Gamma Brain Biofeedback: Hearts and Minds

Published Categorised as Brain Health, Brain Biofeedback

There are days when I get all rebellious and say f'it I wanna work on this and work for as long as I like. I'm tired being a good girl, taking care of my health, managing my energy the way I'm supposed to. Then I end up in front of the biofeedback computer watching my heart rate drop down to 50, fly up to 150 while my trainer quietly freaks out beside me. That was during the 10-minute HRV session on Tuesday. Usually my heart rate drops down to 80 or lower while my trainer isn't watching. But today she got an eyeful. Unfortunately my heart was not done yet. It decided a good scare was in order.

Second HRV screen. There she goes! Down to 50, no 42, no 38. Will it go lower? I can feel nerves radiating out of my trainer beside me. My heart soars up to 130 or so. Then back down it goes. What is this?! It normally does this once during 10 minutes, not this many times in less than 2. I can feel my trainer’s hand hovering wondering if she should stop the HRV screen; yet deep breathing helps the heart. And it’s not like it's going to quit, we just won't be watching. Good for the nerves, I guess.

I began to find it really hard to concentrate on my deep breathing with the anxiety next to me. Yet it kept my own down. Till my heart decided to hang out at 35. Uh, heart? Yeah, you, move on up. Like now. Finally!

She saved the HRV sessions and will show them to Dr. Michael Thompson, one of the chiefs at the ADD Centre, when he returns from the September round of conferences. Maybe he can help or search anyway. As I told her, the docs are bloody useless. Their only remedy was beta blockers, which murder quality of life and do nothing to help anyway because my heart rate may vary only by 30 beats/minute over the day, but all the rest of the symptoms still have a field day. The cause continues to have its way unabated. So if these guys can help me — and they have already by acknowledging this is not normal and by not patting me on the head saying just stress — then I can stick my tongue out at all the head patters.

Despite all this excitement, my brain still managed to produce those gamma waves. Mentally I was raring to go when I left; physically I still felt weak.

I’m not surprised this happened. Allowing myself to keep at a cognitive task for hours over the weekend because I was having fun and wanted to finish it was going to have consequences. Also doing biofeedback is going to tax my brain, and so this was like a marathoner who is in the middle of training, having not yet reached full marathon fitness, halting mid stride, panting, saying gotta rest.

I gotta rest.

Ramryge angels at Gloucester Cathedral, England

Brain injury grief is

extraordinary grief

research proves

needs healing.

That was Tuesday. I did rest. And my heart returned to its usual not-so-wonky self the next day.

And then I began my new course Philosophy of Mind.

All I did was read the intro stuff, how to login to the course, how it works, stuff like that. That was hard enough for me to absorb. Then I skipped right to the Introduction Forum and promptly became intimidated. Between my brain not absorbing info well enough to understand and seeing what my classmates do in regular life, I was gushing anxiety.

My trainer had suggested we do some of the reading during biofeedback. And so after the usual assessment and HRV screens, we did a let’s-see-what-happens when Shireen reads. Uh, not good. Biggest problem was my nerves got me breathing too quickly and sent my muscle tension way up (it actually didn't drop down to normal after that; so the effect was long lasting). I was not absorbing anything. But one thing that got us both staring at the results was though I was a bag of nerves, my heart rate had dropped. Weird! Maybe my heart was remembering how reading relaxed me pre-injury while my brain was busy freaking out.

We discussed where I was having trouble; she asked what memories this was dredging up; and then she had me do a couple of short feedback screens and SMIRB. That last brought to my conscious mind more of what was going on, memory wise.

I have a problem reading cause of the injury, but going back into academia brings back memories of high expectations, high pressure from my school days, and also all the criticism I received post injury. None of that helps to overcome the real reading problem. They worsen it.

So we did another HRV screen. Then she wouldn't let me start reading until the biofeedback screen showed my breathing had dropped down to 6 breaths per minute. I began with stuff I’d already read several times that morning. Repetition equals understanding. Feeling better that I understood, I went on to new matter with more confidence so that I was dealing only with the reading prob not all the ’failure’ messages as well.

The lesson is: before I read I’m to get into a good breathing rhythm. Then after I’ve read, I write down what I learned in the discussion forum (if appropriate). I may not remember what I learnt for very long, but like with my blogs, at least I can go back to refresh my memory. (Note to self: whatever I write, keep it brief! Try!!)

My results:

Date Baseline HRV Fdbk 1 Fdbk 2 SMIRB Fdbk 3 HRV
27 Jun 0.83 0.88 0.90 0.90 0.91
4 Jul 0.85 30s 0.91 0.94 0.898 0.90 0.84 EC
10 Jul 0.85 30s 0.89 0.86 0.84 0.86 0.90 EC
17 Jul 0.91 30s 1.05 1 0.94 0.96 0.97 EC
25 Jul 0.96 30s 1.03 1.02 1.01 0.97 1.02 EC
3 min 10 min
7 Aug 0.85 0.949 0.95 0.89 0.93 0.92
28 Aug 0.98 0.98 0.986 0.92 0.97 0.934 0.93 EC
4 Sep 0.87 0.872 0.84 0.876 0.92 0.95 0.88
5 Sep 0.92 1 0.98 0.90 0.93 0.94
11 Sep 1 1.01 1.006 0.95 0.94 0.99
12 Sep 1 0.97 0.99 0.97 0.98 0.93 0.97
18 Sep 0.968 0.97 0.937 0.94 0.98 0.90
19 Sep 0.898 0.94 Reading:
0.81 0.93 HRV:


My Duck logo walking on my books in pink and blue shading.



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