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The power of Neurofeedback

theta alpha gamma synchrony neurofeedback bipolar training ultralow frequency self-regulation

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#1 OpaqueMind

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Posted 17 March 2014 - 07:01 PM


There has been an unfortunate dearth of reports on the efficacy of Neurofeedback in this community, probably because the cost of devices or sessions is unusually high for a nootropic intervention, and there are a confusing array of protocols with seemingly minimal results. Many of the more common ways neurofeedback is used are not very effective, and usually consist in tuning up or down certain frequency bands at certain places of the cortex. This process is guided by a quantitative analysis of an EEG map of your brain activity, and comparing this map to an averaged map of a database of thousands of other qEEGs from 'normal' subjects. Unfortanately this approach doesn't lead to optimal results, only a flattening out of particularly abberant brain activity, as the optimal activity pattern for every brain is different, sometimes subtly, sometimes not so subtly.

Two approaches which sidestep this problem while producing significant results are BiPolar training and Alpha-Theta(-Gamma)-Synchrony training. In BiPolar NFB you train two cortical areas to operate more independantly of each other, allowing more effective activation patterns to occur, if there was previous over-synchronisation. It helps to think of this brain activity as like playing the piano - if your fingers are too fat for the keys (brain activity too synchronous across certain areas) then the tune you play will be disharmonious. Training de-synchronisation across various frequencies areas teaches the brain to fire only those areas that a task demands, therefore allocating limited resources only where they are required. This gets really funky when you train ultra-low frequencies (0.01-1hz), which are thought to correspond to glial cell control and cerebral autoregulation (the control of cerebral bloodflow). Personally I have found this incredibly effective at improving cognitive flexibility, sleep quality, anxiety which I didn't even know I had, sociability, creativity and perceptual sensitivity, and other things.

As well as BiPolar training I have also been using Alpha-Theta-Gamma Synrchrony training, a protocol which was designed with reference to the unique brain states observed in long-time meditators. In contrast to the above, this protocol trains synchrony across various brain areas, and as such can directly induce hebbian learning across and between pathways indicated under electrode placement. That in itself is pretty cool, but when combined with the P-FIT theory of intelligence is even more awesome (research article) (public article). Basically, it allows you to directly influence and bolster the neural networks universally implicated in intelligence. I am not a scientist, just an enthusiastic nootropics researcher, and this is by far the greatest intervention I have ever tried, with theory to back it up. If you are interested in finding out more you can visit the website of the guy who invented the TAG protocol, which can be found here, or alternatively I'm happy to field any questions about my experience so far. I've been using these protocols in various ways for about two or three months, and am still seeing gains every session. The kit that I use is a pocket neurobics Q-Wiz. It is a heavy investment, but it is definitely worth it for those interested in serious intelligence enhancement. If you already have a decent EEG kit, check out these protocols, which Douglas sells on that website I linked. If you don't, consider investing in one, but be wary of the cheapest models, I've heard they often have problems with signal noise.
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#2 lourdaud

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Posted 18 March 2014 - 02:08 PM

Great thread! Unfortunately I can't contribute with very much though..
I have a Q-Wiz as well but I haven't even tried it yet, eventhough I bought it six months ago.. Big procrastinator and NFB seems pretty challenging and non-rewarding.
I'll check out the TAG protocol you mention.. do you have any other suggestions on how to start with NFB??

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#3 umop 3pisdn

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Posted 19 March 2014 - 04:52 AM

Good OP OpaqueMind. Sorry I never replied to your PM before, there were a combination of factors that kept me from wanting to talk about my progress, some personal and some pragmatic. Beyond my initial impressions, I was in a bit of a mire of uncertainty and I didn't really think it right to try to sort it out by discussing it, at the risk that I would alter my perceptions of what was actually happening, and that it wouldn't be of any service to you. But I continued to use the TAG sync designs during that time (though sometimes in fits and starts). I still haven't tried the ILF designs (I'm kind of curious, is the feedback similar to the TAG sync designs?), but I'll mirror your sentiments that I'm still really enthusiastic about this technology after having become quite familiar with it. I don't currently do any other neurofeedback at all, even though I own a nIR HEG device, because I think TAG sync is a much better correlate of attention at least in the way that I'm trying to exercise it.

For me in using those designs as an aid to my meditation practice the thing that was most consistently helpful is it prompted me to investigate my practice in a more participatory way, what was working and what wasn't working, etc. It might seem a bit strange or meager to bring that up in particular, there were many ways that I found it helpful, but that was the most constant. Without a meditation teacher it served as an ideal sort of substitute, considering the form that that kind of substitute might take in the here and now. I think sometimes when a person takes something like meditation up in earnest, there's this attitude where you want to follow everything to the letter. Even reading the best meditation manuals and beating it into your head not to sweat the small stuff and to foster an open and curious attitude, I didn't really trust myself to be critical of my own experience if that meant letting go of the instructions I came to rely on. For the first year I'd just try to do the method I thought was most typical (observe the breath at the nostrils), but even practicing consistently, my practice seemed to stagnate and never really reach any degree of consistency. It was a constant struggle.

But then meditating alongside using TAG sync I'd notice some things, like if I placed my attention on my forehead, or on the crown/prefrontal area, or do all sorts of other things with my awareness, the feedback would suddenly spike, or find a new plateau. So I'd do that, pumping lots of attention into mindfulness, and then I'd become really sensitized! Almost too much sometimes, kind of like a threshold dose of LSD, my concealed anxieties would emerge and I'd have to try to find a way to deal with them. Or I'd be really successful applying myself to the development of tranquility, and I'd become overtranquilized, and my body would feel like lead and I'd care about nothing! Then in a couple of hours it would pass and I'd feel just great, wonderfully rested and like my entire body and perceptual system had been scrubbed into a pristine state from the inside out, but again there was an inconstancy or an absence of stability. These experiences would occur only occasionally, seemingly when the conditions aligned for them, and I hadn't really found a balance, though I was beginning to map out the terrain.

The big point of difficulty for me has always been effort vs. non-doing, which would manifest as me either sitting down grinding my teeth micro-managing my awareness and resenting the times I'd set aside to meditate, which would still develop my attention, but I'd resent it so much that I could never practice consistently so the gains I saw didn't matter; or I'd be too lax in my effort and meditation sessions would be tepid to pleasant, but they'd be unproductive. So even using this technology, there was still all this doubt, I'd persistently be wondering why I wasn't getting these consistent results I was expecting, why I wasn't uncovering this deep well of contentment inside myself, and what I was doing wrong and what others (to whom it came more easily) were doing right, but I was starting to figure things out. I guess the point is, the process wasn't all that brief for me in particular, and my practice still stagnated in some ways. It didn't do the work for me or teach me how to meditate, which no one really expects to have happen consciously (or only a little bit, in private), but it did give me a sort of safety net for below the tightrope.

Another thing that I kind of touched on is it made me much more aware of my personal quirks in terms of mental health, I began to recognize things like mood instability, accurately assess my self esteem, or the cause and extent of my anxieties, etc. In retrospect this is a large part of what was holding me back and why meditation for me was usually synonymous with an exercise in frustration. I began to be more compassionate and understanding towards myself, and able to really consider my motives and perspective from a more detached viewpoint. But all of this was a period of upheaval over the course of months, and sometimes this process made me pretty miserable because for every stride there seemed to be a backslide, and now this drama was all happening out in the open, but I guess that's the process :p

A really cool thing about this technology is it has this great balance between applicability and specificity. You never really wonder what the feedback is in response to and it never seems random, but like mindfulness it's a boon in any kind of establishing meditation practice, some aspects more than others, but it's never in the way.

Just as an aside, the method of meditation that I finally settled on was to center my awareness on the centre of my head as I observed the breath sensation throughout my whole body. Thanissaro Bhikku and his teacher Ajaan Fuang teach a method like this, though not with awareness centered on the middle of the head per se (that's just one of many possible suggestions). What I found interesting is that the Taoists call this location the niwan or 'mud pill', and in meditation they describe a process of "collecting your awareness (shen) at the original seat of consciousness (niwan)" Fixing your attention here is supposed to attenuate external sensory stimuli (which I'd confirm). The point that I find interesting though is that it's the centre of the upper dantian, or the 'field' where awareness is supposedly converted into a sense of emptiness (or wuji in Taoism), and Dailey recommends emptiness meditation particularly for use with TAG sync. Why I bring this up is because the three dantian including the upper dantian are all said to be used in breathing, though that probably means in terms of the subtle sensations resulting from the breath and not necessarily the direct passage of air. So that's potentially one way of attenuating distracting stimuli, attending to the breath, and a sense of 'emptiness' all simultaneously. I stumbled onto this kind of by coincidence, though. There isn't really much for the mind to grab onto here, for example sometimes I'll get a sensation of pressure somewhere else in my head resulting from concentration and there isn't anything particularly overt like that with this location for me. And it's kind of a hard location to find, but something about that spot made my meditation practice consistent and easeful. My attention still drifts, and I still have to maintain consistent mindfulness, but there's this more present sense of calm and 'non-doing' in my life on and off the cushion. I started getting frequent flashes of subconscious imagery like I did when I was a kid, and my mood is now even-keeled. It's weirdly subtle in some ways, a far cry from the extremes of oversensitization or overtranquilization from too much emphasis on either mindfulness or calm that I experienced not too long ago, but it's consistent and I'm finally beginning to reap the benefits of meditation that I've been reading about for so long. YMMV, though, obviously!
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#4 Godof Smallthings

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Posted 19 March 2014 - 11:01 AM

Thanks for sharing your progress and pitfalls. Very interesting to read.

awareness centered on the middle of the head


Middle of the head as 'on top of the head, in the middle' or as in 'inside the middle of the head'?

