NeuroFeedback and Electroencephalography

#1
[size=12pt]NeuroFeedback[/size]

During the SOTT talk radio broadcast on Sunday 3rd November 2013 Nora Gedgaudas talked a lot about a science for training the human mind called NeuroFeedback.

In this article I shall attempt to deliver a very concise description of this science.

The medical science in depth is far beyond my comprehension, so I shall attempt to simplify the descriptions I use (sorry if they look too simple), and leave links to other material for the brave hearted. I have come to the conclusion that this is another of those where the deeper one digs, the bigger the hole.

History in Brief

This subject has its roots as far back as 1875, when a scientist, Richard Caton (1842 – 1926) reported the observation of electrical impulses from electrodes on the surface of living brains in animals. He observed and reported fluctuations in the impulses that increased during sleep, and in a dying animal, and after death became weaker and finally faded.

_http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Caton

Neurologist Hans Berger (1873 – 1941) expanded on Catons’ work and in 1924, using the most sensitive equipment available produced the first human EEG, which he called an Elektrenkephalogramm; ( Electroencephalogram. )
He was also credited with the discovery of the Alpha Wave Rhythm, also known as “Berger’s wave”.


Hans Berger ( 1873 - 1941)


One of the first EEGs recorded by Berger.
The top trace is from a young boy, the lower is a 10Hz Reference.

_http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hans_Berger

Neurons, the Brain and Everything

Where do the impulses discovered by Caton and Berger originate?

The answer lies in the very make-up of our brain and nervous system. The Brain its self contains somewhere around 80 – 100 billion (depending on who you read) interconnected cells called neurons, which are special cells capable of sending a receiving electro chemical signals.


A simple Bipolar Neuron

The receptors or Dendrites are responsible for receiving signals, whilst the Axon is responsible for sending signals via the presynaptic terminal.

These cells can be a metre (3ft) or more in length, especially those that connect the skin tissue to the spinal cord or the brain stem.

There are different types of neuron for different purposes, basically there are three types:

Sensory: Send information from the skin, eyes, ears, nose, tongue etc. towards the central nervous system.
Motor: Send information from the central nervous system towards musles and glands.
Interneurons: Basically form the central nervous system, and communicate between the sensory and motor neurons.

More information can be found at: http://faculty.washington.edu/chudler/cells.html

All neurons work basically in the same way, they receive or detect impulses at their receptors, and should the stimulus be sufficient, they “fire” an impulse via the Axon.

All neurons in the body are interconnected to form a neural network, which monitors and controls every single action in our body.
What we are doing when we perform an EEG, is to monitor the collective actions of the subjects neurons in various areas of the brain / central nervous system.
It is not possible to detect a single firing neuron, only the general activity in that area.

Electroencephalography

Berger’s EEG was a single trace monitor taken via a single pair of electrodes attached to the scalp. Modern EEG uses up to 256 or more electrode to monitor specific areas of the brain.

The array of electrodes used has been standardized to enable separate teams to produce comparable consistent results. This standard is called the 10-20 system, deriving its name from the placement of electrodes either 10 or 20 percent across the scalp.


EEG 10-20 System

The letters F T C P and O refer to the Frontal, Temporal, Central, Parietal and Occipital lobes of the brain.

The numbers are arranged with odd numbers on the left and even numbers on the right.

The voltages detectable when monitoring are in the micro Volt region, and therefore amplification gain of around 200,000 is required.

NOTE that as we have neurons all over our body, the measurements need not be restricted to the scalp, though to monitor peripheral neuron activity requires higher gain, and increases susceptibility to interference.


Sample EEG readout
The labels on the left indicate the electrode pairs used.

From around 1932, the raw EEG traces were further analyzed by either Fourier or Wavelet analysis to break down the raw signals into frequency spectrums.

The basic breakdown is as follows:

Delta: 1-4Hz

Theta: 4-7Hz

Alpha: 7-14Hz (Split as Alpha1: 7 – 10 & Alpha2: 11 – 14) 

Beta: 15-30Hz
 (Split as Beta1: 15 – 17 & Beta2: 18 – 30)
Gamma: 31-100Hz
(Split as Gamma1: 31 – 40 & Gamma2: 40 and over)
Mu: 8 – 13Hz Is related to the firing of Motor Neurons in a rest state.

These are however not set in stone, and some researchers will adjust the exact bands, or even merge them depending on their aim.
See:
_http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quantitative_electroencephalography and
_http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electroencephalography#Comparison_table_of_EEG_rhythmic_activity_frequency_bands

This science alone was and is used in the diagnosis of many psychological disorders, determination of the state of a coma patient, and of brain death.

Practitioners require lengthy training and experience in order to be able to interpret EEG output and to recognize artificial aspects caused by interference from various sources.

DIY EEG

As an aside, I found this site whilst doing my research, but please bear in mind the cautionary note above relating to training!

_http://openeeg.sourceforge.net/doc/modeeg/modeeg.html

NeuroFeedback

Now we have the output of our brain and central nervous system in machine readable form, what can we do with it?

It can be observed for diagnosis, and several practitioners, including Kamiya (1968) reported that when a patient was able to observe the raw output of the EEG, the behavior of the output changed. It appeared that somehow the brain was observing its own behavior, and modifying it in some way.

This feedback has since been refined, and is used in the fields of clinical treatment, performance enhancement, functional validation studies and entertainment.

In clinical treatment it is used in the areas of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), epilepsy, addiction, aggression, anxiety, autism, depression, headaches, insomnia, stroke etc.

In performance enhancement, several researchers, including Vernon, Gruzelier, Landers and others have done research into improving both sporting and mental performance using NeuroFeedback.

In functional validation studies NeuroFeedback can be used to validate its own use. That is to say it may be used to determine the effects of using the various EEG frequencies for feedback.

In entertainment, it has been used for various applications, from playing music to driving remote control cars. Here I have to say, messing with ones brain to play games seems a little on the dangerous side, but I suppose there are more dangerous sports around.


Forms of Feedback

In Neurofeedback training there are two approaches, active and passive.

In active training, the subject is rewarded when a specific set of brain activities are seen, and not when they are absent; this appears to be anything from playing a video or not, to playing music the subject likes or does not like.

In passive training, a specific set of EEG traces are presented to the subject via visual, audio or motor senses. Here the behavior is modified by the practitioner changing the frequency and amplitude of the traces delivered to the subject. There are contradictions to this which define passive as the use of low energy feedback to the brain (e.g. LENS).


The exact performance of a NeuroFeedback session seems to vary with each article I found, the combinations of passive and active training together with the selection of feedback frequencies and amplitudes tends to present the subject to me as more of an art than an exact science. Though the medical profession will probably totally disagree with this, they have been using us a guinea pigs for years.

