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Ask Slashdot: Neurofeedback At Home, Is It Possible?

Soulskill posted about a year ago | from the what-could-possibly-go-wrong dept.

Technology 68

New submitter sker writes "Mind hackers, self-help junkies, even regular people have heard wild promises of the power of neurofeedback — namely the process of watching a visual representation of your own brain's activity to influence what your brain is doing. Folks are using it to cure ADHD, PTSD, or even to supposedly improve mindfulness meditation. Previously the sole domain of costly hospital and research equipment, the necessary EEG equipment is making its way into the home. From newagey Deepak Chopra-endorsed kits to the for-engineers-only OpenEEG project, the options are rapidly getting unwieldy for curious bystanders to make sense of. Have you had experience with EEG or neurofeedback at home? Do you have advice?"

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That reminds me a lot of (3, Insightful)

Nutria (679911) | about a year ago | (#44016891)

biofeedback, which was the self-help craze of the 1970s. It didn't work very well. (No, I didn't RTFA.)

Re:That reminds me a lot of (4, Interesting)

phantomfive (622387) | about a year ago | (#44017075)

Biofeedback seems to work for a lot of things [wikipedia.org] , including ADHD, anxiety, chronic pain, epilepsy, constipation, tempromandibular joint dysfunction, and female urinary incontinence.

My guess is that for problems where a lack of awareness of what's happening is the primary cause, this sort of thing can be extremely helpful. In other cases (for example, if a shark is chewing on your leg), watching a visual representation of your brain isn't going to help much.

Re:That reminds me a lot of (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44017195)

Biofeedback seems to work for a lot of things [wikipedia.org] , including ADHD, anxiety, chronic pain, epilepsy, constipation, tempromandibular joint dysfunction, and female urinary incontinence.

My guess is that for problems where a lack of awareness of what's happening is the primary cause, this sort of thing can be extremely helpful. In other cases (for example, if a shark is chewing on your leg), watching a visual representation of your brain isn't going to help much.

No, like with just about everything, a practice will produce some beneficial results - like lowering one's blood pressure and people then extrapolate thinking that it will solve ALL their problems. It becomes a panacea

For example. Herbert Benson in the Relaxation Response [relaxationresponse.org] found that Transcendental Mediation (TM - Really it is) will reduce hypertension.

Jon Kabot-Zinn has done quite a bit of research on Mindfulnes and Yoga and it's benefits on dealing with stress.

Unfortunately, many folks then think mindfulness, meditation and yoga will cure a bunch of other stuff and make a bunch of other outlandish claims.

Then other folks go to the other extreme and think, "Well, see! Meditation didn't cure cancer so therefore it's all hooey!"

It's a huge problem in the Buddhist community - a lot of folks enter the practice thinking it'll make them happy and healthy and do whatever other magical things they mistakenly think meditation can do and get quite disappointed when it "doesn't work". A Zen Master - Suzuki IIRC - said that meditation won't cure neuroticism.

And then there is a lot of survivorship bias in meditation - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matthieu_Ricard - folks stuck with it for years and are really happy, but I have to ask, did the practice make these rare individuals happy, or is it that the practice makes them happy because they just like sitting around meditating - in other words, would they have been just as happy playing cards if that was what they really enjoyed.

Re:That reminds me a lot of (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44022897)

Why go through all that trouble of Yoga and/or Transcendental Meditation when you could just wear a magnetic bracelet that provides the same benefits?

Re:That reminds me a lot of (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44037051)

Cos there's no such thing.

You might as well have subsituted "Diet and Exercise" for "Yoga and/or Transcendental Meditation".

I'm not into the whole guru-worship phenomenon that tends to go along with these Eastern practices, but the results are real and speak for themselves.

My personal favourite is Surat Shabda Yoga, but all the gurus associated with it can go suck a dick.