#5 OpaqueMind

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Posted 19 March 2014 - 08:23 PM

Thanks for your detailed report umop, and I'll definitely try that meditation next time I use TAGsync. Recently I've only been using the ILF designs (or more specifically, BiPolar in the IL frequency) as I figured that getting a solid glial cell system sorted was a key aspect to intelligence. One of the consistent correlations between neurophysiology and intelligence across species has been the increasing ratio of glial cells to neurons on the scale of species as they demonstrate greater intelligence. IIRC it was also one of the primary differences they found in Einstein's brain, along with slightly enlarged parietal lobes (see P-FIT above). I know there's no sensory nerves inside the brain but I can feel blood flow changing more profoundly now, perhaps through skin and ear pressure sensitivity. I also notice an increased response to other more neuron-centred Neurofeedback modalities.

You may be interested umop in that the state of ILF desynchronisation across various regions feels very much like what 'emptiness' meditation feels like, and also seems to directly affect meditation positively. You might also be aware of the finding, which I think is relevant, that the brain waves of long-time meditators showed not only strong nested synchrony in the alpha-theta-gamma bands but this synchrony extended down to frequencies as low as 0.001hz, and that super high frequencies, up to 200hz, were shown to be embedded in these incredibly low frequencies. If you have the TAGx1 designs I'd highly recommend you try them out. The analogy you with a teacher is interesting, I had never thought of it like that. But now you mention it, that opens up new ways for me to approach this training.

I'm curious, what placements are you using and have you noticed any other changes to your cognitive abilities, besides increased awareness and emotional stability? I'm thinking particularly in terms of intelligence and creativity. Personally I've noticed a significant boost in these, particularly the latter - I think that is somewhat related to increased awareness and ability to get into the mode of 'flow' much more easily. Also, how often are you using the designs? Again, thanks very much for the input. Hopefully we can garner enough interest for more people to get into this awesome (and that word is thrown around too much) technology.

Edit: Godof, he is probably referring to what is commonly called the 'third eye', which is located in the centre of the brain, where the pineal gland resides.

Edited by OpaqueMind, 19 March 2014 - 08:27 PM.


#6 OpaqueMind

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Posted 19 March 2014 - 09:11 PM

An unusual and welcome benefit I've noticed is that my body's thermal regulation is getting back to normal. I've had problems with overheating and dehydration for a long time, sweating under a sheet in the winter night times and having to drink about 4 litres of water a day on average, just to keep severe dry mouth at bay. I don't even live in a hot country. This, it seems, was underlying my chronic insomnia. Bipolar feedback at various frequencies, especially over T3 and T4, around the area of the insulas, has pretty much sorted this out. Since the brain regulates a large number of other physiological processes, this makes sense. The concurrent diminution of a baseline anxiety I had points to a renormalisation of HPA axis dysregulation. Corroborating this, ILF-NFB has also been demonstrated to be a powerful remedy for Post-traumatic-stress-disorder, in which HPA axis dysregulation is also implicated. You can find a bunch of papers relating to ILF-NFB here, and I will post some interesting abstracts below.

Endogenous Neuromodulation at Infralow frequencies


Neuromodulation in the bioelectrical domain is an attractive option for the remediation of functionally based deficits. Most of the interest to date has focused on exogenous methods, such as repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation, transient direct current stimulation, vagus nerve stimulation, and deep brain stimulation. Much less attention has been given to endogenous methods of exploiting latent brain plasticity. These have reached a level of sophistication and maturity that invites attention. Over the last 7 years, the domain of infralow frequencies has been exploited productively for the enhancement of neuroregulation. The principal mechanism is putatively the renormalization of functional connectivity of our resting-state networks. The endogeneous techniques are particularly attractive for the pediatric population, where they can be utilized before dysfunctional patterns of brain behavior become consolidated and further elaborated into clinical syndromes.




Very slow EEG fluctuations predict the dynamics of stimulus detection and oscillation amplitudes in humans

Our ability to perceive weak signals is correlated among consecutive trials and fluctuates slowly over time. Although this “streaking effect” has been known for decades, the underlying neural network phenomena have remained largely unidentified. We examined the dynamics of human behavioral performance and its correlation with infraslow (0.01–0.1 Hz) fluctuations in ongoing brain activity. Full-band electroencephalography revealed prominent infraslow fluctuations during the execution of a somatosensory detection task. Similar fluctuations were predominant also in the dynamics of behavioral performance. The subjects' ability to detect the sensory stimuli was strongly correlated with the phase, but not with the amplitude of the infraslow EEG fluctuations. These data thus reveal a direct electrophysiological correlate for the slow fluctuations in human psychophysical performance. We then examined the correlation between the phase of infraslow EEG fluctuations and the amplitude of 1–40 Hz neuronal oscillations in six frequency bands. Like the behavioral performance, the amplitudes in these frequency bands were robustly correlated with the phase of the infraslow fluctuations. These data hence suggest that the infraslow fluctuations reflect the excitability dynamics of cortical networks. We conclude that ongoing 0.01–0.1 Hz EEG fluctuations are prominent and functionally significant during execution of cognitive tasks.


Edited by OpaqueMind, 19 March 2014 - 09:13 PM.


#7 OpaqueMind

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Posted 19 March 2014 - 09:21 PM

Great thread! Unfortunately I can't contribute with very much though..
I have a Q-Wiz as well but I haven't even tried it yet, eventhough I bought it six months ago.. Big procrastinator and NFB seems pretty challenging and non-rewarding.
I'll check out the TAG protocol you mention.. do you have any other suggestions on how to start with NFB??


I felt that too, when I first looked at the software... it's daunting without prior knowledge, or someone who knows what the hells going on to guide you. What's really cool is that included with the TAGsync protocols is a free hour-long session with the inventor, to help get you rigged up with the stuff. I went from having absolutely no clue what I was doing to being able to run my own sessions after the long conversation with him. He's a really nice guy, and I wouldn't have been able to do it without him. There's a dissapointing lack of clear and concise guides to this technology, though that's understandable since it's only recently that it's come down to a price and availability where a non-professional could or would get a hold of it.

#8 umop 3pisdn

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Posted 21 March 2014 - 08:04 PM

Thanks for sharing your progress and pitfalls. Very interesting to read.

awareness centered on the middle of the head


Middle of the head as 'on top of the head, in the middle' or as in 'inside the middle of the head'?


Thanks, I'm not really that adept or inclined towards the scientific end of things, digesting and presenting research isn't something I'm very good at, so I'm glad that a testimonial is at least somewhat productive :p

It's like OpaqueMind said, inside the middle of the head and essentially at the location of the pineal gland. The simple method for finding it as presented in the YMAA Embryonic Breathing resources is to make an "MMMMMmmmm" sound like at the end of the "Aum" mantra, and scan the inside of your head. The spot that feels like it begins to vibrate last is supposed to be the spot. But as I noticed from my experience there isn't really much there to grab onto for me in an interoceptive sense. I've only been practicing this method for a couple of weeks or so and it hasn't turned into a really solid 'seat' for my mind to rest at yet, but even this early into it I thought my experiences were noteworthy.

I interpreted Ajaan Fuang as mentioning an equivalent point here:

_____________________
http://www.accesstoi...f.html#appendix
"5. Become acquainted with the bases or focal points for the mind — the resting spots of the breath — and center your awareness on whichever one seems most comfortable. A few of these bases are:

a. the tip of the nose,
b. the middle of the head,
c. the palate,
d. the base of the throat,
e. the breastbone (the tip of the sternum),
f. the navel (or a point just above it).

