Brain Biofeedback

Week Two Enhance Gamma and Inhibit Beta to Heal Injury

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Week two of new double protocol. First comes gamma then comes, uh, goes beta. I came in to week two with emotional stress, grief touched off by neurodoc. Because he’s got nothing better to do than sodden my fibres with emotional stress exhaustion. Anywho. The coming change of seasons will be affecting me soon too, and may already be upping my fatigue like it’s wont to do.

Last week, my heart was not as smooth during HRV as it was the previous couple of weeks. Peachy. And my heart rate was back in the triple digits. Peachier. But it came down and stayed down in the 90s. Awesome.

My EMG was below 2uV for the whole of gamma CZ training and above 2 during PZ assessment only. This is nice. The lower the EMG (muscle tension), the better the training.

I’d forgotten to send my brain trainer the changes I’d blogged on from the first week’s training of the new protocol. But I caught her up. I was so busy trying to remember all the good stuff for her, I totally forgot about the nausea that came on during my first PZ training. I remembered in a hurry the moment she clicked Record. The indicators became live, the virtual triplane sat on its island waiting to climb into the sky, and nausea slammed into me. Barf. No, no, not literally. But the strange feeling of brain not being stable in my skull as I began my first neurofeedback screen at PZ again almost made me call a halt. But I reminded myself that it faded last time. It did this time too. And quicker. Phew. My bad eye got a workout, though not as bad as the first week.

While she was setting the thresholds for training the different frequencies, I chatted a bit about emotional shit. I got a tad sarcastic. She said sarcasm is anger expressed in a positive way, with a humour spin. My heart rate agreed sarcasm was good. It dropped right after.

The second neurofeedback screen, which replaced inhibiting 16-20 Hz with inhibiting EMG, was as easy as last week and sort of made my head feel light again. But this week, there was an almighty pressure around my head especially my temples. I got bored. I’m going to try and figure out a way to sneak reading in to this second screen. The third neurofeedback screen had the same parameters as the first – inhibit 16-20 HZ, inhibit busy brain of 24-28 Hz, and enhance SMR at 12-15 Hz. She ran it for 3.5 minutes. Right at the three-minute mark, the colours on the computer display intensified. The yellow of the sailboat race screen became very very yellow. The fluorescent pink eye-popping. The digits marking out the time sharpened to incredible clarity. Last week, these changes happened right after screen one. But at least this week, it happened before training ended!

I was kaput after training, so much so, I just sat for a few minutes. No uptick in energy though my mind was less round and round hamster wheel like.

No problem with playing music this week, but nausea rose pretty bad about 1.5 hours after training. Just wanted to lie on the couch at home but still had to get through the TTC. Ugh.

Stairs were slow and careful while looking ahead as usual. But instead of feeling unsteady and having to look at my feet two steps from the bottom, I only had to look one step from the bottom and didn’t feel dangerously unsteady.

That strange head turning started infrequently right after training then happened more and more. Able to cross intersections looking both ways and ahead and crossing in real time sans having to slow down, consciously look and deliberately tell myself what I saw and whether I can go or not. Automaticity is so much easier! Head straightening began about two hours after.

About 2.5 hours after, awareness increased. I’d already been able to walk looking into the distance. Bad eye felt worked with that and nausea rose but my brain could take in that amount of information and allow me to walk steadily. Perception or awareness widened after that.

That night I slept better, but except for being ready to head out well in time and my head turning easier and more naturally, all the rest of the effects pretty much disappeared. Sigh.

After the new treatment, I also had one regression: I couldn’t seem to visually comprehend old streetcar steps, going up or down them. I didn’t even attempt entering the new streetcars. Shudder

Brain Biofeedback

Happy Gamma Fights Brain Injury and PTSD

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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.

Brain Biofeedback

Inadvertent Gamma Brainwave Enhancement at FP1-F3

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I inadvertently trained gamma up during my brain biofeedback last week. I knew I had because I felt the pressure underneath the electrode at FP1-F3 and, after, my perception had significantly improved. I was much more aware of my surroundings.