Re:That reminds me a lot of (1)

Cragen (697038) | about a year ago | (#44048033)

Mindfulness, a meditation technique in both Buddhism and Hinduism (and recommended widely in western psychological practice), is a widely misunderstood practice. It is simply the practice of "watching one's mind". "Happy", like "sad", "depressed", etc., is a feeling that comes from one's mind. Eventually, one realizes that the mind *is* the problem. (Well, the "gross" level of the "mind" is another way of putting it.) One then learns that ignoring that gross level of the mind is the next step in the process. That step results in the gross level of the mind eventually "wearing off" like mud on one's skin or silt settling in a glass of water. So, "Happy", "sad", etc., is then realized to be a part of that gross level of the mind. Mindfulness need not have all the religious or psychological trappings, but they also make people relatively happy in the meantime so perhaps the devotional techniques can be helpful. (I couldn't get into that stuff, but that's just me.) All the other stuff people do prior to learning the above is just relatively-"blind" people looking for help, which oddly is very hard to find.

Re:That reminds me a lot of (1)

davester666 (731373) | about a year ago | (#44017365)

The real trick is to combine it with self-neuroelectrostimulation.

Re:That reminds me a lot of (1)

JBMcB (73720) | about a year ago | (#44017403)

Most of it has to do with lowering your blood pressure.

You could also just chill and listen to some relaxing music or have a beer, which is cheaper and much more enjoyable than taping electrodes to your head.

Re:That reminds me a lot of (1)

phantomfive (622387) | about a year ago | (#44017515)

You could also just chill and listen to some relaxing music or have a beer, which is cheaper and much more enjoyable than taping electrodes to your head.

lol let's just say that's a matter of opinion. Some people design computers for fun, for example.

Re:That reminds me a lot of (1)

peragrin (659227) | about a year ago | (#44018957)

Alcohol doesn't actually make me relaxed. For those who get angry drunk having a beer just isn't a good idea unless they can control how many beers they have.

For me I don't seem to react to stimulants like others. Sure caffeine might keep me alert. if I drink a cup right before trying to go to sleep.

Re:That reminds me a lot of (1)

phantomfive (622387) | about a year ago | (#44022247)

For me I don't seem to react to stimulants like others. Sure caffeine might keep me alert.

Caffeine has very little affect on me that I can discern. Eating breakfast does more to wake me up in the morning. I can drink a Red Bull and sleep just fine right after. Not sure why. I also know someone who has Novocaine resistance. Going to the dentist was a nightmare for years until they realized she could still feel things.

Re:That reminds me a lot of (1)

gstoddart (321705) | about a year ago | (#44031981)

Going to the dentist was a nightmare for years until they realized she could still feel things.

I have a very strict policy about letting the dentist know I can still feel things ... if your friend went for years without putting up a fuss, she's either very brave, or way too timid to say "hey, asshole, this still hurts way too much for the freezing to have worked".

Re:That reminds me a lot of (1)

phantomfive (622387) | about a year ago | (#44035585)

That is good for you. In her case, it had been that way since she was a kid, so she just thought that's how dentistry was until she became roughly an adult.

Re:That reminds me a lot of (1)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | about a year ago | (#44019151)

In other cases (for example, if a shark is chewing on your leg), watching a visual representation of your brain isn't going to help much.

I tried one of those biofeedback devices as a kid - my father is a dentist and his patients back then were asking for it (fad?) as an alternative to other pain control methods, so he got one. It was a handheld unit basically the shape of a modern mouse (hrm, the Mac 128 could have learned something from those) that had a couple electrically conductive pads on them connected to a circuit with a speaker. To relax, the goal was to get the sound of the speaker to go down in pitch and tremolo. For the first few minutes it was pretty erratic, but then you could learn to get control of it. If you got yourself anxious, it would spike back up again (maybe it was based on perspiration?), so I think basically it was an anxiety measurer - effectively giving people a tool to measure their relaxation level. Presumably a relaxed person does not mind the pain as much.

Anyway, some of the patients used it for minor procedures (fillings and such). I don't think anybody used it for extractions or root canals. I was like, "hell, no, nitrous and lidocaine, please," but it was a neat toy anyway.

Re:That reminds me a lot of (1)

phantomfive (622387) | about a year ago | (#44019445)

I was like, "hell, no, nitrous and lidocaine, please,"

That's basically how I feel too

Re:That reminds me a lot of (1)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | about a year ago | (#44017199)

Yeah, Edmund Scientific used to sell DIY biofeedback kits back then. They also sold plastic pyramids that were supposed to keep your razor blades sharp.

I think people had better drugs back in the 70's.