Links researched:
_http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neurofeedback
_http://www.brainwellnessandbiofeedback.com/index-neurofeedback.html
_http://www.peakmind.co.uk/what-is-it.htm
_http://www.isnr.org/neurofeedback-info/learn-more-about-neurofeedback.cfm
_http://www.brainwavetraining.com/howitworks.htm
 

LQB

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
#2
NG, in the sott radio broadcast, mentioned the books on NF by Anna Wise. Its been many years since I read them, but I remember her first one being better than her second. (Some reviewers disagree)

_http://www.amazon.com/The-High-Performance-Mind-Anna-Wise/dp/0874778506/ref=pd_sim_b_1

_http://www.amazon.com/Awakening-Mind-Guide-Harnessing-Brainwaves/dp/1585421456/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1385047728&sr=1-1&keywords=anna+wise
 

whitecoast

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
#3
In light of reading Anatomy of Violence by Adrian Raine, I've decided to look more into neurofeedback and some of the methods by which it is implemented in clinical settings. I've encountered a few videos by the Palo Alto Neurofeedback that I thought were interesting. I wanted to share one in particular on the brainmaps that can be derived by the standard 19-sensor EEG electrode set. Several parameters for each electrode at each measured brainwave band can be derived:

Absolute power: measurement of the raw energy output at each site compared to normal (meaning, compared to the normative database that gives baselines for the performance of certain brainwaves at certain sites.)

Relative power: distribution of energy resources of the brain used in recruiting the absolute power. Basically, it can help identify if a part of your brain is working overtime in a particular frequency (say, alpha or theta) just to get a decent signal strength in that region.

Amplitude asymmetry: average difference between signals measured compared to normal. It gives information about the communication between different brain regions. It can find if there are inefficient patterns of communication in the brain that can be optimized.

Coherence: variability of neural activation and delay between sites (rate of shared information). It can show if certain regions of the brain are communicating more or less than the normative averages. Both can be trained to become more normalized, when warranted.

Phase lag: average delay between processing sites compared to normal. Overall it measures the speed of shared information, and the how fast or how slow resource recruitment is for certain regions of the brain. When different nerves or neurons are in a task, they are in phase for the task and decouple when done. Phase lag that is too long indicates that neurons are still somewhat stuck in a previous task when when moving to the next one. Phase lag that is too short can mean that neurons sometimes start before enough neighboring neurons are recruited.



https://youtu.be/Qkp9FbIYOTs
(The video first discusses the statistical model, and gets to brainmaps at about 3:00).

This video gives an introduction to the EEG electrode system, and also gives some information basic information on the functions of the different brain waves (delta, theta, alpha, SMR, beta).


https://youtu.be/ganPpv2PMxY
 

Gaby

SuperModerator
Moderator
FOTCM Member
#4
whitecoast said:
In light of reading Anatomy of Violence by Adrian Raine, I've decided to look more into neurofeedback and some of the methods by which it is implemented in clinical settings.
I was also intrigued and consulted a neuropsychologist who specializes in neurofeedback. I wasn't asked anything about my background, just my age and if I had sleeping problems. Also, why I was interested in neurofeedback. I said that I didn't have sleeping problems and that I actually wished I could sleep less. My interest in neurofeedback was to find out if I could function better because I'm introverted and can get very overwhelmed, something I noticed since my late teens. The neuropsychologist admitted that he preferred the least information possible in order to be less biased when interpreting the EEG. So I gave him practically no information at all.

After getting an EEG with 13 electrodes placed all over my scalp, I got my preliminary results. Very high activity in the medial cortex and brain stem/thalamo-cortical regions, and low activity in the frontal cortex. Normal activity in the posterior region/cortex. Higher activity in the left hemisphere than in the right hemisphere. I was told that my autonomic nervous system is completely over-stimulated all the time, and that my hyper-active left hemisphere could be both a curse and an asset.

I'm doing neurofeedback with electrodes monitoring brain waves in specific brain regions (depending on where the neuropsychologist places the electrodes) while I watch a screen playing a documentary in a monitor. The screen gets bigger only when the brain waves are as they should be. Alternatively, I'm placed some music which will run smoothly only when I'm producing the right brain waves for the specific brain region. During the first session, every time I made an effort, I got a setback. The music was never smooth. And the screen was so small I could barely make out the images. Every time I tried to read the text written in the documentary, the screen will practically disappear. After over 30 minutes, I managed to get some positive results.

During the second session, I did a better job. I was explained that it was "priming". My brain learned to work a certain way so I can get a bigger screen and that now I was doing it more automatically. Since I was doing good, the neuropsychologist increased the grade of difficulty. And so it goes. I stare at the monitor and after some initial frustration, I try to adjust to get positive results. I have no idea what I'm doing, but somehow I adjust and then something happens.

After the second session, I got an idea of how my brain should work. I felt like in an altered state of consciousness. I felt so calm, awake, sharp and aware, that the effect lasted until the day afterwards. I was told that it was only after a few more sessions that I would realize a difference.

What floored me was some neurofeedback explanations I was given as to why my efforts were to no avail. From the preliminary results above, someone could well say that I have adult ADHD. I have theta waves in my prefrontal cortex, very similar to the child described in "Anatomy of Violence" by Adrian Raine who benefited from neurofeedback. Theta waves (slow brain waves) in the prefrontal cortex is not an uncommon finding in the general population. It goes to show that the aim to activate the prefrontal cortex is a good one. Nevertheless, I was told that any effort to activate my prefrontal cortex from my current state would not work due to the hyperactive brain stem region.

I was explained that attention doesn't begin in the prefrontal cortex, it begins in the brain stem. And that if I wanted more attention, "I needed to give each brain region its due". My brain stem should be more "animal" and less "human" if I'm to have a more human cortex (i.e. active prefrontal cortex). I was explained that all the attention research is taught wrongly, or at least it is commonly misunderstood. It is not only that there is lack of attention due to low prefrontal cortex activity, it is low attention potential because the brain stem is not working properly. It surely is much more complex than this, with researchers describing several types of attention and so forth. But basically, attention starts in the brain stem.

As a preliminary confirmation, the electrodes during my neurofeedback session were placed mainly to monitor brain stem activity. After some 20-30 minutes of neurofeedback to work the medial-frontal cortex for greater focus, I worked the brain stem region to get it to process sensory information properly. The documentary on the screen during this session was all about lizards and how they evolved from the time of the dinosaurs. Very appropriate, considering that the brain stem is the most primitive/lizard-like brain region. Gory details of the life of predators and lizards were shown.

In short, instead of starting directly on activating the prefrontal cortex (PFC), I have to learn how to regulate sensory information through the brain stem and thalamus. According to the research, the PFC works as it should be when info through the brain stem and thalamus is processed better. It is like trying to reverse transmarginal inhibition and a state of "primitive vagus" (polyvagal theory). The brain stem processes information in an automated, non-verbal manner. So work in this region is hard to put into words.