If you suffer from frequent headaches or nervous problems, don't focus on any spot above the base of the throat. And don't try to force the breath or put yourself into a trance. Breathe freely and naturally. Let the mind be at ease with the breath — but not to the point where it slips away."
______________________

A part of the reason why I said that I discovered it by coincidence, is I'm not sure if my mind necessarily is inclined to 'rest' there more than other locations, and one day I just arbitrarily decided to try it out. Sometimes it will idle on the palate, or I'll often get a neutral-feeling sensation of pressure on my brow or crown area, and that's relatively fixed and even acts as a soft internal feedback mechanism that lets me hold my attention there better than in this location in the middle of my head, but it doesn't seem to work as well in terms of overall result for me. I guess it's not accurate to characterize the middle of the head as a difficult location, because when I place my attention there I have a much more profound sense of 'non-doing', even though my mind has less to hold onto and it requires more searching for me, whereas observing the pressure sensation at my forehead makes me more inclined to strive or unbalance myself, so maybe that's the sort of thing he's referring to?

Like the Taoist view I'm familiar with he says not to focus your awareness here if you are prone to headaches. Taoist practice also cautions against energy 'stagnating' there or it being a potentially problematic spot for some other reasons, though I don't really understand why since I've only taken a cursory look at their material as philosophically I'm more of a Buddhist with just some supplementary interest in Taoist practices. I guess their emphasis is often on energy work or energy cultivation rather than meditation per se, and maybe it's more relevant in those terms. I think when you simultaneously are attending to the breath sensation throughout the whole body with an emphasis on a sensation of easefulness or pleasure, like Thanissaro teaches in his meditation manuals, that probably reduces the tendency to strive or over-apply your attention. Strangely the fact that it can lead to headaches is a plus for me, because that only happens to me when I do strive or try too hard, so I know not to do that or I get punished for it afterwards :p Granted headaches are otherwise a pretty rare thing for me, and that threshold might be lower for other people.

I do wonder though since there is no nerve endings in the brain, what interoreceptive phenomena in that area are related to exactly. I find it interesting on the one hand that that location is related to the pineal gland, yet how would we find something like that by scanning the inside of our heads? Descartian mind-body dualism and new-agey beliefs also make me pretty skeptical on the conceptual level. Not that I'm necessarily convinced they're all absolutely wrong, but it just seems fair considering how much stuff they can try to get away with when you aren't being skeptical.

Thanks for your detailed report umop, and I'll definitely try that meditation next time I use TAGsync. Recently I've only been using the ILF designs (or more specifically, BiPolar in the IL frequency) as I figured that getting a solid glial cell system sorted was a key aspect to intelligence. One of the consistent correlations between neurophysiology and intelligence across species has been the increasing ratio of glial cells to neurons on the scale of species as they demonstrate greater intelligence. IIRC it was also one of the primary differences they found in Einstein's brain, along with slightly enlarged parietal lobes (see P-FIT above). I know there's no sensory nerves inside the brain but I can feel blood flow changing more profoundly now, perhaps through skin and ear pressure sensitivity. I also notice an increased response to other more neuron-centred Neurofeedback modalities.

You may be interested umop in that the state of ILF desynchronisation across various regions feels very much like what 'emptiness' meditation feels like, and also seems to directly affect meditation positively. You might also be aware of the finding, which I think is relevant, that the brain waves of long-time meditators showed not only strong nested synchrony in the alpha-theta-gamma bands but this synchrony extended down to frequencies as low as 0.001hz, and that super high frequencies, up to 200hz, were shown to be embedded in these incredibly low frequencies. If you have the TAGx1 designs I'd highly recommend you try them out. The analogy you with a teacher is interesting, I had never thought of it like that. But now you mention it, that opens up new ways for me to approach this training.

I'm curious, what placements are you using and have you noticed any other changes to your cognitive abilities, besides increased awareness and emotional stability? I'm thinking particularly in terms of intelligence and creativity. Personally I've noticed a significant boost in these, particularly the latter - I think that is somewhat related to increased awareness and ability to get into the mode of 'flow' much more easily. Also, how often are you using the designs? Again, thanks very much for the input. Hopefully we can garner enough interest for more people to get into this awesome (and that word is thrown around too much) technology.

Edit: Godof, he is probably referring to what is commonly called the 'third eye', which is located in the centre of the brain, where the pineal gland resides.


Now that you mention it that seems like a sensible conclusion, even just in terms of meditation where you're trying to apply consistent mental effort, improving the support network seems like it should have some precedence just because it would more directly lead to cognitive endurance. I didn't know about the nested synchrony thing spanning very low and very high frequencies, either. That seems especially interesting because otherwise there would really be no way at all of working with frequencies that high, that I know of at least.

My EEG instrument doesn't work for measuring brain activity in the 'DC' range, so I haven't tried those designs out yet. I'm going to buy a Q.Wiz at some point, but I've been setting up a sort of meditation room at my house along with some safety measures for my equipment like grounded/anti-static carpet, so I was planning on buying the better instrument after all of that stuff falls into place. I'm a lot more interested in those designs now though. I only started reading about low-frequency neurofeedback recently and a lot of the information about it made it seem a bit mysterious or difficult to understand exactly what it's tailored to (beyond ADD, I guess).

In terms of placement the vast majority of the time the active leads were at Fz and Pz. A few months ago I started alternating between F3 & P3, and F4 & P4, and after that I was going to begin with training synchrony between F3 & P4, and F4 & P3. Do you use similar sites with bipolar training?

To be honest I haven't really been looking for gains in intelligence. I've noticed quite a few cognitive improvements, but since my motives behind using this technology and the problems I was facing in life were mainly in terms of an overall sense of wellbeing, those are almost exclusively the kinds of things I noticed and was critical towards. I will say that I have more mental flexibility, I find it easy to maintain a broad mind about things I had trouble with before, which helps with things like creativity too, but I'm not sure if me noticing that kind of change is a result of sloughing off maladaptive patterns. I think I do get into flow states more easily now, because being in a state of flow used to seem more special to me, but ironically that came alongside a reduced interest in flow states!

Edited by umop 3pisdn, 21 March 2014 - 08:16 PM.

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#9 Strangelove

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Posted 21 April 2014 - 10:03 AM

Hi Opaque,

 

Could you briefly describe the process of going through a session? How much time you need to set the equipment, what the process is like with TAG sync protocol, are you looking forward doing a session, or its more like a tiring, uninderesting exercise you are going through in order to get the benefits you mentioned? 



#10 Invariant

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Posted 21 April 2014 - 11:41 AM

Interesting thread! I don't have any experience with neurofeedback, but you guys have piqued my interest. Could you recommend any articles for learning about the science behind NFB, and the various protocols? Also, what are the options regarding NFB devices, particularly in the lower end of the price range?



#11 OpaqueMind

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Posted 22 April 2014 - 08:52 PM

Hi Opaque,

 

Could you briefly describe the process of going through a session? How much time you need to set the equipment, what the process is like with TAG sync protocol, are you looking forward doing a session, or its more like a tiring, uninderesting exercise you are going through in order to get the benefits you mentioned? 

 

I'd be glad to. It's actually a very stimulating and enjoyable process, even though I must have done 50+ sessions by now. Before I do anything I make sure I'm sufficiently awake and aware usually by going for a run or something like that. I get far more out of the process if I'm aware and grounded. Pre-session, I attach the electrodes to the sites I want to train on that day with electrode paste, after boosting the skin conductance under the sites with some skinprep gel. After having done this many times I can set myself up and be ready to go in about 3 minutes, sometimes up to 5 depending on how many electrodes I'm using. Then I boot up the EEG interface (in this case BioExplorer) and bring up the session design I want to use that day, and set it going.

 

The process of neurofeedback itself, for the ILF and TAGsync protocols at least, involves conscious and sustained effort in order to stay within the target zone. Successfully maintained synchrony across Alpha-Theta is pretty damn hard for me to maintain, but when there it feels really nice, very much like the imperturbable stillness of deeply meditative states, I usually A-T that for 20 minutes at one spot, with a gamma sync (T-G) session for 5 minutes afterwards, then repeat that pattern for another site. Theta-Gamma synchrony feels a little different, not unlike a steadily building explosion of bliss in my mind, when I hit it right. The whole process is very engaging and inherently interesting, plus I know that the harder I try, the better the results will be both short (rest of the day) and long-term. The total time for a typical TAGsync session is about 1 hour, including setup and its inverse. I usually do BiPolar or ILF sessions for a bit longer, about 1 hour 30 minutes each.


Edited by OpaqueMind, 22 April 2014 - 08:54 PM.

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#12 OpaqueMind

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Posted 22 April 2014 - 09:31 PM

Interesting thread! I don't have any experience with neurofeedback, but you guys have piqued my interest. Could you recommend any articles for learning about the science behind NFB, and the various protocols? Also, what are the options regarding NFB devices, particularly in the lower end of the price range?

 

There are some interesting articles on Dailey's websites (the inventor of TAGsync) about the process he went through in designing the protocol. I'd start here for that. I haven't read much of the literature on any other approaches, as the other kinds of neurofeedback I'm interested in and are currently using, specifically BiPolar and ILF, have very little articles on them, and the ones that exist are pretty complicating and unrewarding in terms of understanding the underlying mechanisms. Simply put, we don't know for sure (as in, it hasn't been empirically demonstrated) how they work.