I did it again this week, probably because I had figured out how to decrease my muscle tension so that it remained below 3. This week it didn’t improve my perception as much, but it did improve my mood more.

It’s difficult keeping muscle tension (EMG) at the frontal lobes down because the electrodes are so close to your facial and eye muscles. And, as well, the electrode seems to pick up neck tension easier. So that was an achievement to bring EMG down. And the bonus was gamma got enhanced too.

(EMG affects the gamma brainwave frequency; the lower EMG is, the less it does, the easier it is to give and respond to feedback on the gamma frequency.)

Apparently, monks who do deep, deep meditation produce gamma brainwaves all over but especially in the frontal lobes. It’s associated with calmness and a happy mood. That’s why the ADD Centre folks were very pleased to hear I had trained gamma inadvertently. But though I can do it, they don’t want me to do it deliberately. And so my brain biofeedback protocol will remain to decrease theta (2-5Hz) only; if my EMG remains low enough for me to engage the gamma brainwave frequency and train it up — bonus.

For me, this meant for two weeks in a row, I left biofeedback in a good mood or at least not stressed. Just reducing theta had been doing nothing helpful for my mood! So this was good.

Brain Biofeedback

Injured Brain Broadens Its Visual Field: Gamma Training #FTW

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Nothing much new has happened during gamma brain biofeedback for awhile. Hence no posts on it. Until today.

Once you’ve been training an area for quite a few sessions, you’re not likely to see dramatic changes anymore in either brainwaves or outwardly in you. You will see previous changes stabilizing. But this week, during about the last thirty seconds of the second screen of training, as I was following the virtual bowling ball down its virtual lane, my vision shifted.

The display on the computer monitor became clearer, more colourful, and further away. My vision has done this before after my scarred eye began to see in tandem with my good eye. But this week . . .

Suddenly, I saw the entire monitor all at once. I saw the entirety of the display and the monitor frame in one visual field. Every part of it.

For me, this just doesn’t happen.

I see the bowling ball, or I see the levels of brainwaves on the left side of the screen, or I see the breathing rate prompt above the bowling ball. But everything — including the frame of the monitor — all at once? No. Wow. Freaky.

I held onto it for the last thirty seconds or so of the brainwave training screen. But I couldn’t replicate it when we did the third and last three-minute screen. That’s OK. It felt like it would have required too much of me to do so anyway. And once a change happens, it’ll happen again and again and then it’ll become part of me and stabilized.

Apparently, most people can see the whole display screen and must learn to narrow their focus down to one part of the screen. People with ADD in particular have to learn how to do that. So that is one way I differ from people with ADD. I hadn’t known that I differed from folks with ADD in that significant aspect until now, especially since I had found brain biofeedback through looking for ADD treatments and had shared their inability to concentrate and easy distractability.

But unlike them, I see in narrow focus.

I suppose that puts me at an advantage when training because that’s one thing I don’t have to learn in order to train my brain. But it does mean I have to deliberately move my focus around — my direct vision if you will — to see the whole of anything in parts then stitch them together in my knowledge but cannot perceptually or visually. I see now how that would be tiring, and why my chest felt lighter as my visual field broadened to encompass the entire monitor.

Since we’re not training high-frequency alpha brainwaves, this is probably not a big picture thing — that ability that allows you to see the whole street you’re walking down or the story unfolding as you read it. It’s more likely a perceptual thing — we are training PZ at the middle top of the back of the head near the occipital lobe (visual cortex) — and also is my brain coming out of a fog.

Still, I have often wondered if gamma is a foundational brainwave that if you enhance will then bring up the high-frequency alpha and thinking beta waves. This could be both my brain continuing to emerge out of a fog and the gamma increase enhancing my high-frequency alpha waves too. Cool.

Brain Biofeedback

Gamma Brainwave Biofeedback and the Healing of Emotions in PTSD and Brain Injury

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Brain injury can lead to emotions turning off, short circuiting, the frontal lobes not mediating the reptilian brain. PTSD can lead to emotions being blocked. Having the two makes mood and feeling emotions like being on a rudderless ship in an unpredictable gale. So where does gamma brainwave biofeedback fit in?