I also read recently "Unleashed - Of Poltergeists and Murder: The Curious Story of Tina Resch" by William Roll. In the book, the author speculates that an anomaly in the brain stem diverts signals away from Tina's muscular system to external objects to produce poltergeist phenomena. He also speculates that the autonomic nervous system is probably part of the process. In fact, the brain stem is where the main headquarters of the autonomic nervous system are located (e.g. the nucleus of the vagus nerve). He also describes the woman's emotional profile and how she was basically self-destructive. In several poltergeist activities, objects were targeting her and all of this was unconscious. The information as to the causes of poltergeist activity explained in the book are complemented or expanded in the latest session. Tina was poorly coordinated and had a very specific anomaly in the brain stem. She also had ADHD and Tourette syndrome. Her EEG is described in the notes at the end of the book and it is consistent with a hyperactive brain stem and under-active cortical region. I think it is a very good caricature of what happens when things in your brain stem go wrong. Alternatively, it is a good example of the potential of the brain stem!

The attention/brain stem concept left me so completely perplexed that I'm quoting information available on this area. The area brought up by my neuropsychologist during his explanations was the reticular formation in the brain stem and the reticular activating system in general, something I vaguely remember from my medical studies related to attention. I completely forgot all about it until now.

_http://www.innovateus.net/health/what-function-reticular-activating-system



Each and every function which we perform consciously or even sometimes unconsciously is done by some part of the brain. Brain is one of the most complex structures of matter in the whole universe. Brain has created our mind as the entity and every thought which peeps up in our mind has its thread located in the mastermind which is the brain. Reticular activating system is one of the most important parts of our brain that has great influence over cognition. Recent neuroscience studies related to mammalian brains has unleashed that this system performs lots of cognitive functions which are related to awareness.

What is reticular activating system?

This system is considered the brain’s attention center. It is the key for switching on your brain and also considered as the main center of motivation. The Reticular activating system is connected to the spinal cord at its base from where it accepts information which comes from the ascending sensory tracts directly. It travels up to the mid brain and while going up forms a complex neuron collection that act as convergence point for signals from the interior environment as well as the external surroundings. So, reticular activating system is a place where your thoughts, internal feelings and the outside influences converge. It is very skilled in producing dynamic effects on the motor activity centers located in the brain and the cortex activity such as the frontal lobes.

What is the structure of reticular activating system?

Scientists have found out that the reticular activating system (RAS) comprise of two important parts known as the ascending reticular system and the descending reticular system. The ascending system is connected to cerebral cortex, hypothalamus, and also the thalamus. The descending system is connected to several sensory nerves and the cerebellum. The reticular system consists of those brain parts which are in charge of survival instincts. That is the reason why this system has deep connection with the various awareness brain functions. The functions of RAS are under the control of some cholinergic (acetylcholine) and adrenergic (Adrenaline) neurotransmitters. The main parts of RAS are:

Reticular Formation in the Midbrain
Mesencephalon
Dorsal Hypothalamus
Thalamic Intralaminar Nucleus
Tegmentum

[...]
_https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reticular_formation#Ascending_reticular_activating_system

The reticular formation is a set of interconnected nuclei that are located throughout the brainstem. [...]

General functions

The reticular formation consists of more than 100 small neural networks, with varied functions including the following:

Somatic motor control – Some motor neurons send their axons to the reticular formation nuclei, giving rise to the reticulospinal tracts of the spinal cord. These tracts function in maintaining tone, balance, and posture—especially during body movements. The reticular formation also relays eye and ear signals to the cerebellum so that the cerebellum can integrate visual, auditory, and vestibular stimuli in motor coordination. Other motor nuclei include gaze centers, which enable the eyes to track and fixate objects, and central pattern generators, which produce rhythmic signals to the muscles of breathing and swallowing.
Cardiovascular control – The reticular formation includes the cardiac and vasomotor centers of the medulla oblongata.
Pain modulation – The reticular formation is one means by which pain signals from the lower body reach the cerebral cortex. It is also the origin of the descending analgesic pathways. The nerve fibers in these pathways act in the spinal cord to block the transmission of some pain signals to the brain.
Sleep and consciousness – The reticular formation has projections to the thalamus and cerebral cortex that allow it to exert some control over which sensory signals reach the cerebrum and come to our conscious attention. It plays a central role in states of consciousness like alertness and sleep. Injury to the reticular formation can result in irreversible coma.
Habituation – This is a process in which the brain learns to ignore repetitive, meaningless stimuli while remaining sensitive to others. A good example of this is a person who can sleep through loud traffic in a large city, but is awakened promptly due to the sound of an alarm or crying baby. Reticular formation nuclei that modulate activity of the cerebral cortex are part of the ascending reticular activating system.[8][9]

Structure of the Ascending reticular activating system (ARAS)

The ARAS is composed of several neuronal circuits connecting the dorsal part of the posterior midbrain and anterior pons to the cerebral cortex via distinct pathways that project through the thalamus and hypothalamus.[11] [...]

Serotonergic nuclei: dorsal raphe nucleus and median raphe nucleus
Dopaminergic nuclei: ventral tegmental area and substantia nigra pars compacta
Noradrenergic nuclei: locus coeruleus and related brainstem nuclei
Histaminergic nuclei: tuberomammillary nucleus
Cholinergic nuclei: forebrain cholinergic nuclei and cholinergic nuclei in the pontine tegmentum (laterodorsal tegmental nucleus and pedunculopontine nucleus)
Thalamic nuclei: thalamic reticular nucleus and intralaminar nucleus, particularly the centromedian nucleus

The ARAS consists of evolutionarily ancient areas of the brain, which are crucial to survival and protected during adverse periods. As a result, the ARAS still functions during inhibitory periods of hypnosis.[17]

The ascending reticular activating system which sends neuromodulatory projections to the cortex - mainly connects to the prefrontal cortex.[18] There is seen to be low connectivity to the motor areas of the cortex.[18]
I was also explained the neurophysiological changes in my brain stem with neurofeedback in terms of arousal:

_https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arousal

Arousal is the physiological and psychological state of being awoken or of sense organs stimulated to a point of perception. It involves activation of the ascending reticular activating system (ARAS) in the brain, which mediates wakefulness, the autonomic nervous system, and the endocrine system, leading to increased heart rate and blood pressure and a condition of sensory alertness, mobility, and readiness to respond.

Arousal is mediated by several different neural systems. Wakefulness is regulated by the ARAS, which is composed of projections from five major neurotransmitter systems that originate in the brainstem and form connections extending throughout the cortex; activity within the ARAS is regulated by neurons that release the neurotransmitters acetylcholine, norepinephrine, dopamine, histamine, and serotonin. Activation of these neurons produces an increase in cortical activity and subsequently alertness.

