The Research on IRECA
Research was undertaken by Pike, C., Vernon, D. & Hald, L. in 2014. The specific aim of the study, which is fully published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, was to test the hypothesis that IRECA induces activation of the left-frontal cerebral cortex.
Left-frontal activation is known to be associated with a wide range of health-related factors including:
- Positive emotions
- Increased vitality
- Improved immune system functioning
- Resilience to stress
- Openness to new experiences
- General well-being
Right-frontal activation is known to be associated with:
- Negative emotion
- Loss of energy
- Stress and withdrawal
- Lower immune system function
- Poor well-being
This relationship underlies the clinical use of magnetic fields for inducing or inhibiting left-frontal and right-frontal activation of the brain, respectively in treatments for depression.
Previous research has shown left-frontal activation of the brain to occur with mindfulness meditation. As both IRECA and mindfulness meditation involve the cultivation of intention, attention and an attitude of non-interference in the practitioner, and most people taking part in mindfulness meditation research are meditating with an intention to improve their health, most often stress reduction, it seems likely that similar processes may be involved.
Previous studies of so-called ‘energy medicine’, including practices such as Reiki, Johrei, and Qigong, have reported physiological changes compatible with left-frontal activation of the brain. These include decreases in heart-rate and blood pressure, improved immune system functioning, increased vitality and positivity, and anxiety reduction.
To test whether IRECA induces left-frontal activation of the brain, the researchers carried out an experiment, comparing the frontal brain activity of 21 participants following a mild stress-induction memory task, while receiving EITHER genuine IRECA, sham IRECA2, or no-treatment.
The participants were divided into three groups:
- In the genuine IRECA condition, the practitioner treated centres C7, C7 + C6, C5 and C4, in the same order and for approximately the same time for all participants.
- In the sham IRECA condition, the practitioner outwardly did the same as in the genuine IRECA condition, but inwardly had no intention to assist recovery, and had their attention distracted by means of a mental arithmetic task.
- In the no treatment condition, the participant simply sat still for 5 minutes.
None of the participants or research assistants knew whether participants were receiving genuine IRECA or not, and no communication took place between anyone, including the person giving IRECA, either before or during treatment.
Brain activity was measured using EEG (electroencephalogram) recordings of cortical electrical activity in the alpha frequency range (7.5 – 12.5 Hz), in left and right frontal areas of the brain. They were then converted into a single numerical measure of asymmetric activation known as the Alpha.
As predicted, participants receiving genuine IRECA showed significant left-frontal activation of the brain during the early phase of treatment, while those receiving sham IRECA and no-treatment showed right-frontal activation instead. This suggests IRECA induced a pattern of brain activity known to be associated with positivity and health, that offset the negative effects of stress seen in the other two groups.
However, asymmetric activation also tended to reduce in all three groups during the mid-phase of treatment, and then revert to right-frontal activation during the final phase. This raises the question of why the IRECA effect seen in the early phase of treatment was apparently short-lived. The researchers suggest this may reflect constraints on treatment imposed by the experimental protocol, which for purposes of standardisation required the practitioner to treat specific centres in a specific order for similar periods of time; rather than be led purely by intrinsic feedback from the participant (the so-called ‘return of energy’). As such, a degree of mismatch may have occurred between participants’ needs and the nature of the treatment given as the experiment progressed.
Participants receiving genuine IRECA also rated themselves significantly less stressed after treatment than participants receiving sham treatment, and while both groups reported reduced stress, only the IRECA group reported stress levels significantly lower than at baseline.
In summary, the study provides initial supporting evidence for an effect of IRECA treatment on human neurophysiology. However, the researchers caution that this was a small preliminary study and that the findings need replicating with a larger sample. Future research should also attempt to disentangle the relationship between centres treated, type of stress, and treatment effect. The study suggests that left-frontal activation of the brain may be a promising physiological indicator of general treatment effect, but whether that effect occurs or not is likely to depend upon the intentional match between specific centres treated and the nature of the underlying imbalance.