 

However, intelligent people have made educated guesses which fit in convincingly with the conceptual schemas of neuroscience as they currently are, as well as with the reported responses of individuals engaging with the protocols. The problem (is it a problem? It's frustrating, but probably also for the best) is that reputation requires speculations and dot-joining to be backed up by hard evidence before they are even hinted at through official channels... which, when the protocols were not designed deliberately but essentially stumbled upon through trial and error (as is the case with ILF, and, I think perhaps BiPolar), is a very difficult thing to gather, especially given the poor pixelation of current brain-imaging technologies.

 

TAGsync on the other hand has a wealth of literature and articles behind it. Douglas' meta-site (growing.com) has a bunch of links to some really interesting reading. Everything he's written on it is pretty fascinating, and he has some general insight into the neurofeedback process in general. If you have the time, I'd work through those systematically, and you'll have more than enough substance to chew on for a while.

 

In terms of the options for solid devices in a fair price range, I've heard great things about Pocket Neurobics and their line-up, and I brought a Q-Wiz from them. With the whole set-up, including BioExplorer software, EEG electrodes and a HEG headband it cost about £1400. Knock the headband off that and it would be about £1000. I've gotten far more out of EEG so far than I have HEG, yet HEG in its own right is an excellent modality for people with prefrontal issues (which in this age of supranormal stimuli, addictions of all kinds and severe attention problems; read, hypofrontality; is something pretty much everyone should be doing). That is the whole setup and as far as I'm aware that allows you to do any kind of EEG training currently available (except training with more than 6 channels, unless you use a cap, but that's an unnecessary hassle which I've heard brings little extra benefit), including Infra-low frequency training, which a lot of devices can't do because they can't detect such low frequencies. After this you buy the protocols, although there are some that you can get for free. Dailey's are pretty cheap anyway, at least for how insanely awesome they are ($290 for both BiPolar/ILF and TAGsync or $190 for one). It's a relatively heavy initial investment, but once you have it you'll pretty much be set for life (as long as you treat the equipment well). If you're in any kind of career that involves intellectual work of any kind, it will more than pay for itself. But thinking outside the economics of it, greater awareness, peace of mind, intelligence, creativity and so on can't really be quantified in monetary terms.


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#13 OpaqueMind

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Posted 22 April 2014 - 09:50 PM

 

My EEG instrument doesn't work for measuring brain activity in the 'DC' range, so I haven't tried those designs out yet. I'm going to buy a Q.Wiz at some point, but I've been setting up a sort of meditation room at my house along with some safety measures for my equipment like grounded/anti-static carpet, so I was planning on buying the better instrument after all of that stuff falls into place. I'm a lot more interested in those designs now though. I only started reading about low-frequency neurofeedback recently and a lot of the information about it made it seem a bit mysterious or difficult to understand exactly what it's tailored to (beyond ADD, I guess).

In terms of placement the vast majority of the time the active leads were at Fz and Pz. A few months ago I started alternating between F3 & P3, and F4 & P4, and after that I was going to begin with training synchrony between F3 & P4, and F4 & P3. Do you use similar sites with bipolar training?

To be honest I haven't really been looking for gains in intelligence. I've noticed quite a few cognitive improvements, but since my motives behind using this technology and the problems I was facing in life were mainly in terms of an overall sense of wellbeing, those are almost exclusively the kinds of things I noticed and was critical towards. I will say that I have more mental flexibility, I find it easy to maintain a broad mind about things I had trouble with before, which helps with things like creativity too, but I'm not sure if me noticing that kind of change is a result of sloughing off maladaptive patterns. I think I do get into flow states more easily now, because being in a state of flow used to seem more special to me, but ironically that came alongside a reduced interest in flow states!

 

 

Yeah the literature available on ILF isn't at all geared towards pragmatics and the possible consequences of its use, except a few articles on its efficacy at treating PTSD and Autism. This is a shame because it is such a profound modality which everyone could benefit from. Evidently we're some of the early adopters of this technology among DIYers, so the articles thus far churned out, at least on the more esoteric or unusual kinds of training, are mostly geared towards professionals.

 

What is your reasoning behind crossing hemispheres with the F3 & P4 or F4 & P3 placements? Did Douglas recommend those to you or had you come to that idea on your own?

 

The sites I use with BiPolar/ILF training are quite different, generally interhemispherically opposed sites such as F8 & F7, T3 & T4 or P3 & P4, and occasionally for more symptomatically targeted training such as somatosensory integration, concentration or auditory processing one electrode stays at either T3 & T4 and the other one goes at specific sites within the same hemisphere.

 

How has TAGsync affected the specifics of your meditation practice? Such as depth of concentration, stability of concentration, level of insight, profundity of bliss and so on. Also, how is your stability with TAGsync in general now, meaning, can you keep it above a certain level without wavering?

 

By the way, I noticed the massive sensory boosting you talked about before, almost like low dose LSD, earlier today after my second TAGsync session in quite a while. The hyper colour and 3Dness is really something beautiful:) Establishing a solid support network with ILF has really boosted the efficacy of TAGsync, and my ability to enter those states. Before having done ILF for a while I could barely enter the 'synced zone' with TAG, whereas now I can actually maintain it for short periods.

 

large.jpg


Edited by OpaqueMind, 22 April 2014 - 10:41 PM.

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#14 OpaqueMind

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Posted 23 April 2014 - 10:56 PM

I recently posted a summary of my experience on the Bulletproof forums, mainly about where I was coming from in terms of brain insults, and where I now am in terms of remediation of those deficits and of my cognitive evolution in general. I will repost it here, below, as I feel I did a better job describing my situation and experience than I have so far in this thread. So, here it is;

 

I will give a description of my experience with TAGsync so far, and if anyone has any questions, feel free to ask. First of all I will describe my state prior to training; constant brain fog, social anxiety to the point of isolation, poor concentration, debilitating insomnia, apathy, poor working memory and poor long-term memory. All this and more I gave myself through chronic drug abuse which occurred for many years of my youth. Nootropics generally do not agree with me, as my brain (chemistry? physiology?) is very unusual having undergone continual chemical onslaught from many angles. My brain, and thus my life, were essentially fucked. That is not an understatement. I was a shell of a human being. Before my chemical abuse, which started early, I was supposedly an intelligent child. After (and sometimes within) the chemical storm, I was an empty nothingness. Obviously I had tried a thousand interventions, a thousand ways to restore what I lost. Time helped, abstinence helped, exercise helped, meditation helped, positive nutrition helped. But only so much. The worst thing was the insomnia, because it undercut everything else, easily destroying the progress I might have made by a restless night. Which was every. single. night. I was a complete zombie.

 

I had some success with NO, which I started last October. My sleep improved a little and my general awareness slightly increased, and anxiety dropped a little. At the time I was quite impressed, it was definitely the most effective thing I had tried so far (and I had tried a lot, but mostly it was ineffective because it compounded the insomnia). But the gains were, in retrospect, quite meagre, and I could feel myself hitting a plateau after just a few months. Around that time (late december/early january) I invested in the TAG protocols and got to grips with them. My first session I felt intense bliss while running theta-gamma synchrony, and a sense of spaciousness very much like very deep meditation, and while running alpha-theta, something like deep deep mental relaxation. I have been meditation on and off for a couple of years, but those states were something I had never reached before. This makes sense - the protocols were designed in attempt to emulate the neural signature of the highly advanced states of consciousness experienced by accomplished meditators. The literature on Douglas' site (the inventor) does not explicitly allude to 'enlightenment', and that term is somewhat nebulous and contentious in itself, but I feel that this is the state which progressive acclimatisation may emulate, or at least, if conducted in synchrony with a solid meditation practice, very much advances ascension through the levels of consciousness. Now before you think I'm getting all esoteric here, level of consciousness simply means in this case, awareness. The integration of the mind with itself, and of mind with the body. The neural signature relating to increased levels of awareness is increasing synchrony (which is nested) across all frequencies, with focus on epsilon, alpha, theta and gamma. On the subjective level this relates to experiences of body-groundedness, increased intelligence, increased memory, increased focus, increased positivity (both baseline and contextually-incited), deeper states of meditation, universally enhanced sensorium (all senses ramped up), increased reaction time, increased short term memory, better dream recall, better abstract reasoning ability, greater fluency, higher levels of empathy and a natural state of flow which runs through life. There are more effects but those are the ones that come to mind at the moment. Also, my insomnia is almost completely gone.