[...]

Arousal is important in regulating consciousness, attention, and information processing. It is crucial for motivating certain behaviors, such as mobility, the pursuit of nutrition, the fight-or-flight response and sexual activity (see Masters and Johnson's human sexual response cycle, where it is known as the arousal phase). Arousal is also an essential element in many influential theories of emotion, such as the James-Lange theory of emotion or the Circumplex Model. According to Hans Eysenck, differences in baseline arousal level lead people to be either extraverts or introverts. Later research suggests that extroverts and introverts likely have different arousability. Their baseline arousal level is the same, but the response to stimulation is different.[5]

The Yerkes–Dodson law states that there is a relationship between arousal and task performance, essentially arguing that there is an optimal level of arousal for performance, and too little or too much arousal can adversely affect task performance. One interpretation of the Yerkes–Dodson law is the Easterbrook cue-utilisation theory. It predicted that high levels of arousal will lead to attention narrowing, during which the range of cues from the stimulus and the environment decreases.[6] According to this hypothesis, attention will be focused primarily on the arousing details (cues) of the stimulus, so that information central to the source of the emotional arousal will be encoded while peripheral details will not.[7]

In positive psychology, arousal is described as a response to a difficult challenge for which the subject has moderate skills.[4]

[...]

Emotional stability vs. introversion-extraversion

Neuroticism or emotional instability and extroversion are two factors of the Big Five Personality Index. These two dimensions of personality describe how a person deals with anxiety-provoking or emotional stimuli as well as how a person behaves and responds to relevant and irrelevant external stimuli in their environment. Neurotics experience tense arousal which is characterized by tension and nervousness. Extroverts experience high energetic arousal which is characterized by vigor and energy.[9] Gray (1981) claimed that extroverts have a higher sensitivity to reward signals than to punishment in comparison to introverts. Reward signals aim to raise the energy levels.[9] Therefore, extroverts typically have a higher energetic arousal because of their greater response to rewards.

Four personality types

Hippocrates theorized that there are four personality types: choleric, melancholic, sanguine, and phlegmatic.

[...]

The differences in the internal system levels is the evidence that Eysenck used to explain the differences between the introverted and the extroverted. Ivan Pavlov, the founder of classical conditioning, also partook in temperament studies with animals. Pavlov's findings with animals are consistent with Eysenck's conclusions. In his studies, melancholics produced an inhibitory response to all external stimuli, which holds true that melancholics shut out outside arousal, because they are deeply internally aroused.[11] Pavlov found that cholerics responded to stimuli with aggression and excitement whereas melancholics became depressed and unresponsive.[11] The high neuroticism which characterizes both melancholics and cholerics manifested itself differently in the two types because of the different levels of internal arousal they had.

[...]

Associated problems

Altered experiences of arousal are associated with both anxiety and depression.

Depression can influence a person's level of arousal by interfering with the right hemisphere's functioning. Arousal in women has been shown to be slowed in the left visual field due to depression, indicating the influence of the right hemisphere.[27]

Arousal and anxiety have a different relationship than arousal and depression. People who suffer from anxiety disorders tend to have abnormal and amplified perceptions of arousal. The distorted perceptions of arousal then create fear and distorted perceptions of the self. For example, a person may believe that he or she will get sick from being so nervous about taking an exam. The fear of the arousal of nervousness and how people will perceive this arousal will then contribute to levels of anxiety.[28]
I was looking at some of the best rated books on ADHD, having read only Gabor Mate's "Scattered". None highlighted neurofeedback, at least in the index. I thought it was interesting how Gabor Mate described a sharpness in perception when he first took Ritalin for ADHD. Nevertheless, the Ritalin did little or nothing to change himself. It also strikes me how little neurofeedback is brought in mainstream circles as a tool to know and work on oneself. It doesn't involve any pills, just your brain making adjustments so it can receive better real-time biofeedback. Nevertheless, I can confirm what John Ainhirn-Williams wrote back in 2013, it is more an art than an exact science. I noticed my neuropsychologist adjusted parameters and electrodes based on our interaction, my results, and his experience. He works with stroke patients, children with ADHD, and people in general with fibromyalgia and all sorts of issues.

Anyhow, I'm scheduled to do more neurofeeback by the end of January after a temporary break. I'll probably do between 12-60 sessions. A final EEG is done after the final session. Overall, I think it is a valid tool for information and work.
 

Gaby

SuperModerator
Moderator
FOTCM Member
#5
Below, some quotes from a study evaluating the results of a single neurofeedback session in a healthy population. It is the same technology and protocol I'll be following.

_http://scielo.isciii.es/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S0212-97282015000100033&lng=en&tlng=enhttp://scielo.isciii.es/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S0212-97282015000100033&lng=en&tlng=en

Anal. Psicol. vol.31 n.1 Murcia Jan. 2015
http://dx.doi.org/10.6018/analesps.31.1.167241

Effects of assisted training with neurofeedback on EEG measures, executive function and mood in a healthy sample

Introduction

The training in neurofeedback (NF) consists of enhancing favorable activation states through the non-invasive stimulation of the thalamus-cortical loop. It is designed to teach the individual to modify and to exert self-regulation on the different components of its pattern of cortical electrical activity: amplitude, frequency or consistency. The subject learns to identify the states of activation that assume an advantage and to produce them voluntarily through the maintenance of his conscious attention at a stimulus either visual, auditory or both (Vernon, 2005). According to Holtmann, Steiner, Hohmann, Poustka, & Banaschewski (2011) the self-regulation of cortical activity is achieved through a process of operative learning using the real-time representation of the electroencephalographic parameters.