If brain biofeedback or neurofeedback takes a broken brain and, like a potter does with a shattered vase, glues the pieces back together, albeit with visible cracks, then gamma is the water that smooths the cracks.

Gamma is fragile. It repairs emotions, but enhancing it in a broken brain is tricky.

Those with only trauma apparently feel their wounds being healed, their mood lifted into happiness, whereas I with my injured brain have a more complicated healing journey. I felt that happiness more when doing the biofeedback at CZ than at PZ, but emotions are harder to repair in me, gamma harder to sustain, takes more work to effect the same amount of healing. Plus, to be honest, after awhile you get used to the change in stress and mood after biofeedback and so don’t feel the improvement as dramatically anymore.

Still, although, I am having problems with blocking my emotions, I am much better off with weekly gamma brainwave biofeedback than without. It has helped me unblock, feel, and process my emotions faster and easier than if I had not had it.

I know the effect of not having biofeedback in the gamma range because for the first six months of last year, we switched to regular brain biofeedback, and I felt like I was on that rudderless ship stuck between skyscraper-tall swells in an endless sea.

It’s still not easy now navigating these erratic swells of emotion, but gamma makes it less scary, less stressful, and my neurodoc adjusting his therapeutic methodology has helped me enormously too.

Brain Biofeedback

Gamma Brainwave Training and Emotions in PTSD and Brain Injury

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Two weeks ago, my biofeedback trainer re-assessed my brain at the PZ-O1 position — left back of skull. Last week we continued gamma brainwave biofeedback training at that position and will do so for ten sessions total. And then re-assess.

Relief.

My gamma was unusually low last week. It finally rose to my normal above-1.0 gamma/muscle tension ratio during the SMIRB writing portion of my training (SMIRB: Stop My Irritating Ruminations Book). Although my mind wanted to stay in disconnected, intellectual mode as I wrote, I tried to connect with my emotions. It felt like I was coming up against this wall of resistance and like walking through molasses to reach that wall. So I’d take a break from that effort to connect and go back into intellectual mode; then I’d try to connect again.

It was impossible.

But I wonder if gamma rose a lot anyway because I was trying to connect? I kept trying because the biofeedback data during the previous screens had shown me that although I was disconnected, my brain was still processing some heavy emotions and trauma.

My heart rate at the start was pretty good: 103. But training the brain was unbelievably hard, busy brain was higher than usual, and my heart rate rose with each screen. My muscle tension dropped though, a good thing since low muscle tension makes gamma brainwave training more doable. Above 2, gamma training apparently becomes difficult; mine had begun closer to 3. Flashbacks make your shoulders rise. Sigh.

I’d had a flashback a couple of weeks ago before last week’s biofeedback session, and as a result, my neurodoc had spent extra time with me and had called me several times to ensure I was okay. He told me to remind myself that the remembered event wasn’t happening, that it’s 2014, that all that’s in the past and I’m in the present. He told me other stuff specific to the trauma and flashback as well, to put them into context. And you know, it worked. The visuals receded; I no longer felt like the memory was in my face.

Still, having the flashback released some profound memories and related emotions, emotions that at the time these events had happened, my damaged brain had been unable to create or to connect to.

As my plasticity, spurred on by the brain biofeedback releases memories, it also allows emotions to arise; it connects the emotions I can only now properly feel today with the events that happened in the past. It leads to a melding of the two, and it’s like past and present become one.

With my neurodoc’s help, I separated the two that melded during my most recent flashback and began to process the emotion itself. I felt grounded and no longer traumatized. Yet the EEG and ECG data after I’d settled down clearly showed my brain was still processing the whole thing.

It’s a little freaky that your unconscious can do things without you being aware of them.