 

This is nothing short of miraculous for me. I thought 'I' was lost forever, 'I' being my self-identification with the version of my self that had those abilities which I hold in high regard, the axis of my former existence, namely, the enjoyment of my thought processes. I have been recast, my Being is recrystallising around the seed of mind which is being coaxed to restructure itself towards optimal synchrony. This is an ongoing process... gains in all the areas mentioned are progressively increasing. I have not yet reached the thoughtless, deathless, or infinite state which characterises flawless alpha-theta-gamma synchrony in my everyday existence. But the ultimate aim of neurofeedback is the complete internalisation of the states previously only attained with the help of external feedback... the control loops progressively become part of the mind until they are perfected and one can shift states without wavering, at will. What significantly differentiates the TAGsync approach from other more traditional approaches of up- or down-training particular frequencies is that TAGsync is based on the neuroscience literature, the neural structures found universally in highly-functioning individuals and advanced meditators. Specifically, this protocols fits the literature on the significance of synchrony in the proper execution of many cognitive functions (such as perception, memory, creativity etc) and the Parieto-frontal-integration-theory of intelligence (pFIT). This is in contrast to the traditional approach I mentioned which is more based on the 'normalisation' of the EEG in relation to a database of EEGs which are averaged from a population of 'mentally healthy' individuals. Healthy in this case refers simply to a lack of any overt pathologies. But personally I think this conception of mental health is very misleading. One I find a more fruitful interpretation is that of mental health as a scale of freedom from attachments and aversions, which can also be thought of as cognitive flexibility. On this model, the average person is generally unhealthy, having many attachments and addictions which run underneath the radar of consciousness simply because they are not deemed socially taboo. These are the 'sticking-points' in the mind, the limitations of the individuals mental and behavioural freedom, and interestingly, mental addictions show up neurally as transient and tightly-bound pockets of synchrony which cause de-synchronisation on a wider scale. What's interesting is that TAGsync (and other forms of 'deep state training') have been used to successfully treat addictions, in the process flushing out many other addictions which we might have (for instance, to our self-construct). This fascinates me, because I think what has been found here is something like a universal neural signature of an optimally healthy and optimally functioning brain. If this is right, then TAGsync is not just a panacea for mental health in general but also a universal tool for tuning the brain to function at its highest possible levels. For those interested check out the resource I posted above, and feel free to ask me any questions.


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#15 OpaqueMind

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Posted 24 April 2014 - 09:53 PM

Here's some more interesting and relevant studies I found recently...

 

 

Brain Res. 2013 Nov 6;1536:68-87. doi: 10.1016/j.brainres.2013.08.002. Epub 2013 Aug 9.

Nested theta to gamma oscillations and precise spatiotemporal firing during memory retrieval in a simulated attractor network.
Abstract

Nested oscillations, where the phase of the underlying slow rhythm modulates the power of faster oscillations, have recently attracted considerable research attention as the increased phase-coupling of cross-frequency oscillations has been shown to relate to memory processes. Here we investigate the hypothesis that reactivations of memory patterns, induced by either external stimuli or internal dynamics, are manifested as distributed cell assemblies oscillating at gamma-like frequencies with life-times on a theta scale. For this purpose, we study the spatiotemporal oscillatory dynamics of a previously developed meso-scale attractor network model as a correlate of its memory function. The focus is on a hierarchical nested organization of neural oscillations in delta/theta (2-5Hz) and gamma frequency bands (25-35Hz), and in some conditions even in lower alpha band (8-12Hz), which emerge in the synthesized field potentials during attractor memory retrieval. We also examine spiking behavior of the network in close relation to oscillations. Despite highly irregular firing during memory retrieval and random connectivity within each cell assembly, we observe precise spatiotemporal firing patterns that repeat across memory activations at a rate higher than expected from random firing. In contrast to earlier studies aimed at modeling neural oscillations, our attractor memory network allows us to elaborate on the functional context of emerging rhythms and discuss their relevance. We provide support for the hypothesis that the dynamics of coherent delta/theta oscillations constitute an important aspect of the formation and replay of neuronal assemblies. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled Neural Coding 2012.

Copyright © 2013 The Authors. Published by Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

KEYWORDS:

Attractor model, Cortex, Memory, Neuron firing pattern, Oscillation, Synchrony

 

 

Hippocampus. 2014 Mar;24(3):341-53. doi: 10.1002/hipo.22228. Epub 2013 Nov 26.

Recognition memory and theta-gamma interactions in the hippocampus.
Abstract

Neuronal oscillations and cross-frequency interactions in the rat hippocampus relate in important ways to memory processes and serve as a model for studying oscillatory activity in cognition more broadly. We report here that hippocampal synchrony (CA3-CA1 coherence) increased markedly in the low gamma range as rats were exploring novel objects, particularly those for which the rat subsequently showed good memory. The gammasynchrony varied across phases of the theta rhythm such that coherence was highest at the falling slope and trough of the theta wave. Further, the shape of the theta wave was more asymmetric and elongated at the falling slope during exploration of objects for which the rat subsequently showed good memory as compared with objects for which the rat subsequently showed poor memory. The results showed a strong association between event-related gamma synchrony in rat hippocampus and memory encoding for novel objects. In addition, a novel potential mechanism of cross-frequency interactions was observed whereby dynamic alterations in the shape of theta wave related to memory in correspondence with the strength of gamma synchrony. These findings add to our understanding of how theta and gamma oscillations interact in the hippocampus in the service of memory.

Copyright © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

KEYWORDS:

coherence, gamma, hippocampus, oscillations, recognition memory, theta

 

 

The significance of these in relation to Neurofeedback is that a key aspect of TAGsync and BiPolar/ILF training is Cross-frequency coupling across various frequencies. There are more studies of the above nature available on PubMed, and they generally point to the idea that learning and memory retrieval are mediated in significant part by theta-gamma phase coupling.

 

Also, for a much more comprehensive analysis of the significance of Cross-Frequency-Coupling in various aspects of cognition check out this interesting study - http://www.deepdyve....ks-Yc0yGYtUEI/1



#16 mentat

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Posted 24 April 2014 - 10:43 PM

Is there any way one of you guys could get me a lil intro on how to start with eeg-neurofeedback? Im currently only doing hrv-feedback which is nice but im looking for more. What are good products to start with? Is it possible to built a machine yourself?



#17 OpaqueMind

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Posted 25 April 2014 - 09:57 PM

I highly recommend Pocket Neurobics' products for all things neurofeedback. I wrote a post a couple up about the machine I have, the Q-Wiz, and its range of capabilities.

Getting started requires first an NFB machine, a platform on which to run protocols eg BioExplorer, and then the protocols themselves. After that the process is quite simple. You need to know what a good signal looks like, how to get one, how to operate the interface and how to tailor the protocols to your particular problems and/or cognitive aspects you want to improve.

If anyone has the required materials but needs a little help setting up and getting acquainted with the process I would be happy to help. If so just shoot me a PM.

Also, as far as I know it isn't possible to build a machine yourself. The price for a good quality setup is relatively high, but will continue to decrease in price as it has done for decades. The original machines cost over £100,000 whereas now you can get a really awesome set up for just over £1000.

Edited by OpaqueMind, 25 April 2014 - 10:03 PM.


#18 Invariant

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Posted 26 April 2014 - 02:30 PM

Anyone have experience with the NeuroSky MindWave product? http://neurosky.com/...nsors/hardware/

 

Looks like it is less feature-rich than the Q-Wiz, but it's much cheaper. I guess you can't do the TAG-sync protocol with this one, since it has only one EEG channel. 



#19 Invariant

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Posted 26 April 2014 - 03:50 PM

Is there any way one of you guys could get me a lil intro on how to start with eeg-neurofeedback? Im currently only doing hrv-feedback which is nice but im looking for more. What are good products to start with? Is it possible to built a machine yourself?

 

Check this out: http://openeeg.sourc.../doc/index.html



#20 Strangelove

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Posted 26 April 2014 - 03:57 PM

Opaque,

 

Reading some of your posts in the past you seem like a thoughtful, intelligent guy, looking for cognitive self improvement. I am looking for the same think, but after years of trying different approaches for "internal self improvement" I now value approaches that can have a good external impact in my life. Could you elaborate on how you think the TAG-sync protocol could enhance someone's social and possibly "work life"?



#21 OpaqueMind

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Posted 26 April 2014 - 10:09 PM

 

Anyone have experience with the NeuroSky MindWave product? http://neurosky.com/...nsors/hardware/

 

Looks like it is less feature-rich than the Q-Wiz, but it's much cheaper. I guess you can't do the TAG-sync protocol with this one, since it has only one EEG channel. 

 

All I've heard about them hasn't been encouraging, mostly problems about the signal and in cases of decent signal a very limited range of approaches. I also haven't heard any rave reviews of what it's done for people in the cases that it has worked, or even for any other neurofeedback protocols for that matter, although that's not necessarily because great things haven't happened with them. Maybe they're all hiding? You'd think though, if incredible transformations had occurred, that people would be screaming from the digital rooftops.