The use of NF is justified given the two-way relationship between the patterns of cortical activity and states or specific aspects of the behavior (Vernon, 2005). Therefore, if it is able to modify pharmacological, behavioral or electrophysiologically the cortical activation pattern, it will be observed effects on the physiology, cognition and mood. Well, there are associations between components of specific frequencies of the EEG and the different aspects of the cognitive and affective processing. In relation to the executive function as a process of interest, Boynton (2001) and Angelakis, Stathopoulou, Frymiare, Green, Business Location & Kounios (2007) show that the predominance of one of the neurophysiological patterns, the alpha band, it is associated with increased cognitive effectiveness, including executive function (mental flexibility, fluidity, inhibition) and the attention. Another associated pattern is the beta band, in particular beta 1 or SMR (12-15Hz) and beta 2 (15-21Hz), which has proven to be predominant in the anterior cingulate cortex, temporal cortex and sensorimotor cortex during tasks that require executive functions (Bockova, Chladek, Jurak, Halamek, & Rektor, 2007). In disorders such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), where predomínate alterations of the executive function, the increase of SMR rhythm (12-15 Hz) and the inhibition of theta (4-7 Hz) improve the executive functioning, especially the attentional deficit and the inhibitory control (Fuchs, Birbaumer, Lutzenberger, Gruzelier, & Kaiser, 2003; Lubar, 1991; Monastra, Monastra, & George, 2002; Rossiter & LaVaque, 1995). Monastra, Lubar & Linden (2001) claim that the subjects with ADHD tend to have excessive activity of slow theta waves (4-7 Hz) in relation to the activity of fast beta waves (13-21Hz) in the central locations of the midline (CZ) and frontal (FZ, F1, F2) of the cerebral cortex. So it has been evident that protocols of NF that reduce theta and reward beta achieve an improvement in the activation of the Anterior Cingulate cortex (CCA), important region for its contribution to cognitive control and executive function processes (Bush, Luu, & Posner, 2000; Kouijzer, de Moor, Gerrits, Congedo, & van Schie, 2009). In relation to mood, there is not enough evidence about the effect of the NF about it on healthy subjects. However, studies on associated pathological conditions, such as depression, reveal that the training of SMR (12-15 Hz) rhythm can be effective in the modification of the negative affection. According to Pavlenco, Chernyi & Goubkina (2009) training on the SMR rhythm promotes an increase in the activity of the dopaminergic system (DA) in the ventral tegmentum. Since this system has been associated with the facilitation of positive emotions and the maintenance of the conduct by approximation, to promote an optimal SMR rate (or amplitude) could be considered a promoter for positive affection and emotional stability, as evidenced by Wu, Ding & Zhou (2004) in studies on the prevalence of the SMR band in the depression. In this line, Hammond (2005) propose that the NF protocol more favorable for the depression treatment involves inhibition of slow waves (low theta and alpha) and fast beta waves reinforcement (15-18 Hz). Additionally, it would be appropriate to implement some sessions of SMR neurofeedback (12-15 Hz) in the left hemisphere because of their association with positive emotions (Davidson, 1998; Henriques & Davidson, 1991) [...]

Devices and instruments

- Neurofeedback Equipment: it was used a Biograph Infinity Software, the system comes with EEG Suite responsible for processing, filtering, and represent the pattern of brain activity and changing amplitude of the frequency bands. To carrying the signal to the computer was used a Pro Comp 2 Infinity hardware system. The connection of the electrodes was single pole type, through which the potential field was recorded with an active electrode in the central region CZ and it was manipulated the placement of the reference electrode: the RH group was placed in the ear's right lobe and the LH group was placed in the left lobe. To attach the electrodes, abrasive gel and conductive paste were used. It was selected a standardized protocol for reinforcement of the beta frequency band in a range of 13 - 21 Hz and inhibition of the theta frequency band in a range of 4 - 7 hz with threshold standardized. The screen of feed-back is based on a dynamic image (visual stimulation) and a music CD (auditory stimulation). The protocol was designed following the recommendations of Gruzelier, Egner, and Vernon (2006) [...]

Procedure

...A prior measure of EEG for 4 minutes was taken, with open eyes and in a relax state. After this baseline the training online started with a real-time feedback, where the subject was instructed to learn to control their brain activity. All subjects heard the same instructions: "for 30 minutes, you should see an image on the screen and hear music, both are dynamic and will remain so depending on your state, your task is to stay focused on music and the image to continue moving, so you should only keep concentrated on it and as relaxed as possible, during the training, it is important not to move and talk". The contingency of learning was the interruption of the movement and music. After 30 minutes, the subject was informed that the training was over and stopped the feedback program. Finally, an immediate measurement of 4 minutes of the EEG post-training was execute, electrodes were removed of the scalp and the post-test measures were implemented [...]

Discussion

[...]

In relation to the effects of the NF on the EEG, the inhibition of theta waves (4-7 Hz) and the reinforcement of beta waves (13-21hz), has proved to be effective in studies that relate the NF training and executive function processes either clinical or healthy subjects (Fuchs et al., 2003; Monastra et al., 2001; Monastra et at., 2002; Rossiter & LaVaque, 1995). Although the findings in our study did not show significant changes in the amplitude of any frequency bands, they show a tendency to the modification regarding the increasing of beta, which makes relevant the magnitude of the change, being observed that especially the RH group changes in the expected direction (Cohen's d index = .21), contrary to the control group that changes in the opposite direction. The Beta fmdings are consistent with previous studies as the Rasey, Lubar, McIntyre, Zoffuto and Abbott (1996), who trained college students to increase it, obtaining positive results in the modification of their EEG and improving their performance in a Go-no-go inhibition task. Likewise, several investigations (Egner & Gruzelier, 2004; Vernon, Egner, Cooper, Compton, Neilends, Sheri, & Gruzelier, 2003) focused on increasing cognitive performance in healthy people as well as studies with clinical population with executive dysfunction (Mann, Lubar, Zimmerman, Miller & Muenchen, 1992; Monastra et al., 2001), show evidence for the empowerment of the pattern 12-15 hz, corresponding to a part of the spectrum of the Beta band (13-21hz). Regarding the theta band (4-7 Hz), it is normally associated with states of drowsiness, reverie, distraction, inattention and brain damage (Duffy, Iyer, & Surwillo, 1989). That is perhaps the reason why studies related to executive function in clinical population show an abnormal pattern of this band that is presented in disorders such as ADHD, autism and cognitive impairment (Becerra et al., 2012; Kouijzer et al., 2009; Lubar et al., 1995). This studies leads to significant changes in the theta wave, which are more likely to be modified in clinical population with abnormal basal activity of theta, and there would be no significant changes in healthy subjects.

Vernon et al. (2003) evidence what it was mentioned previously in a study with two groups of healthy students, one in which SMR waves (12-15 Hz) are trained and another study that trained the theta band. It was found that only the group trained to increase SMR waves obtained changes on EEG, as well as in performance, while those who were trained to modify theta did not obtain changes in EEG nor in cognitive performance. Anyway, in this study, although we did not find a change pre-post that was statistically significant, it was found a negative correlation between theta and the Iowa, indicating a negative interference but not pathological on executive performance, so their suppression by the technique of NF could be favorable. Supporting this idea, the theta band showed positive correlations with the scores of the negative PANAS and the POMS in the Group RH, suggesting that its increase promotes a negative mood and validating the findings of some studies (Davidson, 1998; Henriques & Davidson, 1991) in which qualifies the predominance of this band as inappropriate for states of relaxation and optimal performance. On the other hand, and applicable both to beta as to theta, remember that it is possible that cognitive changes can be observed from the first session, but the physiological changes and neuronal trace that accompanies them and makes them consolidated are perhaps only achievable after a repeated training, as it might be expected in any kind of learning or training.