Re:That reminds me a lot of (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44019169)

You need to read up on the latest report by the NIMH regarding the evidence of neurofeedback.
Bottom line: yes, there's now some substantial indications that it works for ADHD.
Neurofeedback is amazing. I do it every week. I mean, you actually boost up your own brain electric activity via operant conditioning (usually the reward is better control at a video game joystick, or louder music through speakers).
I have no desire, time nor stamina to educate a moron like you, though.

Re:That reminds me a lot of (1)

DQKennard (1573143) | about a year ago | (#44022189)

Maybe neurofeedback stimulation could make the moron-education process more pleasurable, and the moron-insulting/mocking process less pleasurable.

Re:That reminds me a lot of (1)

sjames (1099) | about a year ago | (#44021049)

As a pop psychology fad based on overpriced stuff from the sharper image, yes it didn't work very well.

As a tool in cognitive behavioral therapy, it could be very effective.

OMG (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44016913)

Just like the neurofeedback stuff that was in Radio Electronics magazine decades ago? Wow, finally making its way into the home!

It really is complicated (3, Insightful)

EdZ (755139) | about a year ago | (#44016957)

the options are rapidly getting unwieldy for curious bystanders to make sense of.

That's because it IS unwieldy, for anyone. Even EEG done properly is not cheap or simple, and EEG is not a wonderful method of visualising what is actually going on in the brain: you're measuring the potential difference between points of the surface of the skull, and making a guess as to roughly the region in the brain the current(s) that produced that potential difference are actually occurring in based on electrode placement.
fMRI and similar are better, but NOT something you can do at home (just building the superconducting main coil would be a massive feat).

Re:It really is complicated (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44017059)

Actually, with the open source Emokit and a $300 Emotiv Epoc, a good EEG is not so cost prohibitive anymore.

Re:It really is complicated (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44017815)

The EEG one is $750. This company is too expensive. (I have no idea what "EPOC" is or how crippled it is.)

Re:It really is complicated (1)

Half-pint HAL (718102) | about a year ago | (#44020977)

Given the clear amount of hobbyist interest, I find it surprising that the developer SDK isn't free for the EPOC, to encourage development, hence sales. For the EEG, I can understand it -- it's a low volume item, and it's not aimed at consumers.

Re:It really is complicated (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44022715)

While Emotiv doesn't give you the raw signal from the Epoc headset, as they do from the EEG headset, the hardware is essentially the same. The free and open source Emokit gives you access to the raw EEG feed from the $300 Epoc headset. Though $300 is already expensive for some, you can get a lot done with it.

Re:It really is complicated (1)

gl4ss (559668) | about a year ago | (#44021999)

Actually, with the open source Emokit and a $300 Emotiv Epoc, a good EEG is not so cost prohibitive anymore.

well sure if you want to play around with 14 values that are read from your brain.
you might just as well buy one of those iphone in the middle(it has a thing to wear on your head) thought controlled mini choppers.

it's pretty damn far from imaging the brain though.

Re:It really is complicated (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44022351)

Perfection is the enemy of progress.

Re:It really is complicated (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44022677)

It's not too difficult to do quite a bit with those 14 values and a bit of signal processing. The point is that you *can* do neurofeedback at home now, even for less - you can get the ~$100 NeuroSky MindWave. Not only do you not need proper high spatial resolution brain imaging for neurofeedback, but for many applications the high time resolution of an EEG is what you want.

It is complicated, but you can do it at home (5, Interesting)

acx2 (2798695) | about a year ago | (#44017197)

While I don't have experience with neuro-feedback, I do have some experience building and using an EEG.

That's because it IS unwieldy, for anyone. Even EEG done properly is not cheap or simple, and EEG is not a wonderful method of visualising what is actually going on in the brain:

As the parent says, an EEG signal is complicated, noisy, and difficult to interpret. Many of the wild promises are just that; wild promises used to hype business plans. To get an idea of what's currently possible with state of the art research for implanted electrodes (which provide a much better signal than a surface EEG), the following nature video on research at Brown may help:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=ogBX18maUiM .

If you are still interested, it is very possible to play with EEG signals at home. The OpenEEG project is one place to start. If you are interested in designing your own hardware, the ADS1299 provides much of the functionality in a single chip (and allows you to do much more of the filtering in software where you can play more tricks). Noise is a major issue. You'll want good electrodes (sintered silver-silver chloride are best) and some form of electrode gel. You'll also want to look into signal analysis techniques; this in an active area of research for EEGs. The book "Brain-Computer Interfaces: Principles and Practice" edited by Wolpaw and Wolpaw (ISBN 978-0195388855) provides a good overview.

