Brain Power

Eyes Sharpening

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Union Station Toronto ColumnsIt’s a gusty day, clouds billowing up on each other, stretching apart to reveal dark patches of blue sky and let the sunlight through. Once again this week, I’m standing on the sidewalk, against the wind, staring down down down the street, all the way to the third traffic light in the distance. Red red red green. Or is that the fourth traffic light I can see to?

How is this happening? Seeing more depthlike depth in distance objects was weird. And wonderful. Seeing the whole of a computer display in one go was oh so nice. But now with another new improvement, I’m boggling. How is this possible?

My brain is adapting. A bit unsteady at sudden moments. Back to staring and taking in buildings, people, signs, colour nuances on the Royal York hotel stones, details in bricks, Union Station’s warmth and richness of colour, before I can feel my brain release and I can continue to walk.

Brain Power

Adventures in Brain Injury: Training Vision in the Winter Light

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Winter sunlight on the waterWinter light is not the same as summer sunlight. You’d think after practicing walking — seeing, perceiving with both eyes and feet together, learning where I am in space — during strong and long summer sunlight hours, I’d have no trouble in the winter. Nope.

It isn’t just the snow.

The sunlight is sharp, throwing long rays through polarized sunglasses. Bare trees cast patterns of shadow and blazing light in a repeating rhythm as you walk. No matter the hour, the low sun sends photons into your eyes instead of down to the top of your head. And white, gleaming snow reflects it back up.

My brain remembers how my scarred eye used to shut and, in its diabolical plan to return my vision to what it was used to, tries to convince my eye it still doesn’t like the light. I have to fight to perceive that its light tolerance has improved, except when looking extremely sideways to the left. Even when back indoors, my brain is like, hey, it didn’t like the light so let’s shut it against inside light too! Grrr. It doesn’t help my good eye is sensitive to the light as well. (Yes, before my brain injury and eye surgery, I’d walk familiar routes with eyes shut on bright winter days.)

My CNIB guy suggested I get the sunglasses with the top and side panels. That way sun rays can’t sneak around the frame edges. Old people glasses, I think. But then he’s way younger than me and his pair not only has the panels but also sit over his glasses. Then I noticed the baby boomer generation growing older means seeing others my age wearing them too and looking not old, looking chic. But where do you get them?

Brain Biofeedback

Heart and Colours, the Concussion Way

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After the amazing HRV numbers a couple of weeks ago, they tanked the following week. Sigh. That’s how brain injury improvement goes, I thought. And then I began getting short of breath in the way that tells me my heart ain’t too happy, which my hypothalamus fix had made better way back when. Oh. Yeah. I’d stopped doing the CES Sleep in the evening portion of my hypothalamus fix. Sigh.

I’d skipped it one night because I was so damn tired from noveling. Novel writing is fun, rewarding but challenging and exhausting. The more tired I get, the more I need to be vigilant in using all parts of my hypothalamus fix: sub-delta audiovisual entrainment session in the evening and CES Sleep first thing in the morning and at some point at night.

I had a little talk with myself and restarted the CES Sleep at night (I hadn’t stopped using the sub-delta AVE session or CES Sleep in the morning). That shortness of breath went, and I could breathe easier again. And last week, my HRV began crawling up again while my heart rate dropped back into the 80s (from the high 90s — a number that once would have been cause for celebration is now too high — that’s what brain injury treatment is all about — returning heart and brain to normal functioning!).

I want to add here that I think the reason why my heart rate and HRV are much, much better is because of the combination of my hypothalamus fix, gamma brainwave enhancement training, and the low intensity light treatment for my neck that includes the back of my head where the cerebellum is located. I went to “laser therapy” for my below-the-head injuries, but in the last few months, I’ve realized how much it’s helped me with my brain injury, how key it’s been in improving the brain’s control of my heart. I wrote about some of that in my concussion book. But because I finished writing it before I fully understood all this and am continuing to learn about laser therapy’s effects on concussion, I didn’t put it in the book. That’s why I created blog pages as extensions of Concussion Is Brain Injury — to update it! I will be updating my related blog pages with more info on laser therapy (see the relevant URLs in Concussion Is Brain Injury: Treating the Neurons and Me)!