Finally, in this study it was applied an adapted design from routine clinical practice, but it raised the possibility of identifying possible asymmetries inter-hemispherical in the administration of the NF training, since there are no studies that approach this matter and most clinical protocols apply the training in RH without specifying a theoretical justification. Here most significant and non-significant changes of relevance were actually in the RH and not in the LH. It is not clear in the literature since these asymmetries have not been explored. However a related appearance may have to do with the hypothesis of the asymmetrical arousal between hemispheres, arousal between hemispheres, where RH has been associated with a greater level of arousal as reflected in the results of this study. Since fast Beta waves level before the training is higher in the group of RH, it supports the previous conclusion and it allows the suggestion that a protocol to train the arousal and promoting executive function processes can have notable effects on the hemisphere of higher cortical activation and responsible for attentional processes. This is relevant if it is taken into account that the NF training is intended to balance the arousal and improve the level of alertness, what relies on the voluntary control of attention, functions in which the RH has the main participation (Heilman, Bowers, Valenstein, & Watson, 1986; Posner & Driver, 1992).

In conclusion, this study has demonstrated that a group of women who underwent to a single session of neurofeedback training, in order to inhibit slow waves and strengthen fast waves on the right hemisphere, achieved a significant improvement in the executive function and a partial modification of their EEG, increasing the beta amplitude not significantly although reasonable, taking into account that they were subjected to a single session. The mood of the sample varied significantly after training, indicating that the realization of the technique could be disturbing, which should be investigated in future studies.
 

Persej

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
#6
Thank you for sharing your experiences and research, Gaby. Neurofeedback sounds very interesting!

I found a transcript of an interview with Sebern F. Fisher, who wrote a book Neurofeedback in the Treatment of Developmental Trauma: Calming the Fear-Driven Brain: _www.shrinkrapradio.com/452.pdf

She talks about how she started using Neurofeedback in her clinical practice as psychotherapist and how she managed to solve many issues in her patients that she was not been able to solve before without it.

She explains it in her own way, that there is a fear embedded in human beings and than no work on prefrontal cortex can change human being without that fear being dissolved first. And that she can do that with this Neurofeedback protocol.

She also mentions additional benefits in her book:

"Excerpt from Amazon" said:
Among the lesser troubles of one such girl, Lori, who wandered this trackless interior landscape, was difficulty reading. Lori came to me when she was 24 years old. As a premature newborn, she had been brought to an orphanage in a shoebox and was not expected to live. She was fed with an eyedropper. After many neurofeedback sessions to help her Lower arousal, organize her brain and regulate herself, she reported to me that she could suddenly see pictures arising from the words. This happened for the first time when she was reading Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye in her college class. I only learned of this problem after she protested, “Why do they make us read this stuff?!” This was the first book she had ever “seen.” When I asked her how she had read before, without pictures forming, she said that she'd just tried to string the words together to make sense of them.

_https://www.amazon.com/Neurofeedback-Treatment-Developmental-Trauma-Fear-Driven/dp/0393707865/
 

Divide by Zero

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
#7
Thanks Gaby for this information! How would someone find a neurofeedback practitioner? Is it just by asking therapists, or is there a specific "title" to look for?

About the base of the brain affecting the rest of the brain:

It reminds me of how a bad driver (low level operating system code) on a computer can cause the higher level user programs to have issues, distortions, etc.

Without repairing the low level, the higher level fixes are just patchwork on a structure that has a bad base/foundation.
 

Gaby

SuperModerator
Moderator
FOTCM Member
#8
Divide By Zero said:
Thanks Gaby for this information! How would someone find a neurofeedback practitioner? Is it just by asking therapists, or is there a specific "title" to look for?
I live in a rural town with little services of this kind. So I searched in the two main closest cities where I live. In one city, they said that they didn't offered neurofeedback until after New Year's and they sent me some scientific papers in the time being. I noticed that the author of the studies worked in the other main city closed to me. I figured I should consult the author instead.

In searching for therapists, neurofeedback is your keyword. I checked the CV of my neuropsychologist and noticed he studied cognitive sciences for 4-5 years after his psychology career. He is also director of his own center and works in two additonal private centers. Basically, he does neurofeedback full time.

If you are interesting in checking this out, ask the therapists and check CVs. I don't think it has to be a super-duper therapist, just someone with enough experience and knowledge. These therapists focus mainly in brain waves. It is not easy to interpret an EEG without basic formation. Some of these reseach centers are actually called "neurobiology".
 

Divide by Zero

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
#9
Thanks Gaby,
Is it that after your 12-60 sessions, do you need refresher updates or is this intended to be permanent change of the problematic area in the brain?

I was just looking around for now for neurofeedback in my area and there is a group that uses a specific device called NeurOptimal, including the ability to rent the device for a lower cost per session and do home therapy with the therapist checking progress.
http://neurofeedbackny.com/trainingoptionscost/

I'm not sure if this device is more generic in how it approaches the issues but they claim that it gives similar results.
 

Divide by Zero

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
#10
I looked more into the NeurOptimal system and it seems to have some interesting points.

Their system seems uses sensors that go on the ears and a bit above the ears on each side.

Their idea is to use negative feedback, unlike the focused positive feedback systems that require mapping and planning.

It seems that they get good results, perhaps because they are looking for a general set of waves to train the brain to. I'm not sure how they came up with this ideal "map" or target.

It seems like something worthwhile to try first as the practitioners in my area are very expensive and a lot of insurance doesn't cover it or only gives a little bit of the cost back.
 

Gaby

SuperModerator
Moderator
FOTCM Member
#11
Divide By Zero said:
I looked more into the NeurOptimal system and it seems to have some interesting points.

Their system seems uses sensors that go on the ears and a bit above the ears on each side.

Their idea is to use negative feedback, unlike the focused positive feedback systems that require mapping and planning.
I'm not familiarized with this system and I would think that there are several marketed tools that might be valid or not. I think you can approach it as an experiment for research purposes.

Divide By Zero said:
Is it that after your 12-60 sessions, do you need refresher updates or is this intended to be permanent change of the problematic area in the brain?
I don't know. I think that if there are issues and improvement potential through neurofeedback, you might experiment something new with the training that can lead to a breakthrough. If you don't have any issues nor anything to improve on the EEG mapping, there is probably nothing to work out through neurofeedback. It is like a complementary tool, but it doesn't substitute work on yourself.

I experimented something new on the second session and appreciated the new information. I'll keep an open mind and see how it goes though.

My 2 cents!
 

Meg

Ambassador
Ambassador
FOTCM Member
#12
Divide By Zero said:
I was just looking around for now for neurofeedback in my area and there is a group that uses a specific device called NeurOptimal, including the ability to rent the device for a lower cost per session and do home therapy with the therapist checking progress.
In SOTT's interview with Nora Gedgaudas, author of "Primal Body, Primal Mind", neurofeedback is discussed at length. When asked how someone could find a good practitioner in their area, she gives eegdirectory.com as a source. That web address now routes to eeginfo.com You might want to check for a provider there, too. She also recommends a particular software and EEG amplifier and gives other sources for research:

Laura: I think that probably our listeners might be getting a little bit excited about this so I want to ask you are there a lot of people doing this kind of therapy and how would they go about finding a therapist?

