Sunday, May 31, 2009

Cheap EEGs

I had held off in putting up this blog until I decided I would have something interesting to say (which is why all the dates are messed up). But now that I am thinking this may have a wider audience, its time to list out where to get the EEG machines reasonably.

Open Source Modular EEG $200-$300, 2+ channel, but has to be assembled. --this is the one I am currently using, and building some as well. If you build your own, I have designed an easy to use EEG headset that can be put together very cheaply, and works through thick hair.

Brain Master Technologies $1200+ 2-4 channel. My understanding is that if you tell him you have interest in the open source eeg community he will give a discount. Every now & then these show up on eBay, go for around $700.

NeuroSky $199 single channel. If this works, this is totally exciting. I have one on order, & will compare to the Open Source EEG & then post the results. If it is a viable alternative, then its definitely the way to go for experimenters that do not have deep pockets, or lots of time to build their own. Interesting also in that they have created their own ASIC (the 'think gear' image above), if the intent is to market this to medical manufacturers then it could be the real thing.

Emotiv $299 , looks totally space age, but they have intentionally disabled the ability to get to the EEG functions! What were they thinking? Not sure if it could be hacked. Not yet out late May 2009. If anyone hacks this, please contact me as it appears this would have roughly 6 channels. I have one of these on order as well, but not sure if I will follow through on the order, as I wonder how much they have done to hide the encoding, or possibly placed filters that would limit its usefulness.

Mattel MindFlex Game

Control a foam ball by mental activity. For kids, $79, not sure what they are measuring, but connects as an EEG would to head & earlobes.

Star Wars, The Force Trainer
Level of the ball in the tube that you 'levitate through focus' (and a little help from some fans) with 15 different levels of difficulty. $139. Again not sure what they are measuring , but interesting in that they have separated it into 15 different levels. Alpha? Gamma? If anyone hooks themselves up to this with an EEG at same time, perhaps they could email me with some actual data

Comment if you know of other inexpensive EEGs


======May 17 Brains, where have they gone
So you may be wondering what happened with the brain blog. The simple answer is that I took apart my EEG machine one time too many, and seemed to have destroyed it! The unfortunate thing is that the way it was constructed its not easy to just replace a board, as instead of using molex connectors between the boards, there is a bunch of wires soldered from board to board, which is ok while everything is working, and annoying as hell when it comes time to fix it.

The ones I am building use molex connectors, but my construction is unfortunately remarkably slow as everytime I find something I am unhappy with I order different parts, I am probably being too anal, but I am sure Monk would be proud of me.

But the good news is there is one report I have not sent out yet, and it is a doozer (not sure that word is in the dictionary, so take it as somewhere between dozing, and Wow(!)).

I wanted to find out if these machines would work for Gamma, so while training in the high alpha, and suppression of 2-5, I also monitored Gamma. Well of course, the Gamma was totally fascinating because this is what they looked at on the Buddhist monks that have been meditating for 20years. The monks had this very large gamma wave signature, which the neurologists interpret as increased consciousness. Since I don't know if I have 20 years, my approach is the 'better living through technology', and there are reports out there that say you can use EEG's to duplicate 20 years of meditating in 6-12 months.

So without further ado, here are some screenshots of gamma. The last one 'brain15lows.jpg' is interesting because this is an example of what I started with in one session, so you can see how much you can change your brain by simply using an EEG & attention. Notice I did not say focus, because focus is a narrowing, and you are actually trying to do the opposite. I am not sure that I can describe it, but I would have to say that there are times when you would want high alpha, and other times when high gamma would be good for whatever you are trying to do. Either is very interesting to be experiencing first hand. If I lived about 2000 years ago, maybe I would also take up some mushrooms & become a soothsayer since they were still buying into that back then. Now the best I can hope for is to put out an EEG manifesto & tell people why I think it is a good idea.

I am hoping I have finally found all the ways I do not want to build the EEGs, and will soon have some working ones ready to go. But this will be the last report until I manage to fix the current one, or build the new ones.

minute by minute

===============April 14

Thought it might be of interest to send out an EEG session where you could see the gradual change minute by minute, rather than just towards the end which is what I have been sending out.