I did write fully about my hypothalamus fix in Concussion Is Brain Injury: Treating the Neurons and Me.

Sailboats screenLast week’s biofeedback also resolved a puzzle for me. The sailboat screen has the top sailboat sailing from yellow box to yellow box with a thin line connecting the boxes above the sailboat and below the waves it sails on.

Sailboat in yellow box showing yellow lineSo, I see this line as yellow. But after my eye surgery, I saw it as pink. Then my brain began to fight the influx of new visual data to return my vision to pre-brain injury and surgery, and I got confused as to the line’s colour. Was it pink or yellow?

We use this sailboat screen as the third neurofeedback training for gamma enhancement and again as the third one for inhibiting 16-20 Hz and enhancing SMR (12-15 Hz). Last week, I saw without a doubt during the gamma neurofeedback the line was yellow. Then it began to morph. Was that pink appearing??? During the 16-20 Hz inhibit neurofeedback, it was absolutely without a doubt PINK!

The line is pink.

Sailboat in yellow box showing pink lineOr is it?

The eye surgery allowed me to see fine details and colours in a way I hadn’t before. And since it, my cognitions involved in language, memory, and engaging with the world have improved a lot. Maybe I’d noticed the pink before but not enough to remember or mention to my brain trainer.

Turns out she hadn’t noticed the line colour changing before but saw it as pink. When we investigated closely, the answer was pretty simple, really. Click the computer mouse on the box to change that sailboat’s parameters, and the line turns pink to show which sailboat you’re changing. Doesn’t work too well with the pink box because the line stays pink!

All these years of using and being trained with it, never noticed before. Oy!

My ophthalmologist told me I have to keep improving the vision in my scarred eye to retain what the surgery gave me else the brain will win this battle. That means practice eye tracking. I’m thinking though maybe I should also up the light intensity during my AVE sessions (animal studies showed light stimulation similar to my AVE sessions regenerated retinas). And also to adhere to walking on streets about 1.5 hours after brain biofeedback when my vision strengthens again so as to use and cement in those networks so that my brain can lose this battle and win at seeing better. It would help to use a neck brace to force my head to sit straight and force using binocular vision but that wouldn’t be good for my neck muscles.

At least I’ve gotten better enough since the shock of 2013 to be able to think about my brain injury issues and deal with them and not resent or feel despairing that my health care professionals don’t collaborate (because my neurodoc wouldn’t know how if it smacked him on the head — his idea of collaboration is to tell others what to think and say they’re wrong when they disagree with him — well, except in the area he doesn’t consider himself an expert in, so that’s going better…anywho). Some don’t have the time, others don’t have the desire to think about and discuss these things with me as they evolve, only occasionally and only within their bailiwick when I grow desperate enough to force discussion. Then I put together what each tells me, add my own thoughts, write about it to elucidate it all to myself, implement, and hope to hell it’ll get better.

I still don’t know why any health care professional, especially my neurodoc and all other medical doctors treating brain injury, think someone with a BRAIN injury should be searching on their own actual treatments, directing their own care, and is even remotely capable of it. The part of you that recognizes, analyses, remembers, and carries out solutions is broken FFS! Sigh.

Brain Biofeedback

Eyes and Heart, Neurons and Brain Connecting Again

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Last year, after eye surgery, my iPhone display looked enormous. These days, it looks teeny weeny. Amazing how adaptation changes perception. I no longer get dizzy moving my eyes across a wide screen. My brain is used to the sharper-looking text and more depth in the screen colours. My panoramic vision isn’t solid yet, but I’m used to seeing my iPhone display left to right, top to bottom, in one go. No more bits missing like before the eye surgery.

I still very occasionally get double vision, partly because my brain is still fighting to return to my pre-surgery default and discard the new binocular information. But brain biofeedback at PZ (top middle back) to inhibit 16-20 Hz, the thinking brainwaves, seems to be helping me win that fight.

(They call the excessive 16-20 Hz “high-beta spindling.”)

Slowly, panoramic vision outside on the streets and in parks is solidifying – one marker of that is being able to cross side streets without having to consciously narrate every step like I have had to since the eye surgery. Now after brain training I can see the traffic on both peripheries of my vision and process it in real time.