Nora: I would be very happy to direct people that way. If they want to find a NeuroFeedback provider near you, I would recommend going to this website www.eegdirectory.com and that should give you a list of qualified practitioners near you. You just plug in your zip code and it should give you a list of who is doing this in the vicinity of where you are and how far away from you they are.

What I tend to recommend is to find someone who has been at it a few years and I am also partial to people who are using the newest generation of cygnet software and also the brand new Neuroamp II which is just a quantum leap in technology of EEG amplifiers. It is actually co-designed by a brain scientist and also by someone, who in his spare time is doing laser and satellite communication systems for the European Space Agency. So there is high technology involved in this.

Laura: Is there anybody in Europe?

Nora: All kinds of people in Europe. And you can go to the same website to find them.

Laura: Find European practitioners.

Nora: All those who want more information about specific areas of this, you can go to www.eeginfo.com and you can find research at www.eegresearch.com part of the info website and you can also see a number of videos available. My www.northwest-neurofeedback.com website has a few videos as well.
Behind the Headlines: Nora Gedgaudas interview - Healing through NeuroFeedback and an Ice Age diet (with transcript)
 

SMM

The Living Force
#13
The information on this thread is very valuable and useful references too :read: Thank you, all! :D

I began reading the book Neurofeedback in the Treatment of Developmental Trauma before seeing this thread and the posts on here. So far only read through the Preface and Introduction as part of the sample available for Amazon Kindle, and just from that alone this book is being added to the to-read list for the future.

Here is an excerpt from the book's Preface:

“Several important core assumptions are the foundation of this book:
1. Neurofeedback changes the focus of our attention from the mind to the brain.
2. The brain organizes itself rhythmically in the frequency domain and it is there that brain plasticity resides.
3. We can access these rhythms through a type of computerized biofeedback to the brain called neurofeedback.
4. Fear is the core emotion and the primary dysrhythmia in developmental trauma. Without addressing the brain’s fear circuitry directly, developmental trauma remains highly resistant to treatment.”
A therapy provider in the UK I am considering for home/remote treatment is Brainworks Neurotherapy who use QEEG with LoRETA Z-score NFB, or Deep Brain NFB, and have more information on their website about their system and procedures. Them or The Brain Collective. The latter does not offer home treatment though.

I remember I couldn't find UK practitioners via the directory when I tried a few years ago, and it seems it is still the case (unless there is a part I missed?)
 
#14
Evidence-based psychiatry and neurology consider neurofeedback placebo.
For example, you cannot train your brain to emit more delta-waves,
you can do it through modifying your lifestyle (keto diet promotes delta-sleep, avoiding benzo's and sleeping pills as well),
but not through any kind of training.

Some -training- is pure physiology - just close your eyes and you get your ’’alpha training’’,
no need for expensive machines and diodes. :zzz:

It's just a step in mechanization of psychiatry...but surveys say all
that new post-ECT-machinery (biofeedback, neurofeedback, transcranial magnet stimulation) is pure fraud.

Psychotherapy seems boring so medical equipment sellers are inventing new toys, but with less results than CBT or Gestallt or any other type of psychotherapy...

_http://neurosciencenews.com/eeg-neurofeedback-placebo-4379/

_https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5382955/
 

Persej

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
#15
I've read the book The Open-Focus Brain by Les Fehmi and Jim Robbins, and I'm gonna give some quotes and comments here. So let's begin with first quote:

Shifts in styles of attention—in the way we shape and direct our awareness—play a large, unrecognized role in our lives. In fact, our choice of type and direction of our attention is vital. Certain kinds of attention can quickly dissolve physical pain and emotional stress and can cause widespread changes in physiology. It is my view that any therapy or relaxation technique that helps us make positive changes works, at least in part, by bringing about beneficial shifts in attention.
Same thing the C's said about EFT techniques:

5 Aug 2009

Q: (laughter) (L) Are the EFT techniques a valid method?

A: EFT is merely a keep busy activity designed to hold focus. It is the attention that "works". It would be counter to the purposes of the program you have presented.
But they obviously didn't like the type of attention created with that method.

Next quote:

Let me clarify an essential point about improving our health and well-being through the power of our attention: The issue it is not what we attend to. Far more critical is how we attend, how we form and direct our awareness, and how we adhere—rigidly or flexibly—to a chosen style of attention.

Whether we realize it or not, we pay attention with our whole body and mind, in ways that are measurable. Our style of attention impacts the brain’s electrical rhythms, as can be shown in an electroencephalogram, or EEG.

Because the brain is the master control panel for our mind and body, when we change its electrical patterns we initiate systemwide effects, including changes in muscle tension, respiratory rate, and the flow of neurotransmitters and hormones. Our perception, memory, information processing, performance, physiology, and emotional well-being are all influenced by (and, in my view, often subordinate to) attention.

In our culture we do not recognize or make use of the full repertoire of attention styles. Few of us are consciously aware that there are different styles of attention, each with different qualities and each suited to different kinds of tasks. Instead, we are culturally biased to stay locked in limited modes of attention, to our great detriment. Many of my clients feel trapped or walled in, and they do not know what the walls are made of or how to dissolve them. Many know they built the walls themselves somehow, but they think they are constructed out of the content of their awareness—by the things that have happened to them in their lives—or by any number of external factors and their thoughts about them. They can’t find their way out because they are stuck in a process of continually scanning the content of their problems for a solution, when the walls that trap them are largely made out of attentional biases.
This sounds like something that Gurdjieff would say. His whole teaching is center around "remembering yourself", that is, managing your attention.

Then, the author of this book talks about the results with his experiment with EEG device in 1967:

As my experiment continued, I found that I could increase the duration and amplitude, or power, of my alpha. After a few hours in alpha some curious and wonderful changes started to happen. My muscle tone softened, and I moved with a newfound effortlessness and fluidity; sometimes I felt like I was gliding when I walked. Anxiety evaporated. I felt extraordinarily present, centered, poised, open, lighter and freer, more calmly energetic and spontaneous. I laughed and smiled more. Untoward events no longer threw me the way they had before. Arthritic pain in my joints subsided. My senses improved, vision and hearing foremost among them. Colors were more vibrant. I could pick up the subtle scent of perfume long after someone had walked down a hallway. I not only heard sounds I hadn’t noticed before but also became more aware of the silence in which the sounds occurred. My obsessive-compulsive style mellowed, and I taught complex graduate-level courses with newfound ease. Friends and family responded positively. I was more aware of the bigger picture. Yet I didn’t feel as if I had lost my edge; indeed, the things I had been doing—teaching and researching—came easier and more clearly than before.