Start of session (above)

at 2 minutes, some calming in the lower wave
at 3 minutes, notice lower wave starting to settle
at 10 minutes, getting more high alpha (top line) activity, with negative impact to 2-5 on bottom
at 22 minutes, pretty much same as 10 minute activity
at 25 minutes, slightly more high level alpha

Now that was pretty much the end of the session, with some negative impact from having to operate the mouse to capture images. But I thought I would also include a snapshot of a session that was rather remarkable, and unfortunately very rare. I was not capturing gamma, so will never know for sure if maybe this is the gamma-symmetry they were talking about, but the state change was quite remarkable, and somehow effortless (although to date I have been unable to duplicate it). It was definitely a feeling of intense awareness & oneness. I would have to say that if I can teach myself to flip over to this state voluntarily it would be worth years of training.

Of course it figures that during this time I was on-call & was paged, and had to work on some production problems in the servers. Even so, the feeling although diminished, did not completely leave & I happened to capture what it looked like when I got done with the work issues, which is shown below. I think the end goal would be to maintain these states while working. I find it remarkable that I have made as much headway as I have, especially considering I only do 30 minute sessions. I sometimes find the sessions taxing, as if the brain is an overused muscle, or as if it has not adopted to its new state, that the new state is not me, but rather a different version, a different projection. I seem to have gotten past the occasional problem with dizziness & needing to breathe more deeply, but this may be that my recent sessions have not been particularly good in the high alpha.

a test...

=====March 21 a test (imgs above & left)
From what I can tell I am somewhat retarded in my progress. The neurologists typically only spend a few weeks at the level that I am working on before moving on, whereas for now I seem to be quite happy to continue at the current suppressing of 2-5, and increasing 12-15.

Today I decided on a test. I need to finish off a paper for a local conference presentation on software hox genes, and need to come up with good examples/explanations. The ones in my software do not work well for the presentation as they require too much background, and would bore everyone to tears. So in this 'eeger session' I decided to switch back and forth between doing the standard put my mind in a state to produce the waves that I wanted, and occasionally to flip over thinking about the examples/explanations.

So first off, if you look at top left image this is waves from the previous day and not mucking around with thinking other thoughts. This way you can tell the affects of trying to do useful work.
The next two are a couple that I grabbed during the session. There is a bit of a problem with cherry-picking these, as I have to grab something, and tend to grab when they look pretty reasonable, so these are done when I am fairly pleased with the state, and may not be representative of the entire session (especially the first 10 minutes or so). So I really should be picking 2, one being a minimum, & the other my 'cherry pick' to give a true representation. Will do that next time.

Anyway, I think you can see the previous days image was definitely a 'better' wave, so there was some cost to the session.

On the idea front, I picked up 5 fairly decent ideas/ways to explain. Definitely along the lines of 'nibbling away at the big problem'. So nothing astounding, but definitely was in the mood to work with it, and was happy with the result. It was the type of idea session where you feel like you have improved your understanding.

without going into detail the ideas were:
  1. issue is that hox would work best in a quantum computer, where everything is working at once, digital computers are a poor substitute.
  2. repressors for hox genes need repressor switches for detecting changes in environment that would switch them off
  3. in digital world, a poor but necessary substitute is the idea of a membrane that determines what segment of the network is visible, and what hox genes are being acted on
  4. chemical soups are totally ideal, as in this case we have many hox in many states (law of large numbers, with enzymes acting like single core CPUs)
  5. important to point out that there are no order dependencies in how animation engines do their jobs, as it will all fall out in the end. Obviously using hox genes in digital world not optimized for speed.
It comes down to how you measure, this is a philosophical area where measurements can only be done comparatively without hard numbers, but I am happy.