My proprioception is improving again; I’m able to distinguish myself in space with full up-down side-to-side awareness, which means I’m not returning to my old default with bits missing in that awareness. (I’ve just realized I don’t keep bumping into door jambs like I used to!) The first week of November I was able to discern the bottom step of the TTC stairs from the landing peripherally (and for the second week through my feet too) while looking ahead at a fixed point and walking down slowly and carefully.

This is huge!

Being able to go down the visually inaccessible steps on the TTC is a lot safer when one can see the low contrasts and feel the differences. It’s a lot of work and fatiguing trying to navigate the bloody TTC when not able-bodied, able-eyed, able-brained. Have I mentioned I hate it?!

Let’s think about more positive things — like my heart! This week was another in a series of OM Effing G!! Did you seeeee that?!!! As I mentioned before, the goal back in 2012 was to raise my HRV (the measure of how well my heart syncs with breathing) from the basement to a modest 10 and to lower my heart rate from freaky 130 to double digits. Also, to get rid of the scary-ass rises to 170 and drops to 30-50 beats per minute. It’s been a slow slog. Low-intensity light therapy (concussion protocol) where the lights are over my cerebellum definitely began to move things along in the right direction. But now–

My low frequency HRV got to 8.57!!!!!

CZ LF Numbers during HRV and Gamma Training

8.57 uV for low frequency heart rate variability (HRV) during HRV training — basically deep breathing — is stupendous enough but to get 8.24 during gamma brainwave training and again have LF higher than sympathetic nervous system activity (VLF) is WOW!!

PZ LF Numbers

LF wasn’t as high during PZ training to inhibit 16-20 but look at that — 5.36 during the first neurofeedback screen! Sweet.

Reducing my 16-20 Hz brainwaves is not only cementing my improved vision, it’s also been working on my trauma-related round-and-round thoughts that whirl up grief, distress, hurt into an ever-intensifying tornado. I didn’t mention the emotion effects to anyone because we were focused on my vision and I wasn’t sure if it was for real, but recently I’ve become sure. My thoughts drop out of the whirling and into clear thinking. Clear thinking is the antithesis of trauma and flashbacks. Clear thinking settles emotions. Relief. Even if it’s only for a few hours or days.

But how is reducing high-beta spindling helping my HRV too?

I came across an article that said the cerebellum is involved in emotional control. We already know it’s tied into the heart via control of the autonomic nervous system. Soooo, using logic — if the cerebellum is involved in emotions and so is the area around PZ, then they must network. And then flow from the emotional control part of the cerebellum into the heart control. Brain injury and healing of injury is like exploring the brain.

Brain Biofeedback

Proprioception Efficiency Improving after Eye Surgery

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I’m back on the weekly brain training track: enhance gamma (39-42 Hz) brainwaves for three neurofeedback screens; inhibit 16-20 Hz and enhance SMR (12-15 Hz) brainwaves for the next three neurofeedback screens. The latter three are supposed to help me adapt to and keep my improved and more efficient vision, perception, and proprioception.

Right after this week’s training, I got a taste of the latter.

I normally go down most TTC steps slowly and carefully. It’s easier and quicker to walk down their stairs when my eyes are on the steps in front of me instead of looking ahead. But with that method, I only see the steps. I don’t see people coming at me or signage or anything else. So I make myself look ahead. Gotta see what’s around you! The problem is the last few steps. For whatever reason, they give my feet the willies. I slow down and stop on them, look down, then continue to the landing. The step I stop on has been improving from two or three steps before the landing or the second step before to the last step before. This week (for the first time?) I felt distinctly the difference between the texture of the step and the texture and flatness of the landing. Yeah, I’m wearing shoes, but I could feel a difference in the hardness and how the landing had a bit of a dip from where many feet had worn down the terrazzo. Being able to feel the difference made it easier to know where I was and give my feet confidence to keep stepping down until I touched down on the landing. I didn’t have to look down to check (though I did from habit, except the last time — sweet). Since this is all at the conscious level and not yet automated, I do it slowly, slowly. As my brain learns and stops trying to return my vision back to what it was used to (so annoying), it’ll become automated gradually and I’ll be able to speed up and do it automatically like I used to before my eye surgery.

