Thoughts on Designing Gamma Audiovisual Entrainment Experiment

I’ve tried all three of the gamma audiovisual entrainment (AVE) sessions on Mind Alive’s DAVID Delight Pro device and have enough information to start developing an hypothesis and methodology.

I began this experiment because COVID-19 pandemic disrupted my weekly or three-times-a-month gamma brainwave biofeedback sessions at the ADD Centre. It soon became apparent that in the face of the pandemic-created anxiety in addition to my usual brain injury and PTSD challenges, I needed to find a way to replace those gamma sessions, which had proven so effective in improving several aspects of my brain injury. (My ADD Centre appointments also include inhibiting 16 to 20Hz at PZ, but there isn’t a way for me to replace that as audiovisual entrainment entrains brainwaves, not inhibits specific frequencies. Also, these need to be inhibited at a very specific site.)

I knew that gamma brainwave biofeedback has a powerful calming effect on me, and I hoped replacing it with AVE, even without the PZ training, would be sufficient until the physical distancing measures are lifted enough so that I can resume my ADD Centre appointments — or that I’d be able to afford virtual appointments, which require me to rent an at-home device and to have enough energy and strength to place the electrodes on my head in two subsequent placements, first at CZ for 39 to 42Hz gamma, then at PZ for 16 to 20Hz inhibit.

Since EMG must be below 2uV yet most cannot achieve low muscle tension, is there a way to passively induce gamma brainwaves through a technology like AVE? Could we use that to prep the brain for active brain biofeedback of the other brainwaves?
Since EMG must be below 2uV yet most cannot achieve low muscle tension, is there a way to passively induce gamma brainwaves through a technology like AVE? Could we use that to prep the brain for active brain biofeedback of the other brainwaves?

When I saw that Mind Alive had added three gamma sessions to their DAVID Delight Plus and DAVID Delight Pro devices and would update devices sent in that had the capacity to add custom programs, I wanted to send my device in to answer those two questions I posed in my book. Could AVE entrain gamma? Could entraining gamma make brain biofeedback more effective?

COVID-19 interrupted my intention, and I ended up purchasing a refurbished unit since for reasons of avoiding SARSCoV2 transmission, I couldn’t send my unit in.

I cannot test the second question directly since I can’t get to brain biofeedback. But I can answer the first, and I can perhaps indirectly test the second. Either I use the SMR/gamma AVE session and see if that increases my relaxed, focused attention — does it improve my focus, improve my functionality or allow me to work a little longer — aspects of SMR training? Or do I use the 38 to 42Hz session and see if my daily morning SMR/Beta AVE sessions are more effective in helping me to focus, reducing restless legs at night, and providing more or longer energy during the day. I’ll have to think on that.

I wondered if I didn’t tolerate the 40Hz gamma session well unlike the SMR/gamma one because either gamma alternating with SMR was gentler, or because the SMR/gamma was at variable frequencies. I asked Mind Alive which gamma frequencies are entrained in the SMR/gamma session. They told me that there are three gamma ramps alternating with SMR. First gamma ramp is at 36 to 38Hz; second at 38 to 40Hz; and third at 40 to 42Hz. I decided to try the variable gamma session, 38 to 42Hz, to test out my variable gamma frequency theory. I was right.

I’ve learnt a few things:

  • I cannot tolerate single frequency gamma entrainment. It speeds me up beyond the processing ability of my brain. It makes me super sensitive to stimuli so that I become irritated, and that translates to being irritable. It gives me a headache (not a migraine). Two days off and the 15-minute AVE alpha session got rid of the headache.
  • Gamma frequencies make my brain work, even though I’ve had active brain biofeedback training for years at 39 to 42Hz. Heat in my head, dizziness, ravenous hunger, need for lots of water, all reflect the intense brain workout.
  • Gamma entrainment does have an effect beyond deep breathing and SMR entrainment. It uniquely relaxes my muscles so that my limbs become heavy. It widens my perception, as well as, like most AVE sessions, sharpens and clears up my eyesight. It stops my brain temporarily from trying to shut down the information coming from my scarred eyeball, although the PZ training at the ADD Centre is more effective at that. It’s calming . . . although only the SMR/gamma and gamma 38 to 42Hz sessions really induced lasting calm, and the latter session induced a kind of somnolent Zen state; then when I got up, while remaining Zen-like, I logged in to my website on my computer, updated my site’s backend without stressing I’d run out of energy to write, and when all the maintenance work was done, I got down to writing this, all while having the City of Toronto daily COVID-19 update running on YouTube on another monitor. Thankfully, the update ended soon after I began writing because that really was straining the brain’s attention ability even with the power of gamma stimulation.
  • I need to eat a meal and drink water 20 minutes before the session.
  • I need to do the session early enough in the afternoon so that the increased cognitive energy doesn’t keep me awake at night.
  • It may drop my heart rate, as measured first thing in the morning.

I have a few things to decide:

  • Do I want to use the SMR/gamma or the 38 to 42Hz one? You can never have too much SMR, my brain trainer told me awhile ago, and the PZ training I’m missing included enhancing SMR or 12 to 15Hz. But would I be getting enough gamma entrainment with the SMR/gamma one?
  • For consistency sake, taking into account the daily COVID-19 update briefings and not wanting to be awake at night, what time should I do it? How big a window should my time frame be? An hour? Two hours?
  • How often per week? Daily for five days per week? Every other day?
  • I think I’m going to do this for a month. AVE works very quickly. As you can see, the results are pretty much instantaneous, but they also go on for several hours or, sometimes, days. So a month should be enough time for this single-subject study to reveal what it does and how well it works so that others can build more rigorous studies off of my work. (That’s me being optimistic because no one has built on what I’ve researched, and the only ones taking note of my studies and experiences are others with brain injury looking for relief their doctors aren’t providing from the nightmare of their injury. I guess professionals don’t see merit in the work of a patient, although I’m starting to see that the doctor who told me last year that I’m the expert, was right, and that I really need to listen to myself and not put health care professionals’ thoughts on neuroplastic treatments and brain injury above my own — listen, think, incorporate, but not elevate.)
  • I need to develop markers to track, things like morning heart rate, level of calmness and/or relaxation. Should I track these in a spreadsheet (do I have enough self-discipline and energy to do that)? Do I add reading or writing and/or sleep markers? Mood markers? Gamma brainwave biofeedback at CZ has the habit of bringing my emotions up to the surface. The session I choose may do the same over the long run or short term. I don’t know.
  • What am I missing?
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