GRAND RAPIDS — The planned opening of two Florida centers this fall will mark the first steps in a national growth strategy for Grand Rapids-based Neurocore LLC in the years ahead.
Neurocore, which offers a non-medical alternative to help people with behavioral health issues such as depression and anxiety, sees a “huge unmet need” across the nation, said CEO Mark Murrison.
The company, which operates seven Brain Performance Centers in Michigan, will embark on an expansion strategy starting with new locations in Boca Raton and Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.
“We’re a local company with sights on national expansion,” Murrison said. “We want to take this national and want to make this available to as many people as possible.”
Murrison envisions another five to seven Neurocore centers opening in 2017 at undetermined locations. The company will “evaluate deeper” which potential markets to target and enter after 2017, he said.
“We’ll evaluate the markets that make the most sense,” said Murrison, who’s served as CEO of Neurocore since fall 2014.
Founded in 2006 by a former director of neuropsychology at Spectrum Health’s Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital, Neurocore presently works with about 2,000 clients using a therapy that focuses on improving brain function to address depression, anxiety, stress, ADHD, sleep disorders and memory.
Now backed primarily by The Windquest Group, the family investment management firm for Dick and Betsy DeVos, Neurocore initially assesses a client’s brain function and performance and will “map the brain” to identify the root cause of his or her condition, Murrison said. Over 30 sessions that last 40 minutes each, with two to three sessions a week, clients go through neurofeedback that stimulates the brain with sound and video and aims to strengthen certain areas.
The sessions involve clients watching a movie as sensors measure their brain waves. When the brain goes out of a therapeutic range, the movie stops. Over time, the brain learns to correct itself and function improves, Murrison said.
The therapy costs about $2,000 for the 30 sessions, an amount covered as an in-network service by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and its HMO subsidiary, Blue Care Network. Neurocore is “in discussions” with two of the other top five health plans in the state, although Murrison declined to identify which ones.
In-house clinical studies show that 86 percent of ADHD clients experience improvement in their symptoms after 30 sessions and 74 percent attained non-clinical status upon exiting the program. Attaining a non-clinical status means a patient would not receive the same diagnosis based on his or her symptoms or condition after 30 sessions.
Among anxiety clients, 86 percent also saw improvements in their symptoms and 80 percent achieved non-clinical status. Symptoms improved in 90 percent of clients with depression after 30 sessions, while 72 percent of clients who were clinically depressed achieved non-clinical status.
Neurocore is in the process of submitting data from its in-house studies to peer-reviewed scientific journals focused on behavioral health, according to Murrison.
“We think we have the quantitative data to back up the outcomes,” he said.
The company’s expansion mode includes the hiring last spring of Dr. Majid Fotuhi as chief medical officer. Fotuhi has been involved for more than 25 years in researching brain health. A neurologist, he practices clinically in the areas of memory and cognitive improvement.
Fotuhi developed a memory program that uses neurofeedback therapy and other interventions that aim to improve the memory of older adults as they age. He previously served as an assistant professor of neurology at Johns Hopkins University and as director for the Center for Memory and Brain Health at Sinai Hospital in Baltimore, Md.
“Expanding Neurocore’s expertise beyond neurofeedback has enabled them to serve the growing aging segment of the population, furthering its commitment to improving brain health and bringing noninvasive, empowering solutions to as many people as possible,” Fotuhi said in a statement announcing the launch this fall of a new memory program. “This new program provides new hope for people who may have been previously, falsely discouraged.”
Some 80 percent of Neurocore’s clients today come via word of mouth. The remaining 20 percent get referred by a care provider such as a physician or therapist.
As it seeks to expand nationally, Neurocore wants to receive more referrals from clinicians. The hiring of Dr. Fotuhi helps further that goal through greater outreach to his peers, Murrison said.
“At the end of the day, doctors like to hear from other doctors,” he said.
Neurocore’s expansion strategy comes as behavioral health incidence rates increase. It’s also taking place during a period in which major advances have led to a greater understanding of how the brain functions “than at any other time in the history of mankind,” Murrison said.
“The brain is an organ. If your brain isn’t working as it should, that needs addressing, too,” he said. “People are starting to realize and recognize you can’t just treat somebody from the neck down. The brain controls the whole body. You’re seeing the awareness and the recognition that the brain and the body are connected.”