==========March 21 -Annoyance (first img above, end, second is start)

EEG report

This morning was a rather interesting experiment in that I was annoyed when I started my EEG session & wanted to see if I could get out the mood that I was currently in, as it was hardly conducive to my plans for the rest of the day. I was also definitely not in a mood to do any 'compassion' types of meditations.

Actually, for now I want nothing to do with compassion meditations anyway. I basically am doing this to try to become more effective in those areas that interest me.

I came across a very interesting paper on how to do exceptional research ( have a summary of this paper if anyone wants it). One of the tips was that you need to work in the system, as if you fight the system, your energies will be expended in changing the system, which you may accomplish, but alot of valuable time will be lost. I was trying to take some of this advice to heart. For example, at yesterdays IT meeting I had taken an opportunity to talk with the VP about doing a paper for him explaining how complexity theory could overcome some of the issues that had caused a project to be canceled (alert! alert! --more selfish scheming for how to get to do this project in the fashion I want to do it in, rather than the ahem, less than brilliant fashion we normally would do it in.) Therefore under the guise of, ahem, 'applying the latest complexity theory acadamians are using for risk management of large projects', I was attempting to satisfy my own selfish desires . Anyway, he was interested, and afterwards at the end of the 'large meeting' he asked for questions. Now normally I would have some choice question such as: 'almost all organizations have moved away from command & control structures as they exhibit poor characteristics for efficiency and innovation, do we have any such plans?'. This time I found myself actually behaving myself, which actually prompted the VP to ask somewhat surprised if I did not have any questions. So all this was simply to say, maybe this is an example of me getting incrementally smarter, or perhaps wiser would be a better term. It could also be an example of the VP knowing exactly how to manipulate me...

So in general, compassion meditations are out, as I seem to be able to get the state change I want without getting all soupy about it. But then again, I am always open to experimentation, as if I found I could get the gamma symmetry using the 'c' meditation, I would find it perfectly acceptable.

Back to the effectiveness of the eeg session. It took me about 20 minutes before I was beginning to get into what I will call the 'different state'. From the jpegs, you can see where I started (annoyed), and finished (not really thinking about it, so if I am not focusing on it, I will call it good).

one step back...

=======March 16 One Step back

Another EEG report

My focusing on trying to increase the size of the waves in the 12-15hz seems to have put me back to the start of my training in reducing the 2-5 waves. Interesting, as I think I also felt better with the lower 2-5, so that seems to be significant. I wanted the elevated 12-15 to see how it affected creativity.

Interesting article in Scientific American, heres a quote from it:
Our research and that of other scientists suggests that the vagus nerve may be a physiological system that supports caretaking and altruism. We have found that activation of the vagus nerve is associated with feelings of compassion and the ethical intuition that humans from different social groups (even adversarial ones) share a common humanity. People who have high vagus nerve activation in a resting state, we have found, are prone to feeling emotions that promote altruism—compassion, gratitude, love, happiness. Arizona State University psychologist Nancy Eisenberg has found that children with elevated vagal tone (high baseline vagus nerve activity) are more cooperative and likely to give. This area of study is the beginning of a fascinating new argument about altruism—that a branch of our nervous system evolved to support such behavior.

And a new science of happiness is finding that these emotions can be readily cultivated in familiar ways, bringing out the good in others and in oneself. Here are some recent empirical examples:

Meditating on a compassionate approach to others shifts resting brain activation to the left hemisphere, a region associated with happiness, and boosts immune functions.

Talking about areas of gratitude, in classrooms, at the dinner table or in the diary, boosts happiness and social well-being and health.

Experiences of reverence in nature or around morally inspiring others improves people’s sense of connection to others and sense of purpose.

Laughing and playing in the face of trauma gives the person perspective upon life’s inevitable difficulties, and improves resilience and adjustment.

Devoting resources to others, rather than indulging a materialist desire, brings about lasting well being.

Anyhoo, I am fascinated by this as I found the 'compassion' meditation was very affective for achieving the elevated 12-15, and reduced 2-5. My goals when I started this were multiple, (reduce stress, increase happiness, focus better, and perhaps achieve some 'aha' experiences. I was not originally considering areas that are part spiritual, but feel that I must accept what I find.

lasting effects

============March 13 (associated images appear above)

Another EEG practice report...