A small group of us are currently working on an open-hardware EEG-controlled mouse that you can build at home. It's still at an early stage, but we have managed to move a cursor on screen to a series of targets (and show via bootstrapping that we're doing much better than chance). The designs for the board and software prototypes can be found here: https://github.com/ericherman/eeg-mouse [github.com] . If you want to be notified when we have something a little less prototype-like, send one of us an email and we'll start a list. If you want a better description of where we're at, create an issue on github.

You *can* play with this at home - either with your own software/hardware or someone else's. Much like writing a speech recognition engine, however, if you plan on easy success you'll be disappointed, but if you plan on a challenge you'll have a lot of fun.

Accessing the subconscious (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44017613)

from http://www.huxley.net/bnw-revisited/

"Dr. Poetzl, an Austrian neurologist, who had recently published a paper describing his experiments with the tachistoscope. (The tachistoscope is an instrument that comes in two forms -- a viewing box, into which the subject looks at an image that is exposed for a small fraction of a second; a magic lantern with a high-speed shutter, capable of projecting an image very briefly upon a screen.) In these experiments Poetzl required the subjects to make a drawing of what they had consciously noted of a picture exposed to their view in a tachistoscope. . . . He then turned his attention to the dreams dreamed by the subjects during the following night and required them once more to make drawings of appropriate portions of these dreams. It was shown unmistakably that those details of the exposed picture which had not been noted by the subject provided material for the construction of the dream."

my understanding of this is that the human brain takes in alot more than we are aware consciously. and that and the REM state allows processing of the unconsciously retained experiences. Consciously retained experiences can be integrated immediately. This is a well known theory, but more than 100yrs later its implications have not been widely appreciated, or at least it _has_ been appreciated by advertisers and persuaders but not to the same extent by the every man.

There is an entire culture dedicated to Lucid dreaming, these people frequently associate it with all manner of mysticism that is largely considered unscientific, generally because it consists of unfalsifiable belief or falls to occams razor.

Recently, research on Gamma wave, an entirely scientific, measureable, signals present in the brain has resulted in the hypothesises that they are responsible for Consciousness through coordination of different regions of the brain.

when parts of the brain are not coordinated they may still function, but we are not conscious. When presented with an image a measureable gamma signal from 40-100 hz is produced within 0.5sec, when people are aware of the image. If this signal is not present people are not conscious of having seen the image!

  In the brain are a type of neuron, gabaergic interneurons (parvalbumin ? i am not a neurologist but i have done graduate level mathematitics, physics and some chemistry). synaptic and tonic/extrasynaptic Gaba_a receptors channel Cl- ions into the cell and polarise it, increasing the electrical potential required to cause the firing and propagation of signal due to the release of neurotransmitter, which occurs when the cell depolarises. They appear be involved in learning, and Gaba may stabilize the growth of dendrites? (the roots of nerves) by allowing them to grow in a steady and controlled manner.

More immediately the PV gabaergic interneurons also transduce a calcium signal. Ca ions have an opposing effect, decreasing the membrane potential and making it more likely to fire.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Membrane_potential

The cannonical numbers are something like; at equal [K+] inside, and [Na+]
outside the resulting cell membrane potential is -70mV. Mg can be inhibitory and increases this to -80mV and Ca is excitory and decreases it to -50mV.

The PV protein in certain gabaergic interneurons transduces incoming Ca signals and creates harmonics. It buffers incomming Ca and releases it to produce this signal alternation.

  Other cells can tune into the various resulting signals, by selectively responding to particular frequencies. It has been found, experimentally, that a region of the hypocampus (where gamma waves originate) such as CA1 are able tune into regions thought to deal with long term memory, or switch so as to tune signals from regions dedicated to short term awareness.

Also, Gamma waves are not present when consciousness is not present.

Now where am I going with all this? :D

Well I believe that during Lucid dreaming involves multiple systems, synchronised and therefore coordinated and activated; one, involving the processing of subconsciously retained information, accessing the subconscious, and two, conscious awareness related to volition. When both are simultaneously synchronised we can consciously interact with the subconscious.

