Brain Biofeedback

LORETA Neurofeedback: Week Three

Posted on

I've now completed three sessions of LORETA neurofeedback, and I'm more tired than old toast. But so far, I have been seeing improvements since after session one. Apparently, this is not usual.

It hasn't been usual for me to see improvements after the first session of a brain biofeedback-type treatment either. My theory for this anomaly with LORETA is that it's because gamma brainwave biofeedback has somehow primed my brain to be able to profit from whole-brain biofeedback immediately.

But the theory I was given is that I'm highly tuned to my body and brain so that I notice changes most people wouldn't. I don't know about that. If you're used to waking up each morning thinking, God, is it morning already, do I have to get up? and then one morning you wake up as eager as a puppy for walkies, you're gonna notice, no matter how unself-aware you are. I'm sure.

The only caveat to that is in the first few months after a brain injury, when your perception is so whacked out of joint that you perceive the moment is how you've been your entire life, you may not notice a big change as a change but as how you've always been. But that warped perception does improve back to normal over time, and even if it doesn't, single-electrode brain biofeedback will, at least partially. And as I understand it, people only do LORETA neurofeedback after doing a stint of single-electrode. So I could see people not noticing subtle changes, but I'm sure I'm not the only one who would notice some of the big changes I've had. Too bad they've lasted only days or minutes. But at least the potential is now proven to be there.

Brain Biofeedback

New Brain Biofeedback Regimen

Posted on

The biggest complaint people have about LORETA neurofeedback is they’re tired afterwards, my trainer told me. I stared at her. I hadn’t noticed anything different. But then since I’m always tired, I probably wouldn’t have. And, anyway, if you’re working your somnolent brain, it’s bound to be tired.

My cockiness got a real whooping after that. This past week marked a change to the new brain biofeedback regimen. One day I have single-electrode biofeedback, and one day LORETA. You’d think it would be the LORETA that would knock me over. Nope. It was changing that single electrode from CZ (middle top of head) to PZ-O1 (left back, sort of halfway between top of head and bottom of skull and to the left of midline). They had changed the location because CZ was assessed as normal in my EEG back in March, while PZ-O1 was busy taking a permanent break from working. It overproduces alpha waves; that may be why I continue to have trouble reading and learning and with language.

Well. PZ-O1 most certainly did not like being woken up. I probably didn’t have such a problem the first time we tried this location in the first week of April because I had received direct stimulation of the brain via transcranial direct current stimulation. And although it was in the F3-Fp3 position, somehow it helped the training in the PZ-O1 position so that it wasn’t so tiring. This time, there was no stimulation because it had been too much for me. And, as well, we were working on slightly different frequencies than the first time. Now, we will continue to enhance gamma brainwaves while inhibiting alpha waves in the 8-10 Hz range. We want me to continue to produce high-frequency alpha waves; that’s why those aren’t included. We are also monitoring busy brain and brainwaves in the 2-4 Hz range.

My heart rate dropped with each three-minute biofeedback screen, and reading dropped it even more, just like it did in the CZ position. But reading didn’t produce my best gamma output, maybe because this area is directly implicated in my reading issues.

After that session, I was visibly tired to everyone, really thirsty, and starving, and I went to bed very, very early. I have not gone to bed that early in eons. I slept a long time for me.

My second LORETA session was a bit of a kerfuffle because they were using a different machine and hadn’t realized that its DVD player had long since decided to retire. And so instead of watching a DVD, I watched biofeedback AVIs, which loop. I watched a different one for each of the five five-minute screens I did, with the last two being four minutes in length, meaning they only began to loop once. The third and fourth AVIs included text; the former as a short story a la Star Wars intro, the latter as credits. I tired quickly during the first couple of screens. But somewhere in the middle of the third or fourth one, my brain opened up. It was like someone had taken a can opener and let the light in. I continued to feel tired, yet I was alert and brighter. At the end, my trainer looked at the scores while I gazed around the suddenly-to-me-brighter room in wonder. She noted that she’d never seen anyone in the second session steadily increase their scores with each screen. People get  tired, performance drops, scores go down. But not with me. Heh.