The TTC uses an enormous variety of tiles for its steps. Most of them have low contrast. My fave is when they replace a light tile with a dark grey one — makes it grab my eyes, scream look at me, look at me, as if walking down and up TTC steps wasn’t hard enough. Just another wonderful example of the TTC’s systemic discrimination against those with visual or cognitive impairments. I guess we’re not supposed to use public transit.

Anyway, getting a taste of my increasingly efficient proprioception was way cool.

Brain Power

A Whale of a Post

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Majestic Heart

I wanted to see the Blue Whale heart at the ROM (Royal Ontario Museum), but I hadn’t been there in years, never mind in the year since my eye surgery. Navigating large indoor spaces with my new vision still makes my head spin. Yet I asked my CNIB orientation mobility trainer if he could take me for our next training session. No problem. I like his laid-back, don’t-worry, what-you-need-I’ll-help-you-with style. Makes one feel safe. And when the world unexpectedly dizzies you and leadens your brain as if lead weights have attached to every neuron, it makes one feel things will be OK.

So I had no extra worries as I stepped into the Crystal. Sure, the outside with all its spectacular angles spun my head and slowed me down, but I expected that.

Blue Day

I paused in the small area between entrance doors. And then we entered. My trainer had explained that the tricky thing about the Crystal is that there are no 90-degree angles. OK, I thought, not sure why that’ll affect me, but nice to know. It’s one of the reasons I like the Crystal over the previous forbidding, boring ROM addition.

I stepped further into the large area where you drop off your cloak, pay your ticket, and pass through the gates at the top of the rather long slope. No slope, my trainer said. The floor is flat, he stated. Uh, no, I’m walking uphill, and it’s really throwing me off. I stuck close to the wall of angles and asked again about this uphill. The floor is flat, he repeated patiently then lead me into a room off the entrance.

Oh. My. God. I’m back in that freaky room at the Ontario Science Centre! The floor is really sloping, and I’m going to fall! Don’t fall, he instructed firmly but patiently, adding that the floor was flat. I absolutely didn’t want to walk further into this room of angles, of white walls and black floor. But my trainer was pointing out two chairs across the room from where I was standing frozen. Um, all I saw were two metal tetrahedrons or some geometric form with no seat, no back. Come closer, he persuaded. Some days, I’d rather stay home and not do training. Whose idea was it anyway to see the Blue Whale?! Oh yeah, mine.

I inched my foot forward, carefully feeling the sloping floor so I wouldn’t wobble and fall. He reminded me the floor was flat.

I struggled to believe him. My new, so-clear vision pretty persistently told me we were standing at the bottom of an angled uphill.

I was also perturbed that my new 3D depth perception couldn’t perceive the seat or back of these chairs he was warning me about. One careful step after another after a pause after reassurance the floor was flat after careful inching feeling-the-floor step, we made it to the chairs. Halfway there, my brain perceived the seat and then the sloping back, but I wasn’t about to sit down. He sat down. Yeah, OK, I get it. I sat. He warned me the back slopes more than I perceived and to lean back carefully. I never felt the back because I lost my nerve as I leaned and leaned and leaned and felt no metal touch my back. I stood up. I followed him out the room, walking uphill the entire time.

It really was the most disturbing and weird thing. He explained the lack of 90-degree angles was why I saw the flat floor as being on an angle. I thought about how I had no trouble perceiving this area when I’d come years ago and how I would need exposure to this a few times to be able to see the floor as flat again. Who would come with me to do that?

Mercifully the exhibit area had nice straight walls and a flat floor. The wall-size videos were discombobulating to the extreme, but I could turn my back on them. And the lighting was the usual, expected challenge.

Blue Head

We turned the corner, and there it was: the skeleton. Enormous. Imposing. Majestic.

Yikes! How Far Away is the Tail?

The remains of a mysterious mammal I’ve been a fan of since a kid. In the battle between perceptual difficulty and taking photos, my photography instinct won, as it always did. It’s gotten me into some precarious situations for decades. As I strained to capture the whale’s puny vestigial leg bones that look like jet planes, I almost fell backward. Sheesh, Shireen, don’t fall! Your trainer is near but he doesn’t need to be freaked out.

No not bone jets but Blue Whale legs

He had to leave and asked if I’d be OK. Uhhhh… I hadn’t seen the heart yet. But I wasn’t sure about that sloping floor. He repeated instructions several times. We scheduled our next session. He reminded me to stick near the wall and rest. It was kind of lonely, but then I saw the heart.