Now. A common way to assist acheiving Lucid dreaming states is to use a signal, a tone or light, to remind you that you are dreaming, without waking you up, to trigger awareness.

_BUT_ it is entirely possible, and I believe superior, to do it the otherway around.

That is, through meditation while continuously conscious and aware, induce a state which i am assuming is similar to REM sleep. Visualisation occurs, with closed eyes, and with experience these visualisation can be as powerful as those produced during dreaming and entirely within the control of the meditator. This is a powerful capability of the human mind, to consciously interact with the "subconscious". Understandably mystics throughout the ages appear to have interpreted this capability as seeing into the future or astral travelling, remote viewing etc, but it is much more basic, and very much real.

Some people associate these states with the Pineal gland, and there are interesting hypothesises here. One is that as the Pineal gland contains the INMT enzyme, and has been shown to produce DMT endogenously (this has been measured in vivo very recently) that DMT is the endogenous molecule involved in visualisation. This is plausible because DMT is a metabolite of Serotonin (more distantly), and related to Melatonin too.
Although only minute amounts of DMT have been measured in vivo it is also interesting that INMT is distributed in other cells and tissues and may also have a role in synchronising the endocrine system. This is not supported by any research that I know of but if you consider that Tryptamine has to pass through INMT _twice_ to produce DMT, this provides a mechanism for a signal to propagate to a destination and then back to the source, where it becomes the active DMT. This could rationalise many ideas relating chakras with the endocrine system etc.. ;)

  Mexamine is another candidate for the dreaming molecule, many serotonin metabolites, including NAS, are very active but still poorly understood. It is only since 2000 that we've discoverd things like trace amines in humans, thyronamines such as TAAM1, involved in dopamine regulation; TAAM1 induces hibernation in hibernating mammals.

Will biofeed back allow a much wider audience to access these states??? I hope so. Currently lack of awareness is a planet-wide problem. We have the capability for so much more if we could synchronise our brain waves, literally.

EEG measurements of budhist monks have shown "atypically" strong gamma wave signals when they entered a state of meditation where they felt a sense of awareness and compassion.

But it seems that our society has captivated the masses with distraction and futile goals. Cynically we think that most would discount or dismiss the benefit of tehe disciplined meditation required to develop proficiency with visualisation.

Perhaps more intelligent people tend to be naturally in touch with these capabilities anyway. Here is a quote from a japanese Go professional; hrm cant find the quote but its something like, when asked how he identified moves. something like, "you see pictures in your mind, and you choose from them"

Re:Accessing the subconscious (1)

F34nor (321515) | about a year ago | (#44019583)

I would friend you if I could... be not a coward.

Re:It really is complicated (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about a year ago | (#44017307)

fMRI and similar are better, but NOT something you can do at home

What about long-wave infrared imaging? Also, if you could get your hands on a few squids, you wouldn't need the coil for NMR applications, although my understanding is that the weak magnetic field would cost you a lot of spatial resolution. Or perhaps transcranial sonography could be used for functional imaging. (But I won't even try to guess what suitable acoustic transducers or squids actually cost.)

Re:It really is complicated (2)

EdZ (755139) | about a year ago | (#44017915)

if you could get your hands on a few squids

I'd put constructing a SQUID [wikipedia.org] on a similar level to constructing the main coil. The coil is just a big solenoid wound from superconductors and immersed in liquid Helium (or probably Nitrogen if you're building it at home). Building a SQUID at home requires you to not only construct your own chip fab, but do so on non-standard substrates (you need to make a superconductor-insulator-superconductor junction).

Re:It really is complicated (3, Interesting)

TeslaBoy (1593823) | about a year ago | (#44017393)

It is indeed complicated. Putting on and taking off an EEG array properly takes a couple of hours, which has made home applications of EEG for communication with paralyzed patients impractical. As such, surgically-implanted (brain surface, called intracranial) EEG is being explored for these patients, but would never be used without a very severe disability. Another technology, functional near-infra-red spectroscopy (fNIRS), is also be explored. This is still at an early stage. The group of Rainer Goebel at Maastricht University (Netherlands), for example, is working on this. This technique uses light to measure changes in blood flow caused by neural activity, so does not require electrical contacts through a conductive gel like EEG does. This would be more practical at home, you could put on a helmet. It is also relatively cheap. The main drawback is that fNIRS can only see activity just under the scalp, so you have to find a brain area to measure from that is in just the right place. This takes some initial setup for each subject, ideally in a hospital using functional MRI. So in short, there is no current technology that can do what you want properly, but fNIRS will probably be the best bet in the medium term. (p.s. I work in brain imaging tech development)