When the AVI disappeared during my training screens, it was because the neuronal networks involved in executive function, short-term memory, failure to initiate, and/or word find went down. The word find was particularly noticeable whenever I tried to read the credits in screen 4. The AVI during screen 3 also disappeared like a shot every time it looped to the text and I tried to read it. It had to loop many, many times before I was able to keep it full screen long enough for me to read a sentence here then another sentence in the next loop, and so on.

I asked her about my vision change. I know that brain training will make your vision clearer, things will be sharper, but it was also brighter. It was like someone had turned up the lights. She noted that with LORETA, physical, not just in-the-brain, changes can occur with vision. Mind. Boggled. I was also seeing much more. My field of vision had widened, and I hadn’t realized how narrow it had been. I think this big picture awareness is translating into when I read too.

But in close-up work, it’s like my lens forgot where my focal point is. It’s like it’s saying no, that text is too close, move it farther away, no that’s too far, closer, no, that’s no good either, a little further — would you make up your mind! I felt like screaming. Over 48 hours later, and it began to settle down. The vision and perceptual changes have reverted somewhat to “normal” now. And my sleep sucked after the neurofeedback. It was like skimming on the crests of dreams.

I was hoping to experience normal reading again, like I had the Saturday after the first LORETA session. But nope. This time, I read faster than I could keep up, and I got a concentration head-ache, which I haven’t had in a long time. I did however feel great eagerness to read when I awoke and did start as soon as I could. So I think that was a spurt of initiation — my Go button turned itself on. I also felt quite engaged while watching the first TED video in the Neuroscience iTunes U course. My mind may have wandered once or twice briefly. In eighteen minutes, that’s pretty good.

So week one of the new regimen done. It will continue like this for a little while.

Brain Biofeedback

LORETA Neurofeedback: Day One

Posted on

LORETA: low resolution brain electromagnetic tomography

So. I survived my first LORETA neurofeedback session. In some ways, it was familiar. Familiar office where I go for my assessments at the ADD Centre. Familiar start with HRV (heart rate variability) training. Familiar scrubbing of earlobes. But the 19-point EEG cap didn’t feel the same because she wanted to make it un-hugging so that it wouldn’t feel like it was there. Totally unlike the EEG cap for assessments — tight! Not possible, I said to my LORETA trainer. I’m too sensitive to touch, I said. But the cap she chose was pretty good. Felt like it was going to fly right off and not give me a headache.

They schedule about a half-hour to set up. A little less time to remove everything. That’s why the LORETA appointment is an hour and a half. I had answered a questionnaire about a list of symptoms prior to my appointment. Dr. Michael Thompson and Andrea Reid-Chung had put them into the computer, added my EEG assessment readings, and then tweaked it manually when they set up the LORETA neurofeedback program to address everything I had rated a ten, meaning what really, really bothered me, things like executive function, fibromyalgia (the closest to fatigue symptoms in the questionnaire), reading… And so when I got there, the training program was ready to go. All I had to do was choose a movie to watch. I decided on Kratt Brothers Be the Creature — something familiar and fun.

While she injected generous amounts of electrogel into the 19 electrodes of the cap, I did an HRV screen with only the breathing belt and heart rate monitor on. The idea was to induce relaxation. I’m not the only one who arrives nervous. But even once you know what it’s like, it’s good to have a few minutes of decompression with HRV, of transitioning between the busy world outside and the intense brain training.

She used the same head diagram as they did during the EEG assessment to check all the connections were good. The connections only needed to achieve 10 k(omega) resistance for LORETA neurofeedback, a little less sensitive than the assessment. I didn’t need to keep on the breathing belt and heart rate monitor for the neurofeedback because the program doesn’t include them and to run them separately requires too much extra computing power on the system. It’s a bit weird to rely only on me to know if my breathing is okay — not too deep, not too rapid or slow. I no like. But I had to.

The normal setup for my single-electrode gamma brainwave biofeedback is two screens and one computer hidden from view. The second screen is sometimes for a two-screen biofeedback screen but most of the time for recording my data after each training. Here, for LORETA neurofeedback, it was a laptop and a screen. I watch the screen, and the trainer keeps an eye on my readings on her laptop.

