Lightning Process or Dynamic Neural Retraining

A reader asked me to look at the Lightning Process. This is an area that can be emotional for many CFSers .. so I have tended to avoid it. The question was asked, and thus I should attempt to answer it.

“Some people have done Lightning Process or Dynamic Neural Retraining and claim that they are completely or substantially healed, either 3 days later or after several months of continuing the practice.”

My usual response to such is “show me the evidence on PubMed” – I have been reading CFS forums for many years and seen similar claims. I believe that the placebo effect is real — and when the condition is known to flare with stress, a substantial change of attitude (thus reducing stress) actually has the possibility of working for some. But as always on this blog — evidence!!!!

Lightning Process

“The Lightning Process is a 3-day training programme that has recently become available, but no outcome studies have yet been published. It is a non-medical training programme that combines concepts from Neuro-Linguistic Programming, Life Coaching and Osteopathy” [2013].

  • “among 123 newspaper articles. The most frequent statements were positive statements towards alternative treatment Lightning Process (26.2%), negative statements towards evidence-based treatments (22.1%), and positive statements towards other alternative treatment interventions (22.1%).” [2011]
  • “Three of the 5 patients had been diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome/myalgic encephalomyelitis (CFS/ME), and all of them have related their unfavorable outcomes to the treatment method called Lightning Process (LP), a 3-day training program designed by British osteopath Phil Parker...One patient expressed that “to follow the advice from the LP instructor eventually became a direct risk to my health….The 3 “worst” cases reported with regard to LP are consistent, and there is reason to suspect a causal relationship.” [2012]
  • Experiences of young people who have undergone the Lightning Process to treat chronic fatigue syndrome/myalgic encephalomyelitis–a qualitative study [2013]. ” Less helpful aspects were the intensity and short duration of the treatment with little follow-up, the secrecy surrounding it, and feelings of being blamed if the treatment did not work.” There were no before and after lab tests done. The evaluation was subjective after the 3 day course (no followup from 1 month or 6 months later)
  • “Conducting randomized controlled trials (RCTs) to investigate an alternative treatment such as LP is feasible and acceptable for children with CFS or ME. Feasibility studies that incorporate qualitative methodology enable changes to be made to trial protocols to improve acceptability to participants.” [2013]
  • “This study will tell us whether adding the LP to SMC is effective and cost-effective compared to SMC alone. This study will also provide detailed information on the implementation of the LP and SMC.” [2013] The info on this clinical trail is here. The trial site has been taken down. “We have now shown that it is possible to run the study and are planning to convert the study to a randomised trial. Report. We anticipate that this will start in September and will run for a further 8 months.”[2014] – no further study appear to have started.

Bottom Line

There have been no objective results. In a study group of over 150 teenagers, there was not a single report of remission. The study compared the results of Lightening Process to Conventional Specialist Treatment – which is a naive approach. I recall reading studies that the outcome of conventional treatment on a sample of patients was worst than having no treatment (a true placebo test).

The 100% reporting adverse results in an earlier study is also significant. ” and feelings of being blamed if the treatment did not work” raises a great red flag over the reliability of any subjective or interview results. Guilt for non-results will cause people to lie (actually deceive themselves would be a better expression)

For any tests to have objective credit-ability, I believe a SPECT scan before and after the training is needed. SPECT scans show abnormalities in over 75% of CFS patients and thus would be a good, simple, single reference point.  If after the study, the before and after spect scan are given to independent radiologist (with which is which being hidden), the results would likely passing scientific object muster.

There is no evidence on PubMed  that Lightening Process can result in remission. The information from the existing studies strongly suggests that to be creditable, any future study MUST have objective lab results and not just interviews and subjective reports.