Openeeg (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44016991)

openeeg.sourceforge.net/doc/

Yes and No? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44017125)

I have Tourette's Syndrome and I found it to be very helpful as suppliment to medication. I used it through a doctor first but eventually bought my own machine and did it at home 3 times a week. I checked in with my doctor once every couple of months. She trained me to use it. It's not a cure or anything magical but it does reduce my physical tics noticeably. The software is still behind current times but it's past NES quality now...it was just pong not that "long" ago.

EEG != Brain stimulation (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44017143)

Guys, EEG is not the same as brain stimulation. EEG just measures electric potentials generated by the brain. Stimulation uses external currents to mess with brain activity.

Re:EEG != Brain stimulation (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44021875)

Guys, EEG is not the same as brain stimulation. EEG just measures electric potentials generated by the brain. Stimulation uses external currents to mess with brain activity.

You mean, like television?

simple (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44017171)

there have been kits and articles about how to do that at home with off the shelf parts for the last 40-50 years in various magazines. ALWAYS use battery power, add a couple op amps and a vco or some fancy digital display these days and away you go. the hard part can be finding the good electrodes and goop to make the contacts to the head.

Mind control (1)

gmuslera (3436) | about a year ago | (#44017189)

Wouldn't have any "mind control" device a similar effect? Like, i.e games [gajitz.com] or prosthetic limbs [mashable.com] . That would give a more practical use (and reach a far bigger audience), while keeping the benefits.

Re:Mind control (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44017435)

I think a better term would be "mind controlled device". Even beter would be brainwave controlled device. Mind control device already had a well understood meaning.

Nekomimi (2)

Animats (122034) | about a year ago | (#44017251)

Well, there's Nekomimi [youtube.com] - cat ears controlled by brain waves. They recognize "relaxed", "alert", and "startled".

It's possible (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44017351)

The problem is regulation. No home-equipment is certified to treat ADHD. And a lot of these devices/software combinations are pretty pricey.

Concerning the evidence for effectiveness, the fog seems to clear. There are dozens of studies treating ADHD children with neurofeedback and which have found it effective. The feedback protocols have narrowed down to Alpha/Theta and slow cortical potentials. These types of measurements are easily possible with the Neursky Mindwave equipment, which is pretty cheap and robust.

However, home use isn't exactly psychotherapy, and in most studies there is some additional assistance to help the children transfer these skills to daily life. AFAIK there are no studies using this home equipment.

There are no studies AFAIK that identified damage or negative effects with neurofeedback. The Mindwave headset for example only carries an AAA battery, so electrically it should be safe unless tampered with.

I did biofeedback as a child (3, Informative)

p00kiethebear (569781) | about a year ago | (#44017505)

When I was 13 ADD was causing significant problems in my academics and social life. We did the ritalin thing for a bit but my mother wanted to try something else to help since the drug didn't seem very effective.

The program involved me sitting in a dentists chair while I had electrodes on my head. I played a dumbed down version of pac-man with my mind.

The basic way it works is when your brain is creating the ideal waves for 'focus' the pacman moves through the maze. The idea is that the child will focus on the pacman moving and through practice will learn to move the pacman through the maze without stopping.

Eventually we ended the program because it just made me so tired I would fall asleep in the chair. Booooring as shit. I suspect something like this would probably work better for an adult who cares more and has the focus to do it. I think I was too young at the time to really care to put more effort into it.

Re:I did biofeedback as a child (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44017767)

The posture of a dentist chair naturally puts you to sleep. If a physiologist doesn't know that, I sure as fuck wouldn't let him fuck with my brain.

Re:I did biofeedback as a child (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44022949)

Wait...so to treat your ADD they gave you something to focus on?