Big Blue Heart

Another thing I learnt in the ROM is my reading is improving. I read the labels and absorbed them! The words didn’t bounce off my brain. Yeah, I knew much of what I’d read from way back; still there was an awful lot of new information to absorb and process. The cognitive effort began to take a toll. I considered just not reading anymore and leaving. But I didn’t want to waste this opportunity. I wasn’t about to let my brain injury and eye surgery changes shortchange me AGAIN. So I obeyed my trainer and rested for a bit. Then I continued.

By the time I was walking along the other side of the whale, I’d had enough. Thankfully a couple of couples were taking selfies next to Blue’s ribs. Great excuse to stand and not move. Also to let my brain map the video wall and now see the skeleton in light of what I’d just learned.

I conked out early that night. But what a day! So glad I went!!

Brain Biofeedback

Easing Back into Brain Injury Health Care After Eye Surgery

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Well, it had to happen some time. I’ve restarted two-thirds of my brain-injury-care appointments. As of this past week, I have returned to using the TTC on my own – solely to get to brain biofeedback. So I’m not exactly using the entire TTC on my own, just one well-practiced route!

As expected, it took me a lot longer to get there by myself than with my CNIB orientation mobility trainer, even when he was shadowing me and out of sight. My slowness wasn’t just because it’s scarier going solo, it was also no one was around to push me to keep going: I’m dizzy? Sit! Brain feeling the effort? Sit! Had enough? Sit! Or lean against a wall since benches aren’t plentiful in this progressive city of ours.

One of the nice things about the boomers getting older is that benches are at long last popping up on some streets. Still too few though.

It took me double the time to walk to the ADD Centre from the TTC sans my mobility trainer; sooo about, uh, hoo boy, a bazillion times slower than prior to my eye surgery. Well, OK 5.4 times slower. On the plus side, last week I was only 1.2 times my normal speed in quiet, now-familiar areas where I’ve practiced my walking many, many times. And this weekend, in the same quiet areas, I’m pretty much at my old speed for about 15 minutes of walking sans any rests and except for crossing streets.

Anyway, my brain trainer told me when I asked that my CZ SMR brainwaves have dropped since June.

SMR: sensorimotor rhythm or 13–15Hz, the foundational brainwave in the area that loops from the outside of the brain to the critical thalamus deep inside. They are the brainwaves of relaxed, focused attention.

Social isolation takes a toll on the brain. It should be fucking obvious to every human being who looks beyond their navel, but apparently not in North America with its cult of busy-ness and every person should shut up about and look after their own disability. Isolation is either chosen (some people have been taught it’s safer emotionally-speaking to be alone) or imposed when family, friends, neighbours, health care workers take zero initiative to reach out to the person who’s lost their independence to ensure they don’t lose their biologically-critical social life too. Small towns and England are better at reaching out or as one community worker put it: reaching in. Reaching in to the hurting person, the suffering person, the ill and injured is how we prevent brain damage from social isolation. But not even churches in the big city of Toronto are good at it, preferring to wait for parishioners to call up, nag, beg before fellow congregants can look away from their look-how-compassionate-I-am-I-volunteer-for-the-homeless (or African communities) Pharisaic stance to spare a glance at the suffering in their midst and do something about it. The ones who are most invisible are the ones they should be reaching in to. But that takes not following the disciples to town but following tired, hungry Jesus to the woman at the well – compassion plus effort, don’t you think?

@ShireenJ: Guest on @CBCOntarioToday: “As a community, it’s OUR responsibility to be reaching in.”As person w #braininjury rarely exp’d that. WldB nice”

Anywho, my brain trainer and I have re-established the routine of 30-second assessment, 3 minutes of HRV (heart rate variability), and two screens of biofeedback: inhibit delta-theta (2–5Hz) and busy brain (24–28Hz) and enhance SMR (12–15Hz) and if possible gamma (39–42Hz), ie, gamma when we can use the computer that allows for two-display biofeedback screens. My muscle tension was above 2 this past week but came down nicely, as did my delta-theta.

