Nov 162016

The substitute brain trainer I had last week meant I could persuade her to do extra gamma brainwave training. My next appointment wasn’t for a month, and I was looking for the de-stressing effect of gamma brainwaves.

I had no idea the surprise gamma would give me!

First surprise came right after: the stairs at the ADD Centre office confuse my brain. No contrast, my CNIB orientation mobility trainer explained. But after gamma training, I was halfway down the stairs when I suddenly realized I wasn’t using my cane, I was walking down them normally. Whoa!

Second surprise: the street was so visible. I’d forgotten how enhancing gamma brainwaves upped my perceptual abilities.

Third surprise, related to the second: I knew where the cars were when I approached the first street I had to cross. I slowed down to check in a systematic way, but my brain knew automatically where the cars were, what they were doing, that I didn’t have to stop to check, that I could cross safely. Holy s—!

Fourth surprise: zero anxiety about the traffic. Zero. Do you know how freeing that is, to be confident in knowing where cars are and what they’re doing and not having anxiety that you’re going to be hit or that you missed seeing a truck coming at you? Very freeing!

Fifth surprise: happy gamma. I’d forgotten how enhancing gamma brainwaves puts you into this happy-speak-quickly-bounce-down-the-sidewalk state (assuming you can bounce).

Sixth surprise: looser body. I had no need to lean on my cane and had much much less dizziness and so didn’t have to regroup every time I crossed an intersection. And I walked faster. I doubled my walking speed and on Yonge Street to boot!

The day before my brain biofeedback, I had practiced crossing the Yonge-Lawrence intersection with my Vision Mate. Each crossing looked impossibly long, the entire square like death waiting. When he trains me, my CNIB trainer walks on my right side at my speed, staring at drivers who try to beat us or get too close in their impatience while telling me they have to stop and it’s OK that we reach the other side on the all-red part of the cycle. My Vision Mate, being new to this, was not so sanguine, and she had me take her arm and cross at her speed. I was soooooo relieved to finish crossing that intersection; my brain was overloaded from the speed of walking, cars blocking the pedestrian crossings, fire engines screaming, dump trucks banging up Yonge.

But when I stood at the same intersection after gamma enhancement training, the distances looked normal, the traffic not a big square of death. It actually looked doable!

I reminded myself that I was still finding movement dizzying. Crossing would challenge my tolerance for motion of speeding cars and cars trying to beat me as they turned right in front of me. I took a pass, just happy that the intersection had returned to normal in my perception.

Seventh surprise: things that I had been thinking about, had been unable to initiate for days, I got done the moment I walked in my front door. Whoa! Bonus: my new vision from the surgery meant I could thread hooks into grommets on the first try.

Eighth surprise: my speech continued to increase in speed for several hours to the point that one person I spoke to late that night said I was racy but in a good way and I worried I wouldn’t be able to sleep I was feeling so much like I was bouncing off the walls. (Sleep was OK.)

I wondered at the startling effects, so much like when I first trained gamma. I wondered if when stress had depressed my foundational SMR brainwaves at CZ last year, it had also depressed the gamma brainwaves? We’re retraining SMR; now I have an argument to also retrain gamma.

I spoke to the Clinical Co-ordinator. We’re going to do one three-minute two-display screen that enhances SMR at 12–15Hz, enhances gamma at 39–42Hz, inhibits delta-theta at 2–5Hz, and inhibits busy brain at 24–28Hz. We’ll add a second two-minute training with that same screen, alternating with reading training as I slowly ramp back up to full training of three 3-minute biofeedback screens.

As I expected, the perceptual effects vanished after less than 48 hours, and my walking practice was the same as usual a couple of days later, except that the anxiety-dropping effects diminished slowly, and so I was able to cross bigger intersections on my own.

The happy gamma began to drop by the next morning and was gone by the second morning. It’ll take several sessions for the effects to last longer and longer. I don’t know how many sessions I’ll need to make the changes permanent. Because my stress is so high, perhaps it counters the biofeedback and the training just needs to continue on.