Instead of playing a game on my screen, I play the movie I chose. What happens is when the networks in my brain are working and the designated brainwaves are achieving the target amplitudes and it’s all in phase, the movie fills the screen and plays. When my brain gets tired and stops making the desired connections and producing the wanted frequencies at the desired amplitudes, the movie goes away. It shrinks into a tinier and tinier square until finally it disappears. Then all you see is a big, black screen. Intimidating. Frustrating. When your brain begins working again the way it’s been trained to, the movie appears as a teeny square that grows larger and larger until it fills the screen. No matter the size of the square, the movie continues to play. Sometimes it starts to shrink then refills the screen. Sometimes it starts to reappear after disappearing but doesn’t make it all the way back before it begins to shrink again. It can get a bit dizzying, but it rather effectively tells you how you’re doing.

The readings the trainer monitors are divided into amplitude, coherence, and phase and within each is a list of the various frequencies in the various Broadmann areas. The movie plays on my screen, and every time it stops, she checks which reading is going red and compares it to the 10s on the questionnaire I filled in.

While I play a game for three minutes during single-electrode brain biofeedback, during LORETA I watch a movie for five minutes. I was told that if five minutes was too long, then I can go down to four. Or if I can go longer, then next time we could set it to six minutes. We repeat that six times, or up to eight times, or as few as four. And the resting interval in between running the movie with your brain is for however long you want — well, within reason, as you should finish before appointment end. It can’t go on forever and ever! Needless to say, you’re not going to get to watch an entire movie or even much beyond the opening scenes in one session. So don’t get too involved! Another reason I chose Kratt’d Creatures — you can stop that show anywhere and won’t feel like you’ve been cut off just as the story was getting good.

At the end of the first five minutes, she stopped the movie, and she asked me if I knew why the movie had disappeared. Yeah, I replied, my brain was tired. Later, she asked me how I got it to play again. That was tougher to answer. But the closest way I could explain it, was that I stared at the centre of the screen where the movie had shrunk into a tiny square and then vanished until it reappeared. It’s staring, but not just staring. It’s like sharpening the eyes and focussing on the spot. And boom, there comes the movie back into view. Beyond that, I found if I worked to focus and engage, trying to take in the details, not just watching passively, it kept the DVD playing in full size. Yet sometimes, I didn’t know why it played. It didn’t feel like I was doing anything.

It turns out that most of the time when the DVD vanished, it had to do with executive functioning — the frontal lobes. The main area of injury. Surprise, surprise.

The way we gauge progress is different than with single-electrode brain biofeedback. Here, it’s points. The more seconds you keep the DVD running and visible (in full screen, I think), the more points you earn. You compare the number of points you earn from session to session. So you see the number for each five-minute play plus the total of all the screens at the end. You can see how you do within one session and from session to session.

I began with 184 points, then 180, 180, and lastly 182. I was only able to do four screens. I got really hot at one point, but when she opened the blinds and let the sunlight in, I felt better. I like to look out a window or sense natural light. I find it difficult to work in a windowless(-like) room, and somehow the trainer realized that. She’s the same! I had a total of 726 points. The goal for next time is to increase my points. Since I had so many questions during the training and was just getting used to the procedure, she didn’t give me a lot of feedback in the intervals. Next time, it will be a regular type of session where tell them how I did after the previous session and then I receive feedback during the intervals in between neurofeedback screens. I will play a movie, take a break, get feedback on which areas went red, play a movie, take a break, get feedback on which areas went red, repeat three to five times more.

The day after my first session, I felt no different, but for what it’s worth: my athletic therapist said my posture was much improved over the last time he saw me two weeks earlier; my head was straight; and my shoulders were no longer up near my ears. My doc told me I looked like I was in a good place and didn’t want to disturb me out of that by talking about the traumatic memories (that had surfaced a couple of weeks ago). Both made these comments sans prompting from me.

And then on the Saturday I had my first ten minutes or so of normal reading since my brain injury!! Holy —-!!!