Written by Melissa Stanz | Photos by Anthony Harden
Training the Brain
Who doesn’t want to improve their memory, concentration, and be smarter? Especially those of us who have a little more “life experience”, who occasionally can’t remember names or what we wanted when we walked into the kitchen.
Dr. Michael Trayford, owner of APEX Brain Centers, assures me it can happen, but it takes a commitment that must last long after the typical weeklong sessions that APEX Brain Centers conducts for motivated clients.
[dropcap]D[/dropcap]r. Trayford, age 43, is a board certified chiropractic neurologist committed to helping people improve their brain functions. He works with those who have conditions such as traumatic brain injury (TBI), OCD, ADD, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s. He also works with anyone who has a strong desire to think more clearly, retain things longer, or improve their performance as an athlete, teacher, artist, or student. In short, just about anyone can benefit from these treatments.
APEX Brain Centers uses high frequency intensive brain training programs to tap into the brain’s ability to change and grow over time. They apply functional neurology using state-of-the-art brain mapping, objective neurological testing, research-based brain training methods, and nutritional intervention. Dr. Trayford and his partner, Dr. David Hardy, work with clients in what are typically weeklong sessions—most of this type of training occurs over months in a clinical setting.
“I started APEX Brain Centers two years ago after closing my private practice in Asheville that focused on movement and balance chiropractic treatments,” said Dr. Trayford. “It was a huge leap of faith, and a massive shift from seeing people once a week to seeing them several times a day, but I saw stimulating the brain frequently was causing changes in clients in two to three days.”
Trayford is a life learner, constantly reading medical literature, surfing the web, and looking for alternate ways to train the brain. Through his research and his practice he’s found that high-intensity, high-frequency training is the best way people can work with their brains.
Some clients go through the process in a week; others take a little longer. During the week clients receive treatments several times a day, relaxing between sessions. Because the process is so intensive, Dr. Trayford says most clients take time off to focus only on the treatments.
He sees clients locally, across the nation, and from other countries such as Israel, Australia, Canada, and Africa. About half of his client base comes from referrals from other chiropractors; others come from neurologists, family practice physicians, and by word of mouth.
“Although many practices are using neurofeedback and functional medicine, no one is putting it together with the approach we’re using,” he said. “The brain works best by repetition. We do the training fast and it’s working—our recipe is unique.”
Joe Kimmel is a client and the founder of Kimmel and Associates, the largest specialty executive search firm in the United States. He holds degrees in nuclear engineering and mathematics from the University of Nevada-Reno, is a lover of the arts, and is well known for his philanthropic efforts in Asheville and the region. He came to APEX Brain Centers to help him gain a competitive edge and protect his cognitive function moving into later life.
“This process is a means by which, using simple procedures, you can affect the signals between different lobes of the brain,” he explained. “The training caused a change in my brain, and I’m a different person now. Other people saw it, too.”
Kimmel has a deep passion for this training and says he wants as many people as possible to know it’s available.
Dr. Trayford emphasized that many things impact brain function, including stress and blood sugar. Most people have bad habits that need to be changed, and it’s critical that people want to make changes and move forward.
“We can train the brain, but if people are not committed to change lifestyle and habits, then it won’t work as well,” he said. “We’re a catalyst, a trigger for change. We’re foundation people who help people improve brain functions, but I don’t expect clients to go from butter knife to samurai sword in a week.”
From chemical engineering to chiropractic neurology…
Dr. Trayford started college in a chemical engineering program, but quickly realized that he wasn’t cut out to sit in a lab.
From chemical engineering he moved into biology and physics and made the connection between movement and better brain function. This was his ‘aha moment’, leading him to chiropractic study.
“I found the greatest scope of what I needed to do with chiropractic,” he explained. “It was the broadest overall portal to entry and a conduit to study the human brain.”
He went on to post graduate work in neurology, earning his board certification in chiropractic neurology. He’s been practicing in the neurology area for 15 years. His former practice based in Fletcher, North Carolina, was Carolina Functional Neurology.
Inspired by his elders
As a young child, Dr. Trayford enjoyed hanging out with older people to glean their wisdom and to learn—he said he’s always been an old soul.
Thinking back, he was the kid always trying to discover where the picture was coming from in the TV. His uncle was an engineer and helped him figure things out, feeding his desire to learn more.
A professor of veterinary science at Cornell, Dr. Trayford’s grandfather was an inspiration to him. He lived a long, full life, dying at age 95 while shoveling snow from his driveway in Maine.
“My grandfather was not just a vet, he was a singer, a musician, a safari hunter, and more. He learned a new skill every three years—saying it kept him sharp. When he died he had all his wits about him. Although I was only 12, I learned so much from his example.”
Throughout his life he’s been a keen observer, watching many people (including his parents) grow older and seeing how lifestyle choices impact the aging process. He realized that most health care was focused on diagnosis and treatment and saw a huge void in health care for people who were aging.