Pure Fucking Genius(tm)

Quackery. Plain and simple. (1)

aabrown (154032) | about a year ago | (#44017619)

http://theness.com/neurologicablog/index.php/neurofeedback-and-the-need-for-science-based-medicine/

and from Quackwatch:

Neurotherapy -- also called neurofeedback and EEG neurofeedback -- is a form of behavior modification that uses electroencephalographic (EEG) biofeedback technology to increase voluntary control over the amplitude and pattern of various brain wave frequencies. Proponents claim that modifying brain wave patterns is effective against anxiety reactions, mood disorders, substance abuse, attention deficit disorders and various other mental and emotional problems. Research shows that brain wave activity can be altered through various forms of biofeedback. However, a comprehensive review has concluded that none of these claims is supported by well-designed studies.

Re:Quackery. Plain and simple. (1)

hedwards (940851) | about a year ago | (#44017721)

Not that I necessarily disagree, but the people who post on quackwatch aren't necessarily qualified to evaluate the things they're complaining about. Which if there's no body of data on it at all is to be expected, but you also find people using logical reasoning to argue against research papers as well without even working in a similar field of expertise.

Also, bear in mind that neurotherapy is a much more recent development than biofeedback is, and it's going to be a while before it's really settled. It's just been within the last 20 years or so that imaging technology for the brain has advanced to the point where you could really study the changes in brain function with regard to various therapies.

If we apply the standards that some of the idiots on quackwatch use, there would be no medicine because nothing would live up to their concerns.

Re:Quackery. Plain and simple. (1)

aabrown (154032) | about a year ago | (#44017759)

What do you think about the writeup from my first link (The NESS)?

Re:Quackery. Plain and simple. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44018727)

I doubt he's open minded, but at least he's a neurologist. I've seen postings on quackwatch by general internists commenting on specialties they know nothing about.

This article itself has very little substance to it. He does raise good points to an extent, but since he isn't actually dealing with anything other than the coverage from journalists, it's not a link worth reading for most people. Most articles on scientific advances are written like that, in large part because journalists aren't scientists.

Re:Quackery. Plain and simple. (1)

shadowofwind (1209890) | about a year ago | (#44018427)

I worked in neurofeedback for a short time. My 'colleagues' were con artists and sociopaths, in my view, and neurofeedback definitely isn't marketed and sold in an honest manner. But it does do something, it's not simple quackery. A lot of things aren't easy to characterize in a controlled manner, or aren't studied adequately for funding reasons, but are nevertheless real. Whether neurofeedback does more good than harm for most users is a more difficult question. But that's not at all clear for drugs like Ritalin or Valium either, in my view.

Re:Quackery. Plain and simple. (1)

Qwavel (733416) | about a year ago | (#44022049)

That was 2007 (your link). I believe there have been lots of studies with positive results (and perhaps improvements in technology) since then.

Here's a recent article about using it for tinnitus (an area with more quackery then most others combined):
"The Effects of Neurofeedback on Oscillatory Processes Related to Tinnitus"
http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10548-013-0295-9 [springer.com]

I have a MindFlex game (1)

houbou (1097327) | about a year ago | (#44017729)

And it's pretty cool, you need to use your brain waves in order to control the ball and make it move, so, in that respect, doing a bit everything eventually gets you pretty good at having control.

Re:I have a MindFlex game (1)

aabrown (154032) | about a year ago | (#44017747)

I LOVE those kinds of things. I had something similar to that on my Atari back in the day. For fun: I'm all for it. For actually helping or curing any disease: nope nope nope. Because of you, I'm going to have to pick one of those up next time I see it. :)

Re:I have a MindFlex game (1)

narcc (412956) | about a year ago | (#44020427)

Are you sure? The Atari Mindlink was never actually released -- and read "forehead muscle movement" not "brainwaves".

There were a lots of ads for it though.

Re:I have a MindFlex game (2)

EdZ (755139) | about a year ago | (#44017947)

you need to use your brain waves in order to control the ball and make it move

I'm sorry to tell you, but in simple two-electrode EEG setups the chances that you're actually picking up potential differences due to brain activity are near zero. What you have is a forehead-muscle-contraction-controlled game, not a mind-controlled one. An Electromyogram not an Electroencephalogram.

Re: I have a MindFlex game (1)

muridae (966931) | about a year ago | (#44020289)

Most if them are three electrode, actually. I just picked up a mind flex and the duo (two player version), and am tearing into them to see how useful the data is. Byt, i agree that even with three sensor points, most of the signal will be pulse and muscle movement, not neural activity.

