Well, as I mentioned in my last post, we changed up the LORETA protocol a bit this week. We used an educational-type DVD – David Attenborough narrating BBC’s Frozen Planet – holy cow, what incredible photography! And the music was dramatic and pulled on all the emotional muscles, even though I didn’t feel emotion or fear (poor seal, those Killer Whales were cruel) very much . . . well, okay, my brain did decide to stop working at the moment the whale was dragging the seal off its little ice floe with this terrible look in the seal’s eyes of succumbing to its fate. And it didn’t bring the picture back up till the moment would be well over.
Attenborough’s narration had two challenging things for me: first, just following and processing it in real time; second I still have trouble with accents, and so his accent added to the difficulty. We also turned on subtitles to add the challenge of reading. I decided to do the first three five-minute screens with subtitles on, and the second set of three screens with subtitles off.
As expected, every time Attenborough began speaking and I began reading, zoop, the DVD picture would shrink. The first screen of the LORETA neurofeedback session is always a bit of a warm-up, of getting used to how your brain is interacting with the DVD and software that day. You’re not fully in control, like when you’re first learning a new skill in basketball. You’re not quite sure what you’re doing. (I assume the reason is because your brain has changed enough as spontaneous healing continues after each session, so that the brain you train is not quite the same brain as the previous weeks.) By the end of the five minutes, you have a sense of how it’s going to go for the session. This week, I knew it was going to go much better. Yes, the darn picture kept shrinking on me willy nilly every time I tried to read. But I felt better. I physically felt better! It wasn’t so much that my muscles had stopped feeling weak and stiff (my traps, particularly on the right, are bricked, as my athletic therapist put it), as a feeling of well-being was growing in me. And a feeling of hope. Both my trainer and I were startled to see I achieved 179 in score because it looked like I wasn’t holding the picture to full size that much.
Why the good score and feeling better? Even though I’m reading, the software is still training the same networks and symptoms. And so we saw the same coherence pairs showing up as in previous sessions. Why I felt better could be because psychologically I’m comfortable with reading; written words are comfortingly familiar. Yet I don’t watch DVDs or TV shows or movies at home with the closed captioning on. It’s too distracting for one thing. So why do I like it during training? Maybe it’s because reading engages those problematic networks with more strength and pull to keep them up than simply listening to narration or watching a movie. Clearly, no dialogue, narration, or subtitles is not stimulating enough for me. But reading seems to potentiate narration.
The next screen, I began working. And it was hard. My breathing and focus and eyes were all working it, trying to sustain the networks and coherences so as to keep the picture visible and, moreso, full size. Every time the picture disappeared into a rabbit hold of black nothingness, I let go, straightened up, and tried to refocus without getting anxious about how long it was taking to get the picture to reappear. The score went up to 181. At least it was up.
The third screen I worked just as hard. It really didn’t feel any different than the second screen, except that the picture wouldn’t automatically disappear every time I began to read, but wow, the score shot up to 196. What did you do, my trainer asked. Heck if I know. I guess my brain liked that kind of workout. We noticed the box showing the Average Z Score per Second looked messier in the three reading screens (they looked cleaner in the non-reading screens that followed). Last week, we’d seen clean seconds of all coherences below the threshold of 2.1 standard deviations in between the peaks where all the coherences and brainwave amplitudes rose above the threshold. This week, individual coherences would pop over the threshold in between those blank-out peaks.
During the fourth screen, my trainer switched the subtitles off. It took a couple of minutes to find the part in the DVD where she could access setup, and I tried to keep the picture visible as much as I could. Perhaps because of that, or because of the weirdness of not seeing any text on the screen and only listening to narration (which rather felt like flying without a net), the score dropped to 175. But after that, the scores went up. It really felt like a cascading effect of improvement was going on in those neurons inside my skull, an effect that felt stronger in the sixth screen. 191 and 190.
That means I not only achieved my highest score yet – 196 – I also achieved three screens above 190 for the first time. Woot!