“I wanted to help people deal with things before they became problems, before dementia or a bad fall. I saw so much cognitive decline in our older population and I wanted to be proactive, not reactive,” said Dr. Trayford.
Walking the talk
Dr. Trayford and his partner have both participated in the Center’s brain training. Office manager Glenna Butera has also participated in some of the training, and Dr. Trayford says that going forward all his employees will go through the training.
Partner Dr. David Hardy, assistant director of operations, is a board certified doctor of chiropractic who has extensive experience working with patients in the Functional Neurology clinic of Dr. Ted Carrick. His background in education, coaching, and athletics includes work in Australia, Japan, and Canada, teaching age groups from preschool to senior citizens. As a former competitive rugby player and Ironman competitor, he’s helped himself and other athletes make improvements in brain function, notably those with concussion and mild TBI.
“Dr. Hardy and I met through several neurology conferences and had continued conversations about him joining our team at APEX. The challenge was he is from Canada and we had to apply for a very specific visa given to those with advanced education degrees. These visas are quite limited in the amount authorized. It was a long, drawn out process, but well worth the investment,” said Dr. Trayford.
Trayford’s wife, Denise, is doctor of chiropractic with a degree in exercise science. She also works at the center and assists with diagnostic testing and designing physical exercise programs for those with balance and other physical disorders. She benefited from the training; so have their daughters, ages seven and ten. His 10-year old especially loves working with the interactive metronome exercises as they allow her to gain control over her focus and attention—they are also fun to do.
“There’s a role in medical care for people who need brain improvement and we fill it,” said Denise. “People should come wanting to better their overall health and cognitive function so they live long and healthy lives. We can help them achieve that.”
Falling in love with Asheville
Many people come to this area once and move here because the mountains called them, or they felt a spiritual connection or they appreciated the plethora of holistic, alternative opportunities.
The Trayfords appreciate all those factors, but they made a more considered, thoughtful move. They knew Asheville was a hotbed of health care, offering services to suit anyone’s needs. Over the course of many visits to the area, they began to appreciate the influx of people from all over the world coming here for a higher quality of life, and health care was a big factor in the decision process. They also noted those people were proactively taking care of their brains and bodies.
“I had left the Long Island Integrated Medical practice where I was a partner. My wife and I moved to the Hamptons for three years and would travel around on weekends. We never thought about North Carolina, but someone mentioned Asheville so we visited once, and then came back several times. One day we went for a walk on the beach and decided it was Asheville. In a matter of weeks we called this home.”
Fitting into the area’s healthcare culture
Dr. Trayford’s position at a large integrated health care practice in New York gave him plenty of time to work with all types of doctors, therapists, and complementary/alternative health care providers. He managed relationships with a wide variety of referring health care providers in the community and learned to communicate well with all types.
[quote float=”right”]Arriving in Asheville, he hit the streets, meeting with any provider with an open mind and a desire to collaborate in the best interest of their patients.[/quote] Those meetings created a great network of health care providers who steadily refer clients. Dr. Trayford also frequently refers patients back to those providers as appropriate.
316% growth over previous year
Now in their second year of business, APEX Brain Centers experienced 316% growth over the previous year when Dr. Trayford owned Carolina Functional Neurology. The center created jobs, never operated in the red, and did not have to borrow money for operations.
The practice continues to grow. APEX was selected for the Entrepreneur in Residence program at A-B Tech funded by the Kauffmann Foundation. The 18-month program will attract legacy investors to help them get to the next, scalable level. They are also one of 15 regional companies selected to join ScaleUp Western North Carolina due to their entrepreneurial spirit and high growth potential.
Spreading the word
APEX Brain Centers incorporates an unusual approach to brain training, so it’s important that Dr. Trayford gets the word out. He does this by teaching at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at UNC Asheville (OLLI), where he teaches a course called “Building a Better Brain”. In only two classes he’s taught nearly 300 students.
He also offers seminars in the area and networks with other health care professionals via monthly dinners and continuing education.
He uses online marketing to let people know about him, including blogging and advertising. His website, www.APEXbraincenters.com, is detailed and content rich.
Dr. Trayford’s five-year plan includes expansion into multiple locations and offering more educational opportunities. APEX will soon provide subscription-based brain education services through webinars and podcasts.
“We only see four clients per week—it’s very personal and sustainable, but we can only do so much here. We are developing a waiting list,” he said.
Charlotte is their first potential site for expansion due to the large number of corporations there given the interested in neuroscience-based applications for job performance, talent development, and stress/burnout.
“I feel it’s most important to surround myself with the highest quality, self-motivated individuals who have a passion for helping people help themselves. We have that with our current APEX team, and plan to use the same strategy when expanding elsewhere.”
As our population ages, more and more people are searching for ways to stay sharp. Brain training takes a lot more than an application on a smart phone to make a brain work better and to sustain that improvement. APEX Brain Centers has something special happening, and they have established a niche that will benefit its clients by staying on top of the science and building on their successful brain training model.
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