 

As far as I can tell, TAGsync is revolutionary in its approach, in that it operates to bolster the networks universally implicated in intelligence (at least in humans). See the holy trinity of Default-mode-network, salience network and central-executive network. It's a heavy initial investment, but definitely worth it. The methodology behind the approach seems solid as far as I can tell, and if it is accurate then TAG training should work for anyone and everyone.

 

Opaque,

 

Reading some of your posts in the past you seem like a thoughtful, intelligent guy, looking for cognitive self improvement. I am looking for the same think, but after years of trying different approaches for "internal self improvement" I now value approaches that can have a good external impact in my life. Could you elaborate on how you think the TAG-sync protocol could enhance someone's social and possibly "work life"?

 

I can relate my own experience with the social aspect; I am more engaging in conversations, more animated and I get the feeling that I'm more enjoyable to be around. Because my memory and flexibility of thought are increased, conversation on complex topics is much more enjoyable as I can draw from a greater repository of information while also weaving a more cohesive tapestry of understanding with the other person. Since patterns emerge more readily, insights come with greater ease.

 

Another important aspect is that I can reframe faster, so I can understand other people's points much faster, respond in a manner which integrates their contribution better. The conversation is more dynamic because of this, and my rapport with people is naturally elevated. Sometimes people get in ruts where they just explicate whats been on their mind recently, essentially talking past each other. My newfound mental flexibility makes it so that I'm more often than not really communicating with people.

 

 

My awareness in general is heightened, and continuing to become more so, so I notice subtle tonal or bodily signals which would previously have slipped past my radar. This adds other emotional dynamics to a conversation, which I used to be oblivious to. Either because of this, or perhaps as a separate mechanism, my ability to empathise and my inclination to do so have both increased quite a bit. My emotional range in general is greater, and I feel more than I used to, which also makes talking to people more interesting. And I guess it also means I'm more interesting to them... I think of the example that it's never fun to talk to an apathetic person. I'd much rather talk to someone who is excitable and emotionally engaged.

 

The last thing I can think of that relates to sociability is that I play more, I'm less serious and just more fun in general. It's a kind of light-heartedness which is quite infectious. You know how people kind of have two modes - serious mode and playful mode... well I used to be stuck in serious mode almost all the time. Now I have fun with others, with myself, with life in general. People know, they can sense that feeling, that approach to the world, and it puts them at ease.

 

That's all I can think of right now. In terms of work I'm not sure, as I don't have any hands on experience there, but I would say that anything which bolsters both sociability and intelligence is probably going to be effective in that regard.


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#22 Invariant

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Posted 27 April 2014 - 10:24 AM

I'm getting more and more interested in NFB, but given the expense I feel that a rigorous evaluation of the evidence is necessary. Although the NFB websites (e.g. http://www.isnr.net/) have a large number of references, many of them are published in low-impact journals dedicated to neuro/biofeedback (which might be expected to be overly positive about NFB / lack rigour), and are methodologically weak. The state of the field with regard to treatment of ADHD (generally considered the indication for which the the evidence for NFB is most solid), is summarized in the following study:

 

EEG neurofeedback for ADHD: double-blind sham-controlled randomized pilot feasibility trial

Arnold, L Eugene; Lofthouse, Nicholas; Hersch, Sarah; Pan, Xueliang; Hurt, Elizabeth; Bates, Bethany; Kassouf, Kathleen; Moone, Stacey; Grantier, Cara

Journal of attention disorders, 2013

 

The first publication on NF for ADHD was by Lubar and Shouse (1976), who reported significant IQ increases and behavioral improvements in an ABAB design. Since then, numerous case studies, open trials, and partially controlled studies have been published or presented at conferences, most of which have suffered from significant methodologi- cal limitations. To date, 15 studies have used a randomized controlled design, including 8 published studies (7 in peer- reviewed journals and 1 book chapter; deBeus & Kaiser, 2011; Gevensleben, Holl, Albrecht, Schlamp, et al., 2009; Gevensleben, Holl, Albrecht, Vogel, et al., 2009; Holtmann et al., 2009; Lansbergen, van Dongen-Boomsma, Buitelaar, & Slaats-Willemse, 2011; Leins et al., 2007; Lévesque, Beauregard, & Mensour, 2006; Linden, Habib, & Radojevic, 1996; Perreau-Linck, Lessard, Levesque, & Beauregard, 2010) and 6 presented at conferences (Fine, Goldman, & Sandford, 1994; McGrady, Prodente, Fine, & Donlin, 2007; Orlandi & Greco, 2004; Palsson, Pope, Ball, Turner, & Nevin, 2001; Picard, Moreau, Guay, & Achim, 2006; Urichuk et al., 2009). Three of these were reported after the study reported here was initiated. Most studies reported sig- nificant reductions in ADHD symptoms compared with the control group and 4 showed neurophysiological changes specifically associated with NF. In the 9 studies that reported ESs (Cohen’s d), for overall ADHD symptoms, there was a posttreatment mean ES of d = 0.67, considered a strong medium ES, between NF and the control condition. These results are promising but not conclusive. Only 5 of the 15 studies used blinding and sham-NF designs. Three of those five did not demonstrate differences between the real NF and sham-NF groups (Lansbergen et al., 2011; Perreau- Linck et al., 2010; Urichuk et al., 2009). Furthermore, only two of the double-blind, sham-controlled randomized stud- ies have undergone peer-reviewed publication (Lansbergen et al., 2011; Perreau-Linck et al., 2010) and neither was able to show superiority of NF over sham (however, a third, reported in a chapter deBeus & Kaiser, 2011, did show NF superiority in a secondary analysis). In addition, studies varied in the number and frequency of NF treatments given (18-45 and 1X-5X/week, respectively); hence, it is not clear how many treatments are needed or how frequently they should be given. Finally, some NF experts questioned the feasibility of a sham placebo treatment because of its poten- tial negative effect on recruitment, retention, and blinding. With numerous open and partially controlled studies suffering design flaws, and with promising results from a glamorous treatment involving intense involvement and commitment that invites nonspecific placebo response, rigorous testing for a specific effect is greatly needed, especially considering NF’s expense in time and money. 

 

In this pilot study, they evaluated their sham-NFB setup, and it appears to have worked:

 

Blinding outcome. Of 34 participants at Treatment 40, 35% of children and 29% of parents said that they did not know which treatment they had been assigned to and declined to guess. Only 32% of children and 24% of par- ents guessed correctly, with 32% and 47%, respectively, guessing incorrectly.

 

But they found not effects for NFB vs sham:

 

Comparison of active to sham treatment. The clinical and neuropsychological outcomes in general showed no appar- ent advantage of active treatment over placebo. In fact, the sham placebo treatment showed nominally better results on many measures (e.g., Figure 4). Both randomized treat- ments showed a large significant pre–post ES of improve- ment by Treatment 24 on parent SNAP ratings of ADHD symptoms, especially inattention, but there was no advan- tage for active treatment as supplied by the CyberLearning technology used in this pilot

 

Finally, they mention some limitations of their study:

 

This pilot feasibility trial has many limitations, including small sample size (39 randomized, 34 completers), self- selection for families willing to give up or delay medication for 5 months, and failure to select for high theta–beta ratios. Our mean theta–beta ratio of 4.8 is appreciably less than the theta–beta ratios of 6.6 to 8.5 reported by Monastra and Snyder for 6- to 11-years-olds with ADHD (Monastra et al., 1999; Snyder & Hall, 2006). The inclusion of some with low theta–beta ratio could have obscured a signal from those with high theta–beta ratio; however, examination of response by baseline theta–beta ratio did not support that possibility. The biggest limitation was the choice of NF technology, which used fuzzy logic to alter the reinforce- ment threshold from minute to minute, adapting the thresh- old to just-completed performance and not requiring focus on the NF training itself. Although this seemed a good choice at the time and was derived from technology used by NASA to train astronauts, most NF experts question its effect; they recommend manual changing of threshold and focusing on the EEG as a task rather than working indi- rectly through a videogame.

 

OpaqueMind, your experiences sound really promising, but as I'm sure you know well, this forum is riddled with amazing user reports that end up being attributed to placebo / mania / confounding factors such as other drugs / supplements. Would you comment regarding the latter? Are you taking any supplements or pharmaceuticals? Has anything changed in your regime that may have caused your positive experiences?

 

Finally, please do not take this as an attack on NFB or its supporters. I'm just trying to get to the bottom of this.


Edited by Novotropic, 27 April 2014 - 10:25 AM.

