various regions of the brain in an effort to ensure survival, but it can’t tell the difference between a real threat and a perceived threat, Wuttke said.

If the memory of a traumatic event is consistently being triggered, the body remains in a constant state of stress, which causes psychological and physiological problems, he said.

Since a person with trauma has an indelible imprint, or neural pathway, that was created by a former traumatic event, a response to danger can be triggered by a similar situation, date, location, or even a scent, he said.

When sensing a real or perceived threat, the brain mechanically switches to the default mode of action, releasing the stress chemicals causing the person to be on high alert.

If this dysregulation is not properly managed these automatic responses can lead to myriad physical, cognitive and emotional issues, he said

“Having a knee-jerk response to a trigger situation when there is no real danger, for example, can lead the individual to making decisions that are based in fear and not reality,” Wuttke said. “This is just one of many examples of the dangers of unresolved trauma.”

The over-activity of the hormones adrenaline and noradrenaline in the body, which are released when the body is put on alert and motivated to action, can lead to physical ailments, including adrenal fatigue, chronic anxiety and other issues that age the body, making it hard for the person to lead a healthy and happy life.

In addition, all of these issues can occur unconsciously in the person, which can be dangerous because the person doesn’t know what is causing their symptoms.

One way to address and heal these default actions of the brain is via the systematic desensitization of the brain, which retrains the brain to not create a bodily response to perceived trauma, Wuttke said.

There are several modalities that can help a person manage this behavior and develop physiological self-regulation, some of which include meditation, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), mindfulness, and somatic yoga,

These provide tools to help desensitize the stress responses.

Neurofeedback is another complimentary, well-documented and noninvasive intervention that provides a way for the brain to change stress responses at the deepest level, Wuttke said.

Neurofeedback is a type of biofeedback that charts brainwave frequencies in real time to teach the brain self-regulation.

The quantitative EEG analysis can determine the location and extent of any anomalies in brainwave patterns; and based on those anomalies, individualized protocols are created to target dysregulation and restore balance, Wuttke said.

Neurofeedback can help break undesirable mental or behavioral patterns by providing reinforcement for a more balanced function during the course of training, he said.

Neurofeedback assists in lowering the stress hormones, so individuals can face daily life more directly and openly without the betrayal of the body, he said. It does this by neutralizing the brain neural pathways that were caused by the trauma.

For more about the talk, contact Wendy Cooper, Wuttke Institute marketing director, at, or 805-448-8095. Visit

Additional parking for the Oct. 25 event is at El Montecito Presbyterian Church, adjacent to the library.

— Wendy Cooper for Wuttke Institute of Neurotherapy.