I learnt something new today through experience, not just being told it's so.
It began when during my brain biofeedback, we moved from the bowling neurofeedback screen to one with a logo on it. “What's that?” I asked my brain biofeedback trainer.
“It's a video screen of a snowboarder,” was the reply. She was going to skip it because it wasn't supposed to be on the menu. But since I'd never seen it before, and it looked snazzy and cool to me — way more sophisticated and fun than the usual screens — we thought we'd give it a try. To watch the video of the snowboarder doing his tricks, all I had to do was keep my muscle tension (EMG) down and my gamma brainwaves up and stay focussed.
I began. I coughed. We began again.
But… But… What’s going on with my EMG? I’d begun the training hour with fabulously low tension in the warm-up HRV (heart rate variability) screens, yet despite all my attempts to maintain a good posture and to keep my breathing deep and rhythmic, my EMG kept going into the red. Still, I was being drawn into the snowboarder and all his tricks, and I kept the video running fairly easily too. My head didn't even hurt. It was a nice change from the usual animated screens.
I awaited the awesome results.
I discovered why my tension went up, why my focus improved, why this kind of screen is real bad.
My EMG went up for the same reason everyone's does: we naturally get into the action of the snowboarder, moving with him, feeling the adrenalin rush with him. It's on an unconscious level so that even though you can be the most skilled person on the planet at calming yourself, your EMG will still rise.
Hmmm…me no like.
But worse my gamma brainwave to EMG ratio dropped! What happened? I had hardly felt my brain working, it had been so effortless to focus and to run the video with my brain. So shouldn't that mean better results?
Nope, the effortlessness was the problem.
Videos and TV are entertainment. They — not us — increase our focus because they are something we like and enjoy. Since they “do the work,” we do not need to think or use our brain to increase focus. Because part of my brain was able to shut down for a snooze while the rest of it was being entertained, and none of my brain was thinking, my gamma brainwaves were not needed either.
It was like being on a tandem bike with the video doing all the work in front and me hanging out in back, feet up on the struts, going for a ride and enjoying the view.
This is no way to train the brain. No way to exercise it. This is not what I want.
I want my ratio to go up not down. I want my brain to think not to be entertained. I want to increase the production and power of my gamma brainwaves, not turn them off.
The animated graphics screens are boring in contrast to that cool video. They have one look, unlike the video's changing scenes and perspectives that continually grab the attention. Animating the graphics screens takes effort, unlike running the video. Unlike with the video, you must consciously engage. The graphics screens never show anything but the same graphic moving or not moving — no changing scenes, colours, perspectives and no risky action. To get the graphics moving, you must think about it, you must make yourself focus, you must want to.
In contrast to the video, the last neurofeedback screen, the racing sailboats, gave me such a concentration headache underneath the CZ electrode that I badly wanted to rub my head. Unfortunately, the electrode was in the way, and I had the cool down HRV screen with eyes closed (EC) yet to go. But my EMG had gone down, and my gamma waves had powered up again. I was happy.
So no more video games. It’s all bowling, plane, and the dreaded racing sailboats screens from now on.
In other biofeedback news: My trainer increased the training time for one screen to four minutes for the first time. Adding one extra minute taxes the brain (I know, I know, playing a computer game for only three minutes sounds like peanuts, but try doing it with your brain and not your hands — you'll feel it!). It taxes it so much, I was unable to do four minutes the first time I did brain biofeedback in 2005 – 2007 until my second year of training. I couldn't even imagine being able to do it. Yet this time around, I got up to four minutes in only five sessions. Not bad.
I hit the 1.0 mark! Woot! My gamma brainwave and EMG powers were both 1.36μeV during the first neurofeedback screen, for a ratio of 1.0. I also began above 0.90 and didn't dip back at all into the 0.80s, for the first time ever.
This is further remarkable because today was an extremely hot day, breaking temperature records. As soon as I stepped outside, I could feel my heart speed up, and in fact, it was 10 to 15 beats per minute faster than in previous sessions. I was able to get it down to 114 b/m once I cooled down in the air conditioning after about a half hour, but that was still over 10 above the lowest I'd been able to achieve. Heat also makes it harder to think.
“What’s my goal now?” I asked the trainer. “We don’t know,” was her honest reply. Apparently, it all depends upon me and my progress to determine what the ultimate target ratio should be. Talk about being a guinea pig.
But, hey, it's fun!
The results (notice the dip down during the video neurofeedback screen):
|Date||Baseline||HRV EC||HRV||Fdbk 1||Fdbk 2||Fdbk 3||Fdbk 4||Fdbk 5||HRV EC|