Now that I am aware, I realize that my unconscious creates this state of being disconnected or disassociated from my emotions when I become overwhelmed, but it’s only temporary. It won’t be long before emotions connect to my conscious mind again and shake me around. But it’s not as crushing as it would have been when the events originally happened because today I am mentally stronger, have healed a lot, and I have a good team, who can not only help me with flashbacks but also help me relearn what is normal and how normal emotions feel (after a 14-year absence, you tend to forget what normal feels like). And now that my neurodoc has suddenly been made aware of some bad shit* hidden underneath my polite demeanour, he’s fixed a laser eye on me. The quicksand under my feet is beginning to firm up.

—–

*No, I’m not telling anyone the specifics of that traumatizing experience, but I will say it was not sexual abuse, child abuse, physical violence, or anything like that.

Brain Biofeedback

Back to Gamma Brainwave Training at PZ-O1

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Back to gamma, gamma brainwave training. Back to the PZ-O1 position: the electrode is gelled onto my head at the back of my skull and slightly to the left of midline. That’s the position associated with alleviating PTSD symptoms as I recall. This is what me and my neurodoc were concerned about, and I’m glad we’re back. Still, C4 needed training, for sure.

It’s too bad I don’t have the energy to do more than one brain biofeedback session per week as I’ve definitely benefitted from training at the C4 position this year – particularly in reducing the high levels of delta-theta (tuning out) and busy brain (aka über worry on steroids), which don’t help with PTSD either and were an outflow from my brain injury. The rumination effect of brain injury is truly awful. But I could’ve used continuing gamma training at the same time.

After this week’s brain biofeedback session, my trainer asked me to note how I am in 24 hours. Why?, I asked. It takes that long for gamma training to take effect, she replied. Not with me, it doesn’t. In the early days, barely before we’d finished, I’d go from practically silent to non-stop chattiness. My perception and vision would be immediately improved. I’d have an immediate feeling of being less stressed. I’d be in happy gamma mode. This week happy gamma took less than two hours to take hold. I was feeling disconnected when I arrived at my appointment, so I don’t know how much of a de-stressing effect it had.

After having gamma been enhanced in me for 1.5 years, the effect is not as dramatic in the immediate term. But the week we trained gamma by accident at C4, it did make a difference in how I handled the events and emotions in the days that followed.

In fact, it was heartening to see this week that since I was last trained for gamma on 17 December 2013, the results had held. My initial gamma/EMG ratio started at above 1.0, which is where we’d left off.

After we’d seen unexpected and amazing results in me from gamma training, the ADD Centre started training gamma brainwaves in one other client. The training is holding in them as well. This is good.

Last Saturday I went to Ripley’s Aquarium at the foot of the CN Tower for a family birthday celebration. I used the SMR session on my Mind Alive DAVID device. This session entrains brainwaves into the SMR pattern, which is relaxed, focussed attention. In other words, calming and very good for being able to (somewhat) tolerate crowds and noise. I’m so glad I used it. In the days following, I needed rest after breakfast, after doing weights, basically after doing anything. And the old elephant I thought long gone had returned to sit on my chest. I couldn’t figure it out. Then I remembered: Ripley’s’s. Sigh.

The gamma training shoved that elephant off.

I swear gamma is like a drug. Makes you feel good, makes you feel better. I venture to posit that I was able to get high on life pre-injury because maybe I produced oodles of gamma!

Brain Biofeedback

A Touch of Gamma Brainwave Training

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Everyone has trouble with tradespeople’s propensity for setting big time windows, even businesses. The Toronto office at the ADD Centre is undergoing some minor physical restructuring, and a guy was supposed to arrive at the same time I was being trained to do some work near the computer I’m usually hooked up to. So my trainer connected me to the one in the other office, the one I hadn’t been on since September 2012.

No problemo.

Just change the screens and reporting frequencies . . . except my trainer forgot the high frequency data stat was set to gamma and not SMR. She was about to exit the program and restart it so as to change that frequency when I said no, no, no leave it. Then I shamelessly begged. She couldn’t resist. Hehe.

Because of the screens I chose (you get to choose which games to play), we ended up training the high frequency data in the first two screens — that is, gamma — and SMR in the third one, but the reports only showed gamma stats not the SMR. That meant we could see what happened to gamma when training SMR.