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#23 OpaqueMind

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Posted 27 April 2014 - 11:25 AM

Not at all, I understand the desire for scientific rigour, especially when such a significant amount of money is required. The difficultly with this is threefold, in that

 

- 'Neurofeedback' is an umbrella term which captures a very wide range of various approaches which deliver a variety of outcomes. As such, any literature on the topic is not necessarily applicable to all kinds of neurofeedback, which is especially true concerning protocols which diverge significantly from traditional approaches, such as TAGsync, or Infra-Low Frequency

 

- The vast majority of the literature is primarily based on the use of neurofeedback for the remediation of symptoms, which may or may not be extrapolatable to actual gains in non-deficient people. For the same reason, rarely have things like intelligence, creativity or awareness been evaluated in these cases

 

- TAG sync itself is relatively nascent, and I am not aware of any scientific studies on the approach. All we currently have to go on is whether or not you think the reasoning behind the approach is sound, and whether to believe any accounts on the internet.

 

In terms of the possibility of placebo, I have now ruled it out entirely. The effects are too consistent and profound, as well as my initial problems too deeply rooted, for this to be down to a placebo.

 

I take a small number of supplements, and no other nootropics as they generally don't agree with me (which will hopefully change gradually as I continue to recover). For clarification, I take; C60-oo, NAC, B-Complex, Fish Oil, Folic acid, ALCAR, Vitamin D, magnesium, calcium, probiotics and occasionally berberine.


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#24 MRBIOFEEDBACK

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Posted 27 April 2014 - 01:34 PM


I work in neurofeedback and can tell you this. Session goals should be targeted to the individual. There is no one traiing protocol that fits everyone. Everyone's baseline will be different and thresholds to the "rewards" need to be adjusted. There are a few companies doing good neurofeedback software/hardware (Thought Technology, Nexus, etc... ). Also, in choosing equipment (which can be costly btw about 2K$ at its lowest point) please choose MEDICAL grade equipment and not some consumer grade BS that doesn't measure frequencies with high enough accuracy (BrainMaster hmm hmm). 

 

Neurofeedback is not something  you can self-implement. You need to be supervised and guided by a professional!!!! Trust me in saying that attempting to do this may prove useless or even detrimental if not done properly. 

 

There are numerous studies showing that it works for ADD as well so people with that condition may want to look into it as it is particularly helpful. However, it is costly and while the effects are more or less permanent after a series of sessions, it may not be something everyone can afford. 

 

Setting up is pretty straightforward IF you know what you are doing. maybe 5-10 minutes total. Plug in the sensors, prep the skin and attach electrodes (usually one or two on scalp and a few clipped to ears).

 

Again, it works, its side effect free for the most part but it needs to be implemented by a professional! For instance, messing with low frequency waves can have DIRE impact on your emotional well being.

 

If anyone wants to know more   PM me or something i'm glad to help.


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#25 Strangelove

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Posted 27 April 2014 - 02:22 PM

 

The last thing I can think of that relates to sociability is that I play more, I'm less serious and just more fun in general. It's a kind of light-heartedness which is quite infectious. You know how people kind of have two modes - serious mode and playful mode... well I used to be stuck in serious mode almost all the time. Now I have fun with others, with myself, with life in general. People know, they can sense that feeling, that approach to the world, and it puts them at ease.

 

 

 

Very interesting and helpful reply, what you say about the serious mode describes me exactly.

 

 

- TAG sync itself is relatively nascent, and I am not aware of any scientific studies on the approach. All we currently have to go on is whether or not you think the reasoning behind the approach is sound, and whether to believe any accounts on the internet. 

 

Could you give your understanding of what is the reasoning behind this approach? I read some material from the site you linked, but I did not really get how this approach can be so useful.

 

TAG Sync may work because it exercises the networks involved in intelligence, error-correction and maturation. With improved valid cognition and error correction phase resets herald updated neurophysiological networks. The upregulated networks are also those involved in the epigenetic changes seen in advanced meditation states.

 

I really do not have a background on this, when he says networks, does he mean the white matter of the brain or something else?



#26 Invariant

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Posted 27 April 2014 - 05:36 PM

All valid points, opaque. Regarding your third point,

 

TAG sync itself is relatively nascent, and I am not aware of any scientific studies on the approach. All we currently have to go on is whether or not you think the reasoning behind the approach is sound, and whether to believe any accounts on the internet

 

While I'm willing to go by a bunch of positive user reports alone (accepting that we don't yet know how and why things work), I'd indeed like to at least try to understand the rationale. Unfortunately, I find the TAGsync website hard to follow, as the text appears to meander around without much structure. Also, many claims are made but none are clearly supported with appropriate citations. Makes it hard to know what is actually suported by evidence and what is pure speculation or supported by personal experience only. Would you be willing to share your understanding of the supposed mechanism of action of the TAGsync protocol?
 
In your OP you stated:

 

As well as BiPolar training I have also been using Alpha-Theta-Gamma Synrchrony training, a protocol which was designed with reference to the unique brain states observed in long-time meditators. In contrast to the above, this protocol trains synchrony across various brain areas, and as such can directly induce hebbian learning across and between pathways indicated under electrode placement. That in itself is pretty cool, but when combined with the P-FIT theory of intelligence is even more awesome (research article) (public article). Basically, it allows you to directly influence and bolster the neural networks universally implicated in intelligence.

Could you elaborate on

1) what are the unique states observed in long-time meditators you are refering to? I guess the answer is "alpha-theta synchrony", but I'm still not quite sure what that means in terms of the signals. Do you have any sources regarding the meditators and the specific measure of synchrony that was used?
2) I'm reading the P-FIT paper, but it's not clear to me yet how this theory can inform neurofeedback protocols. My guess is something like this: the authors list a number of brain regions that are thought to explain individual differences in intelligence, and claim that these must be properly integrated in order to function properly (d'oh?). Hence, by training our brain to "properly integrate" (whatever that means) these regions, we may become more intelligent. I've put the words "properly integrate" in quotes, becuase it is not clear at all (to me) what this would mean. I haven't delved into the P-FIT paper very deeply yet, so this may be explained somewhere. Is it?

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#27 OpaqueMind

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Posted 27 April 2014 - 07:21 PM

I can offer my limited take on how it works, but the inventor gives a better picture than I can. Have you read the account on this site? That's the clearest description I've seen, albeit without many references. I've had a brief dive into the literature but there's just so much of it and I'm not entirely sure what to search for. It isn't entirely clear to me from his site which exact neural correlates he was prompted to attempt to emulate. The first article from this blog post sheds some light on the neural correlates of the state, although in a somewhat indirect fashion, as it is about the neurophysiology of the near-death experience, which has strong overlap with the phenomenology of deep meditative states and experiences of significantly elevated consciousness. These are neural states highly similar to those of long-time meditators in meditation.

 

How I understand TAGsync training to work is that training alpha-theta-gamma synchrony increases the likelihood of phase-resets, which in turn provokes the strengthening of the neural circuitry between those electrode points. This approach can be applied at any two points across the brain to bolster the connectivity between them (and generally runs through sub cortical areas as well, such as the cingulate cortex), but Douglas has paid specific attention to three networks - the default mode network, the central executive network, and the salience network. I found a simple discussion about these here. The electrode placement for these sites is Pz+Fz, F3+P3 and F4+P4. If you want to understand the exact rationale behind the approach then you should email the inventor with your questions, if he's not busy I'm sure he'll be able to help you out.

 

Parieto-frontal integration can be targeted by placing the electrodes at F3+P3 and F4+P4. Integration in this case simply means highly interconnected, which leads to more efficient information transfer. By training broad-band synchrony across wide-spread regions of the brain, the brain becomes more integrated across specific important networks, such as the CEN, DMN etc, which in turn boosts the information processing abilities of the entire brain, as these are important hubs which are central in information transfer. It's like if you upgrade a two-lane road between two bustling cities into a superhighway then commerce will naturally spill over into the satellite towns around these cities. The inventor did not base his NFB approach on this theory, as it emerged after he developed it, though it does seem to corroborate the approach.

 

If we take him at his word, then he developed this approach in direct relation to the available neuroscientific literature. I can't see how else he would have done so, as you can't just go messing around with NFB and see what happens. It's frustrating that there aren't (as far as I can see) direct links to the studies he mentions he specifically developed his protocols from. Unfortunately a lot of that stuff is behind closed doors/requires access to journals, so perhaps that is why. I have both personally corresponded with and spoken to him on several occasions, and he seems like a highly intelligent, thoughtful and considerate person. He is also a professional Neurofeedback practitioner himself, and I can't fathom why he would lie about his approach or what he would stand to gain from doing so. Though I understand why you don't want to just 'take his word for it'.

 

Other than a deep an thorough search of the literature, assuming you have access to the bulk of it, the only other thing I can think of to boost the seeming likelihood of this approach being as significant as I have made it out to be would be to wait for other people's reports. I am corresponding with several people who are highly intrigued, so there should be others who have used this kind of NFB enough to give a decent account in a few months.


Edited by OpaqueMind, 27 April 2014 - 07:25 PM.

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#28 Invariant

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Posted 27 April 2014 - 07:56 PM

Wonderful, thanks a ton!