I was trying some experiments to see how large an amplitude I could get the 12-15 hz without worrying about what happened to the 2-5 hz. Then I wanted to try switching to lowering the 2-5 hz all in the same session. Note that I do not seem to have the control to both raise the one & lower the other, at least not yet. Anyway the ability to control brain frequencies is definitely there in all of us, with corresponding changes in focus, attitude, and perception of stress. Currently I notice lasting effects from anywhere from none upto maybe the majority of the day. The none was actually the day of doing the 2 jpegs I am sending. If I am tired from night job activities (we had issues at 11:40, then 2:30 in morning, then in to work at 7) then I will not be right regardless. So somewhat limited in what it can make a difference in. However, used to be I could not even vaguely change waves when I was tired, so that I was able to modify them while tired in this case was interesting

Okay, now for some books that look interesting. The first one (if you were here you would hear some choking sounds in that this definitely not the type of book I would normally recommend, but worth reading the comments on it) I think has a basis from the effects I have seen when trying the 'compassion' meditation. Definitely improves mood, and there must be a physiological / genetic basis for it. Could well be some of the underpinnings of religion & society in general. So, if anyone wants to try this or the other books mentioned here, let me know & I will send a copy.

The second one is by a neuroscientist, and discusses best practices for keeping a healthy brain, including diet.

increasing amplitude

===March 8
This morning trained for increasing size of wave in the 12-15, without worrying about what was happening in the 2-5 range. As promised, much smaller jpeg. I am surprised that I am seeing noticeable affects in the short time I have been using this. I feel like I am thinking better, and have better concentration...

EEG beginnings

====March 6, 2009
So, I have decided to start my brain blog, of which you dear readers are the unfortunate receivers of this perhaps unwelcome wisdom. I mean a blog would be far more polite, as that way you would have a choice of whether to see it or not.

The point of this blog is to record my experiences, so you might have an idea of what it would be like to spend 20-60 minutes each day with the EEG machine.

I think I am roughly 2 weeks into my training now. I am attaching some jpegs so you can see the change in brain wave patterns that I have affected during training. (brainWave0 is an example of starting, brainWave is when I thought I was doing pretty well, and brainWave2 I have only managed once)

The goal was to make the top wave as large as possible, and the bottom wave as small as possible. The effects of changing your brain waves intentionally seems to last for a good part of the day. On the day that I achieved the almost flat line on the bottom it was almost scary. The good part was that I seemed to have much better focus. The strangeness was that it felt like when you put on a new pair of glasses that you have not adjusted to yet & you think it will be ok, but it feels off. The scary part was that every now and then I had to do deep breathing as it almost felt like I was going into a state where I might pass out. So my guess here is that I was probably using more oxygen than usual and needed to change my breathing habits some. But it was cool, as I seemed to zip through a couple of tough problems the contractors at work were having.

Now note that this is not a linear progress, today could not create the nice large waves in the 12-15 range (top graph). But I tell you, it does make you feel different. One of the differences I notice is that although I am 'in' the world, things do not affect me as much at the personal level. Also, I tend to think less in the 'me' form.

So this training is what was recommended for the newbies to this, later will work on Alpha waves, and possible gamma assuming my EEG unit will pick them up.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

what it is

This is a series of posts that describe my experiments with Neurofeedback. Note that I do not claim to be a professional in this area, I would describe myself as a hobbyist (my profession is software development). My goal is to be able to choose the best of state of mind, be it for creativity, getting in the zone, or just relaxation.

Mostly I will be describing my experiments, what works, setbacks, and other items of interest. I will also provide links for the books/websites that I have found useful, & will post reviews of equipment that I am using. (currently using the Open Source EEG).

eeger (EEG) Manifesto

EEG Manifesto

1. Life is about creativity, happiness, and being in the zone
2. There are mental states that enhance #1
3. It is possible to train for these states --i.e. select your own brain waves