Does Dolphin Aided Therapy Work?

Elizabeth Yalan, the dean of the Obstetrician College of Peru, claimed last week that dolphins’ ultrasonic emissions can boost brain growth in foetuses.

“The high-range sounds stimulate the nerves in the brain and the child’s audible senses,” she said.

How do the dolphins do their stuff?

Research by the US-based AquaThought Foundation suggests that biochemical and electrical changes occur in the human brain as a result of “sonophoresis” – where microscopic “holes” created by the ultrasonic energy enhance the movement of hormones through cell membranes. Theories variously claim that these changes bring about brainwave modifications; pain relief due to an increased release of hormones; and physical changes in nervous system tissue.

Does it work?

“The high-frequency waves made by dolphins may well ‘wobble’ our brain matter, but there is no way of knowing what the after-effects of this – if there are any – might be,” says Dr George Lewith, head of the Complementary Medicine Research Unit at Southampton University. “Swimming with dolphins makes people feel wonderfully relaxed and happy, which probably brings with it the physiological improvements associated with feeling happier. But the rest of it is impossible to prove.”

So it won’t make baby’s brain bigger?

Philip Steer, professor of obstetrics at the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital and Imperial College, London, thinks it is highly unlikely. “As far as we know, brain growth in a foetus is determined by nutrition and oxygen supply, which depends on the baby’s ability to use the placenta. Proving that a dolphin sound helps a baby’s brain growth is like trying to prove the existence of God – it is not a question of science, but of belief.”

So is it time to throw away the new-age CDs?

No. According to Mervi Jokinen, the practice adviser at the Royal College of Midwives, dolphin sounds are among the most popular birthing tapes.

And what about dolphins ‘curing’ autism?

Children with cerebral palsy and autism have been swimming with dolphins for decades at therapy centres in Turkey, Israel, Japan and North and South America. Anecdotal evidence of children speaking their first words in response to the “dolphins as reward” therapy is not supported by any significant studies. However, Richard Mills, the director of research at the National Autistic Society, says families report good results.

“This doesn’t seem to be harmful,” he says, “but it is expensive and we would not recommend that people undertake it at the expense of traditional therapies.”

Source: Daily Telegraph

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