 

Please note that my skepticism is not born out of some kind of antipathy toward the creator of TAGsync - I'm sure he is a well meaning person. I just wished he had been a bit more rigorous in providing references for his claims and more precise in his definitions.

 

Regarding paywalled papers: if you ever need something that you do not have access to, let me know. I work in a university, so I can acces most journals. I've already collected a large number of pdfs on this topic.

 

Do you know of any other user reports from people seeking for cognitive enhancement from NFB, in particular TAGsync?


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#29 OpaqueMind

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Posted 27 April 2014 - 08:26 PM

No problem man!  

 

I too have an interest in clarifying the underlying mechanisms, but I was quite gung-ho in my attitude with the initial approach to NFB as I was just so sick of how I was, plus I lacked the cognitive capacity for any significant amount of research. The weary extend a hand fast to those who offer salvation. Luckily I had the money to spare and I dived straight in. Hopefully we can lay the groundwork for a solid general understanding of how and why this approach works as it does, and what exactly it does to neural networks.

 

Thanks for the offer, I'll be sure to take it up if I find any really interesting papers. Hopefully some papers on TAGsync will come out at some point, if that ever happens and you find them, let us know  :) I have a feeling though that we'll be waiting a while, as TAGsync seems to currently be a fringe approach to NFB and the old paradigms still reign king.

 

About reports from others who have used this, the only other person I know of is the longecity user umop 3pisdn, who posted his most detailed report in this thread. He was who I found out about this from, and his is the only other report I've found on TAGsync. Regarding other types of NFB reports geared towards cognitive enhancement, there is likewise a strange lack. I think traditional NFB approaches were minimally effective at optimising cognition, more geared towards the remeditation of symptoms caused by unusual brain activation patterns.



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#30 OpaqueMind

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Posted 28 April 2014 - 12:19 PM

Reading the description of the rationale behind TAGsync, I noticed he says this at one point;

 

 

 

The mindful brain state appears to be characterized by global broad band synchrony, the kind that allows a group of fish or birds to suddenly coordinate into a super-organism when confronted with predator stress - all without an identifiable central command.    

 

 This offers us some interesting clues as to what other changes Theta-Alpha-Gamma synchrony training might cause in the brain.

 

What he's hinting at in the above is something called criticality, which is a state the healthy brain (and many other physical systems) occupies, a delicate balance between too much order and too much chaos, between seizure and coma. This balance is regulated by inhibition/excitation, and enables the brain to be maximally adaptive to stimuli while still maintaining a coherent structure. I highly recommend this article for a more in-depth description of criticality and the brain.

 

I interpret the connection as being that when global broad-band synchrony is present, it means that the system as a whole is calm, as distant points are synchronised, which implies that perturbations of the system are at a minimum. This correlates with the state of non-narrative awareness experienced during pure TAG synchrony. Usually the brain has all sorts of narratives and desires constantly rippling and distorting the dynamics of the structure, like many chaotic waves in a body of water, or a shoal of fish being attacked by several predators. This constant and multi-seeded activity disrupts the synchronisation and therefore also the optimisation of criticality within the dynamical network. When the system is 'quiet' and the noise of various seeds competing for resonance dies down, a single perturbation can ripple throughout the entire network. This is the essence of mindfulness; one-pointed attention which acts as a potent amplification of awareness. I think it is also why insights often arise spontaneously during meditation - the subtle movement can ripple into consciousness once the cacophony of habitual thought dies down.

 

In silence, the brain naturally tends towards synchrony, like water in an empty swimming pool. The sensitivity and criticality of the network are then at their peak. The phase resets that occur during training become more frequent as time goes on, beyond the neurofeedback process itself. This makes sense, because as I said in an earlier post, certain central brain networks with widespread hubs are being stimulated and strengthened, so these distant points are more likely to tend towards synchrony as the increased integration speeds the process at which the mind resynchronizes (regains optimal criticality), which is the basis of awareness, or more technically, the integration of information. This fits in with mine and umop's experience of heightened awareness and greatly heightened meditative ability.

 

Now I want to offer some of my wilder speculations on the subject. First of all, the buddhist model of mental health as freedom from attachments and aversions fits in with this model of neural criticality, in that an attachment or aversion is a 'sticking point' within the criticality of the network, which disrupts the ability of the network (and thus also behaviour/thoughts/emotions etc) to adapt to both internal and external stimuli. This causes a rift and disrupts the synchrony of the brain as a whole, as these points resist integration into the wider network. As such it becomes a kind of anchor around which thought/emotion/behaviour patterns crystallize. I'm thinking of repressed/traumatic memories in particular. The ultimate aim of many psychotherapies is the bringing to consciousness of previously unconscious memories in order to integrate these aspects of the self-construct. Once integrated, they essentially dissolve, and the stickiness of thought, emotion and behaviour dissolve with it. These are inherently unconscious, as they resist integration, yet they still influence the behaviour of the network in their disintegration, like a protruding rock in a river causing a rift in the flow. The successful use of TAG synchrony training in treating both addictions (which are essentially extreme attachments) and reintegrating traumatic events corroborates this theory. As such, attachments, aversions, addictions and traumas are pockets of desynchronisation which ripple outwards and influence the structure of the network as a whole, as local parts of the structural whole tend to adapt to their neighbours. Since these attractors refuse to be integrated, they cause the network as a whole to adapt to them, in turn reducing the criticality of the network-as-a-whole and it's ability to adapt to novel internal/external information.

 

What I'm thinking of specifically here is the most common addiction of all - that of our self-construct. This is the attractor field around which the majority of our behaviours, thoughts and emotions revolve around, and thus a limitation on our entire evolution. Likewise, the dogmas we hold (of which the self and its sovereignty are a subset) are pockets of desynchrony around which brain networks then organise, which delimit the wider possibilities of the thoughts we can entertain, the emotions we can feel, and the actions we can take. Although these seeds of desynchronisation are necessary for thought (think of the assumptions which lie behind every thought), too many of them brings a certain incoherency, chaos and confusion to the mind, and each additional sticking-point closes off the possibilities of dynamical restructuring and behavioural adaptation. So, what I think TAG synchrony and ultimately, enlightenment, correspond to in systems terms is something like the transient and permanent (respectively) dissolution of fixed attractor fields in the brain aka total integration. As the mindbrain rests in this state more and more, it bolsters the networks which enable it to do so, allowing the brain to adapt to an attractor-less (less sticky) state, and also expanding the depth (degree to which information percolates) and flexibility of the mind. This fits in with both mine and umop's experience (as he reported above) of increased mental flexibility, decreased attachments and better meditation, which is essentially the spontaneous and self-organising restructuring of the mind to stimuli.

.

The significance of this for our personal happiness, as well as our intellectual abilities, is profound. Why our happiness? Think of what makes us happy. When something goes according to plan, when we achieve something we've been aiming at for a long time, when we have a great conversation with a friend, when we're in the flow of creativity, when an insight binds the disparate threads of thought into something unified, when you open yourself completely to a lover and they reciprocate in kind, when you lose yourself to music and so on... What do all these have in common? They are instances of increased integration of one kind or another! Likewise, what makes us unhappy... rejection, failing to do something we aimed at, arguments, being denigrated etc... all instances of disintegration (think cognitive dissonance), which would be represented in the brain as neural signatures which refuse to be integrated, which on the psychological level refers to non-acceptance. Ben Goertzel's model of happiness as the 'feeling of increasing integration' relates here. This picture fits with the Buddhist model of suffering as caused by attachment and aversions, which as I speculated above correspond to desynchronisation within a network, or overly sticky attractors. This also explains why deep meditative states feel so blissful, and are also experienced while doing some form of gamma-synchrony training - the mind/brain integrating with itself is a naturally blissful experience. My experience with TAGsync so far is that I am steadily becoming more flexible, and my self-construct is somewhat weakening in its grip on my mind. I feel this because I have less self-referential thoughts, and my mind is more free to wander about other things without the neurotic, habitual and unprovoked evaluation in terms of my 'self'.

 

If you have anything to contribute and/or criticisms of these ideas, I'd love to hear them! I will probably do some more research to try and reinforce/destroy these ideas at some point, but to be honest I cba right now. I'd rather sit here and speculate :laugh:  What would support the case is a comprehensive and detailed neural analysis of desynchronisation/synchronisation in people with various degrees of attachments, or even just what psychological phenomena these correspond to, and also analyses of the personality scale of openness/closedness in relation to attractor dynamics in the living brain.

 

One last thing, I'm trying to understand what the neural difference between broad-band synchrony and seizure activity is, as this also displays strong synchrony across wide brain structures. Perhaps the latter is run-away synchrony, while the former is controlled? What's interesting is that the reported phenomenology (the structure of phenomena) of temporal lobe epilepsy is very similar to reported states of 'enlightenment'.


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