I’m pushing my neurodoc and the ADD Centre to see about treating my reading difficulties better. To that end, we did a 3-minute assessment over Broca’s area at FP1-F3 and 3 minutes at the corresponding area over the right hemisphere at FP2-F4.

It’s been suggested to me that getting a diffusion tensor imaging scan would aid in finding out exactly where the injury broke my reading cognition. A DTI will show the health of my neural networks. The problem is that whereas out west they offer that MRI-variation scan clinically, in Ontario they do not. The Kathleen Wynne government doesn’t pay for it clinically, apparently preferring to spend health care bucks on things like more administration since 39% of community care going to admin is not high enough and managers are way more important than doctors, nurses, therapists, and scans, don’t you know.

So we may have to continue to guess the best we can and wing where to treat the brain while continuing to practice reading. Meanwhile, my neurodoc isn’t into facilitating communication since medicare in Ontario doesn’t pay for phone calls, emails, texts, and he doesn’t believe in answering questions left on voice mail or even acknowledging receipt of any communication. So tough shit if you keep forgetting to ask things when see him, can’t read notes to help you remember, and email (or in our security-conscious world, text) is only way you can express yourself and actually get it done. Gah. So fed up with it all.

Brain Health

Walking Continues to Improve; Getting Stronger after Eye Surgery

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Walking improvement continues in sudden leaps and expected plateaux. After first two weeks of October, I suddenly improved in speed by about 12% to at times 18% in addition to walking smoother, more competently (as in normal gait, firm footfalls, balanced bilaterally most of the time). At some point in first three weeks of October, nausea disappeared entirely (except for during a needed foray into the Eaton Centre – gah!). And dizziness dropped a lot. It helps that I’m wiser in managing my activities so as not to bring it on.

I’ve discovered though that using an SMR audiovisual entrainment session about 4 hours before taking the TTC to my brain biofeedback or an SMR/Beta audiovisual entrainment (AVE) session before my walk makes a huge difference (that is, entrain 14Hz brainwaves or 13.5/18Hz ones). I am smoother in my walking and can walk quicker sans getting dizzy.

I’m working on improving my speed and stamina, and these sessions definitely help me.

This weekend’s walking practice was done sans using a session beforehand. My head felt it. My stamina was better than last week, but I became dizzy at the same speed of walking as last week. And my head pretty much stayed dizzy-fuzzy-fied because, naturally, I didn’t slow down much, except when on a main street and crossing intersections. I haven’t sped up on the latter in several weeks; crossing streets on my own for the first few times is even slower. But everywhere else . . . Faster, faster! So much for being wiser. But I was on a mission: to improve my stamina at a decent speed (which, by the way, is still slower than pre-eye surgery but not by much on familiar streets).

I realize now that my experience on Yonge before my biofeedback treatment was also because that day I hadn’t used an SMR session beforehand. My brain was not as prepared to handle the plethora of visual and auditory stimuli as it usually is. I’ll have to ask the ADD Centre if it’s OK to do an SMR session before or if that could overload my brain with too much work.

After I realized that the medical model doesn’t provide treatment for brain injury (strategies aren’t treatment, people), and I began looking for ways to repair my brain, I have been pretty much overseeing the big picture of my care. No GP, no specialist has done that in the last decade or so. And before that, it was really monitoring and prodding me to go figure it out. After an emotional shock about 3 years ago, I stopped being able to do that. And so between that dropping of the baton and the shock, I haven’t progressed nearly as much as I could have because no one took over overseeing the big picture of my care and guiding me on my non-pill “medications” aka AVE and CES (cranioelectrical stimulation) as my needs changed, not even my neurodoc. When it comes to brain injury, 100% of the doctors I’ve met consider it too much work to read up on, consult, learn about my kind of injury and/or how to use AVE/CES or how to oversee the totality of my care.

I realize now it’s a pipe dream hoping for my neurodoc to understand and oversee my entire brain-injury health care picture (I leave out of the equation my other medical issues, though he is currently looking for a blood pressure specialist [at his rate, he may find one in 2018]). But I’m feeling stronger recently. I was told it takes 3 to 6 months for a person with brain injury to recover from general anesthesia. As of this week, it’s exactly 6 months. It pretty much sucks to have no one to talk to about or rely upon my entire brain injury treatment and PTSD symptom picture, but at least I’m starting to feel like I can take that burden back on and there are still and always have been people I can talk to about bits and pieces of it. I just have to be able to knit all the bits in my mind and not overdo it like I did back in 2006. It helps that I am no longer being plagued by how much work time I’m losing to my injury. At this point, I’ve lost more than half my prime working years to it, so who gives a shit anymore?