I was in the zone. There was a feeling that I had come home after a long absence, home to who I really was. The feeling lasted for many months, and with more training it could be refreshed. I felt strongly that this is the way life was meant to be.

And from an evolutionary point of view it made a great deal of sense. Chronic depression, anxiety, and a host of other physical and psychological problems are not the natural state of human beings. Nor are they necessarily the result of a brain that is somehow fundamentally flawed. Instead they are the result of “operator error.” Alpha isn’t magical—it just seems that way because we’ve forgotten how to access it, increase its amplitude, and prolong it. When someone learns to operate their central nervous system the way it was designed to be operated, however, and includes abundant low-frequency synchrony, things run more smoothly and efficiently and don’t break down as often. We are equipped with a rapid and sensitive emergency response to assure survival. But we are also equipped with a process of restoration and recovery, a way to lay down our burden: by generating low-frequency synchrony.
This sounds familiar to how Gurdjieff described how he felt after some time of "remembering himself". Maybe that's how he changed his brainwaves? But he didn't had an EEG device to measure it.

Next quote:

In addition to those feelings, I noticed that the brain-wave training broadened my attention; I took in the world visually in a very different way. I now perceived larger scenes without focusing on any one element and with much less effort. I went back to some of the writings of Hans Berger, who discovered the existence of the brain’s electrical output and who, in the 1930s, reported on the association between alpha and a state of relaxed attentiveness. But it wasn’t just visual. My awareness of the room I was in, my feeling and sense of it, was also much bigger.

So, at the time, two critical discoveries had emerged. First, it dawned on me that producing alpha caused my attention to shift from narrow to diffuse, thus opening my awareness. Second, I realized that subjects could relax and produce abundant alpha not only with eyes-closed biofeedback but also by changing the way they paid attention in an eyes-open state. Changing the way they paid attention manifested in the EEG. And when they attended in full Open Focus, they not only produced alpha, but a very specific kind called phase-synchronous alpha.

Phase synchrony means not only that many parts of the brain are producing alpha but that these waves are also rising and falling in unison. This means that a large number of cells are working together—an especially powerful type of synergistic cortical activity. While high-frequency, nonsynchronous beta activity is like the chatter of an auditorium full of high school students engaged in separate conversations, the synchronized, uniform lower frequency generated across the whole brain by open styles of attention is the equivalent of the same group of students singing together.

(...)

Once I had recognized the tremendous potential of synchronous alpha, the focus of my research became finding a way to help others produce those brain waves as quickly as possible. It had taken me twelve two-hour sessions before I was able to let go during the thirteenth session and increase alpha amplitude and duration. That was simply too long, and many people would give up before they experienced the release. And it defies verbal instruction. The only way it could be learned efficiently was through experience.
And then he talks about his new method:

In 1971 I discovered a shortcut. In research experiments student volunteers were exposed to a number of relaxation methods as their EEG was monitored to see which exercises produced the most phase-synchronous alpha. Some were asked to visualize peaceful scenes and locations. Some listened to their favorite music. Others tried fragrances, negative-ion generation, and colored lights. Some of these things had a mild alpha-enhancing effect; most had very little impact. One day I tried a standard twenty-item relaxation inventory. During the first few questions—imagine a dewdrop on a rose petal or a cascading waterfall, for example—their EEG manifested little change. Then I asked. “Can you imagine the space between your eyes?” Boom. The pens scribbled the symmetrical waves of high-amplitude alpha. A subsequent question was, “Can you imagine the space between your ears?” Again, boom, highamplitude alpha appeared instantly. When either of these “space”-related questions was asked, subjects almost invariably generated a significant increase in alpha brain synchrony in the brain sites being monitored. No other question or imagery brought about such profound changes in the EEG. “Objectless imagery”—the multisensory experience and awareness of space, nothingness, or absence—almost always elicits large amplitude and prolonged periods of phase-synchronous alpha activity.

(...)

Since a sustained awareness of space is key to Open-Focus attention, I recorded a series of exercises to guide people through different kinds of objectless imagery, asking them to imagine space first between and around body regions and then through them, extending limitlessly in every direction. For example, I ask listeners to imagine space in, around, and through their eyes, neck, head, and hands (which leads to a release of those areas) and ultimately space extending limitlessly in every direction. When people gently direct their awareness to it and imagine feeling space, the brain responds immediately, dropping into whole-brain synchronous alpha.
And then he says this:

In fact, just closing one’s eyes causes a prominent increase of synchronous alpha over the whole brain, not only in the visual system. This suggests that synchrony’s role is a more general and fundamental one, like attention.

In my experience, objectless imagery is the quickest way to get into an open focus, and an awareness of space is a powerful tool to teach people to access and maintain alternative styles of attention.
But I don't think it can be that simple. Besides, he is still using an EEG device in his therapies. Why would he need such device if it was a simply a matter of closing your eyes and imagining an empty space?

And latter on he talks about how hard it is to train this:

The problem is that moving out of desynchronized beta into synchronized alpha is a subtle shift; without training in, and an experience of this activity, it’s difficult for people to evoke them. A fish in water, it’s been said, doesn’t know it’s in water. People often fail to recognize that they are carrying tension, perhaps because it increases gradually and persists for so long. I’ve had clients tell me they are deeply relaxed even when measurements of their physiology show them to be very tense.

A client named Mark had been meditating for years but felt he hadn’t gotten much out of it. Monitoring with neurofeedback equipment showed that he was very desynchronized and tense, and had trouble relaxing into alpha. I asked him to meditate using his mantra. Again, he produced much tension and high-frequency desynchronized beta and little alpha. He stopped meditating, and I asked him to let the light and sound feedback increase, signaling the presence of whole-brain synchronous alpha. As he gradually got more feedback, he discovered what alpha synchrony felt like and realized that he had been trying too hard. Then I asked him to meditate in such a way that the light and sound came on more often. Within minutes he felt as if his mantra was flowing effortlessly. After years of trying to meditate, he learned the meaning of effortlessness in a single neurofeedback session. His pallid face became ruddy and his demeanor brightened, both changes reflecting his newly achieved harmony.
So this guy Mark obviously had a help in a form of some device which produced light and sound feedback, and was not able to do it just with his eyes closed and meditation.

Anyway, I think that this neurofeedback has a lot of potential, even though it might be a hard to do it without some kind of brainwave monitoring device. Maybe that's why Gurdjieff failed in training his students? Maybe he didn't know how to teach them this skill that defies verbal instruction?

This was also a first time for me when I started to understand Gurdjieff's emphasis on "remembering yourself". I always thought that we first needed to remove bad programs from our subconsciousness before we try to practice "remembering ourself", but now it seems that G was right. This looks like an “operator error” that must be solved before any further work on ourselves.
 
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