It goes up.

I’ve never trained gamma at C4, for apparently it’s normal in this area. During the first training screen, I quickly developed a sensation of deep pressure over my right temple, which is in front of C4 but not that close . . . I don’t think. In the second screen, the pressure expanded from right temple to across the forehead to left temple. Now this could be coincidental because the barometric pressure changed suddenly and quickly at the same time. I think my trainer said it went up. The feeling of pressure went away after my session was over but returned while typing this on the subway.

In any case, I got a feeling of calm that sifted into me like a mist slowly, gently covering roiling waters.

The gamma/muscle tension ratio started at the 0.8s and though it didn’t go above 1, it rapidly increased into the high 0.9s during training and SMIRB. I think it’s what I needed. Happenstance helped me with my stress and emotions when I needed it.

Victoria Day has once again become a difficult day for me. I was close to my grandmother, and she died unexpectedly just after midnight of Victoria Day when I was a teen. The autopsy found no cause, but we knew she died because she missed my grandfather (who’d died a couple of years earlier), and her physical health was temporarily fragile enough for her mind to make its will felt.

So during tDCS this week and before beginning brain biofeedback screens, we discussed that but then we discussed yet another relationship problem I’m having. Whether family, friend, professional, or acquaintance, I always seem to be having relationship problems I need help sussing out.

I don’t recall it being this difficult before my brain injury. It’s funny, you know you have a changing personality, have trouble with social cues or communicating or navigating relationships or connecting with people, but it doesn’t feel like you’ve changed into some sort of creature who can’t do the social thing. And I have no problem on Twitter, though it took me months and years to understand and become good at. Yet friendship trouble (and professionals wanting to keep you in a box and family issues) is a common refrain I hear in the brain injury community.

Luckily the client after me was very late. Happenstance to my rescue again.

All the talking and problem solving we did brought my out-of-control busy brain down, even before training began. It was the problem solving part of the talking that was key because mirroring or venting wouldn’t have done that. And the training really got my brain out of that rat wheel.

Brain Biofeedback

Laughter is Good Medicine but not Mid-Training

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You know when you get a fit of the giggles and can’t stop laughing and how awkward that is? Well, imagine that when trying to move a virtual bowling ball down its virtual lane . . . Or worse flying a biplane with brainwaves that don’t want to co-operate so that the electric guitar in the audio goes boop . . . boop . . . boop as the biplane stops and starts, making the giggles you’re desperately trying to suppress burst out into raucous laughter that brings your trainer hurriedly to the mouse to point, click, stop the feedback screen.

She got me serious and restarted by asking me what my favourite colour is. I actually don’t know. I did before my brain injury. Everyone knew my favourite colours. But after the injury, my preferences began to change. And change again. And now I’m not sure.

That sobered me up.

I had bad bradycardia this week, down to 37 beats per minute, this after I had been congratulating myself on how strong my heart felt, no choking feelings or double back flips in my chest. Sigh. But my overall heart rate is dropping. I know, I know. Every time I think this, write it, it goes back up. But fingers crossed, it’s for real that my heart rate is now close to 100, no longer in the 120s or 130.

My last brain biofeedback screen is three sailboats in a race, each in their own neon-coloured virtual lane. My trainer admitted this week that she hates that screen too. But I have to use it cause, well, she’s the boss. Hah! Anyway, my sailboat representing the 13-16Hz brainwaves we want to enhance usually beats the wandering mind and negative thoughts boats.

Not today.

The busy-brain boat zipped out of its dock and almost reached the end of the lane. It’s rare for any of the boats to do that with me — that boat’s not supposed to move or only a little bit because I’m supposed to be inhibiting it. Meanwhile, the delta-theta boat kept trying to sneak past me (me being 13-16)Hz.

Near the end of the three minutes of training, I almost lost to both boats but I got back ahead of delta-theta by a whisker. So not a total ignominious defeat. I’ve never lost before. Makes one pause.

In the end, probably because of that laughter, which I totally blame my trainer for, with her hilarity in our opening conversation, I left feeling good. Good!