Brain Biofeedback

Back to Semi-Regular Brain Biofeedback Post Eye Surgery

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Back to biofeedback. I was ready! Well, that was the theory. We’re easing me back in at once every other week schedule.

So far, my CNIB orientation mobility trainer has guided and walked with me to it for less and less of the way each time without me actually attending an appointment. This week he shadowed me to my appointment at the ADD Centre, and a friend met me afterward to accompany me back along the most difficult part of the route. Of course , we had coffee and a bite to eat first to thank her for giving me her time and to feed my tired brain. After the journey up and biofeedback, it was screaming: “Glucose! I need my energy refill!!”

The journey there was as expected. I made my familiar way to the meeting point with my CNIB trainer. There, he restated how it would work: I would take the subway and walk as if I was on my own, and he would follow me, close enough to keep an eye on me but far enough for me to feel as if I was alone. He would catch up at the ADD Centre, where we would debrief.

Deep breath, and off I went. It all went as expected – until I hit Yonge Street. My brain went AAIIIEEEE. Let’s stop.

Um, what the heck?

It was like the earlier days when I walked slowly, had to pause a lot, hesitated when people or cars passed me by. And the noise! It was like God had turned the volume up!!

Why are there so many dump trucks going up and down Yonge?!!!

Yeah, I know: condo building boom.

Brain overloaded, I had to sit down. Whoever decided to put benches on main streets, thank you! (And can I say, what took you decades?) I eventually realized he had usually been between me and traffic; this was the first time my field of vision encompassed all the traffic, all the movement on the busy sidewalk. Gulp.

At our debrief, he noted my difficulties. But pointed out that I’d made it. And I’d done all the right things when crossing streets.

My CNIB trainer left, and my biofeedback trainer came and got me.

Since my brain’s resources were eaten up by the journey, I’d become emotionally flat. That hasn’t happened in awhile. And because it had been three months, it took me a few seconds to remember with each screen what I was supposed to do.

We began with a three-minute assessment at CZ (top middle of head). I usually keep my eyes focused on the dancing brainwave frequency bars, specifically gamma ones, at the bottom of the screen. But that made me dizzy, so I shifted my gaze to the top of the software window. After that, came 3.5 minutes of HRV (heart rate variability). That was a shock. First my heart rate was in the 90s. 90s! I’d been away for months, and my heart was not thundering away in the 100s from lack of training. Whoa! All the training I had done was having a permanent effect?

The second shock was the heart rate curve. It was going up and down smoothly in sync with the breathing curve, with few of those jagged hills that are too common with me. I don’t recall my heart rate curve looking that smooth before …

I’ve been using the home light therapy unit every other day, according to Meditech’s instructions to assist my recovery. I’d noticed after I’d begun laser therapy years ago that my heart had begun to improve. Maybe doing the neck lights much more frequently lead to this effect???

We began training with the sailing boats in their psychedelic race courses, the screen I hate, because I was still fresh. Three minutes. It took me a bit to remember which boat was to win (the one that sails when I enhance SMR brainwaves, duh).

The next screen was the two-display one. So awesome and weird being able to see both displays at once, even if the one on my weak side is vaguer than the other.

There are so many graphs in the two-display one, it was confusing even before my surgery. My trainer told me: focus on the triplane only. OK. It took me awhile to get that triplane to fly. Apparently it was my gamma brainwaves causing it to sit there. My trainer adjusted the threshold down from 1.5 to 1.4 (it had taken years to get it up to 1.5, sigh). When I manage to generate enough gamma brainwaves to go above the threshold, the plane flies. Well, OK, it’s more than that. To get it to fly, I also have to inhibit delta-theta, keep my muscle tension down, and enhance SMR. No biggie. Ha!

We finished with 10 minutes of writing. I didn’t write as much as I usually do … I think my writing is returning … But it’s still difficult. Maybe all the NaNoWriMo talk on Twitter will remind my brain what it’s supposed to do. And tell it, it can!