Not some Scientolgy device is it? (1)

AlienSexist (686923) | about a year ago | (#44017781)

Now we can watch those embedded alien souls at work in our minds.

No thank you (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44018087)

"Neurofeedback At Home, Is It Possible?"

More to the point, is it desirable ?!

Maybe you should ask the NSA huh ?

I'm an electrophysiologist (5, Interesting)

mandginguero (1435161) | about a year ago | (#44018223)

hard call to make - use mod points, or participate. I'm doing my dissertation work in an EEG lab at UCSD, and while I don't actively research neurofeedback training (NFT from hereon out), my adviser and other lab members do. The OP gets it wrong - there is no cure for these psychiatric conditions. NFT may alleviate some of the symptoms, but it is likely the underlying etiology of ADHD, PTSD and Autism (which we investigate) is different enough from individual to individual that this may not be therapeutic for everyone.

A quick crash course in EEG. Neurons in the brain communicate between themselves via chemical signals. Some of these neurotransmitters cause quick voltage changes in their target neurons (either excite with inflow of positive ions like Na+, or inhibit with inflow of negative ions like Cl-). When you have large regions of neurons communicating with others, you'll see synchronized activity - say when someone touches your arm, the part of your parietal cortex that represents that arm will have a large amount of neurons suddenly get excited. When they get excited, they draw in positive charges, and there is a net negative charge left outside of the neurons. You can detect these fluctuations in more or less real time from outside of the head - but there are limitations. Where an electrode sits on the scalp will not give you a good idea of where in the brain the signal comes from. Between the neurons and the sensor on the scalp there are several different protective layers of tissue, some fluid filled with electrolytes, bone, and skin. These electrical signals are more likely to traverse laterally underneath the skull, than to penetrate out. What you record on the outside is a noisy, noisy combination of all the signals from all over your brain, plus some muscle activity (think eye muscles and jaw). In fact, the muscle electricity is a couple orders of magnitude stronger at your scalp electrode than brain electricity. It is mathematically impossible to determine exactly where a signal recorded on the scalp originated in the brain - there are some fancy algorithms to approximate solutions, but that is another thread. Without knowing where the signals come from, one way to try to figure out what brain regions are talking to each other is by decomposing the complex signal into its component frequencies using something like a fourier transform.

Psychiatric therapy directed NFT is supposed to work by identifying different brain frequencies (from hereon out called brain rhythms) at specific locations on the scalp that differ from the general population. There is a database of the general population's brainwaves for this process called QEEG (quantitative EEG, however this is a little misleading because all EEG since digital sampling/recording is quantitative....) and you can take someone with say ADHD and compare their 10 Hz brain rhythm at the site right over the center of their head to the 10 Hz rhythm of the general population. If there is less power (power = amplitude squared) at this electrode site than the general population, a clinician might devise an NFT program to focus on the 10 hz signal at that sensor location.

p00kiethebear describes a very similar protocol for what my lab employs. For instance, we have children with a diagnosis of autism come in and watch videos or play simple games, and when the 10 Hz signal is above the threshold determined by their QEEG diagnosis, the frames will advance. It is in essence a form of guided meditation. The control that a user develops is qualitatively different from person to person. There are no clear instructions you can give someone to help them figure out how to engage a specific brain rhythm. One kid described it as imaging a hand coming out of his head. Another described peeling oranges. I seem to have a stronger 10 Hz rhythm when I imagine kung fu forms. Go figure.

Conceptually, to do this sort of training at home shouldn't be too difficult. If you have the technical savy to follow the open EEG project you'll have the minimum amount of hardware needed. Definitely read up on signal processing to figure out how to best isolate a brain rhythm of interest, and minimize muscle contamination. You may honestly have more fun reading up on some of the other brain computer interface work - like learning how to control cursors on a computer screen than just trying to increase brain rhythms in a meditative like practice. Keep in mind that to gain control of more than one dimension of commands, you'll likely need multiple electrodes and stronger signal processing skills in time x frequency space. For instance with one active electrode (at minimum you also need a second reference electrode for your differential amplifier, I recommend on the earlobe, or on the maastoid bone right behind the ear - both are electrically neutral tissue), you could learn to move a cursor up or down, but not up/down & left/right, unless you are a master of multiple brain rhythms.

I am an MEG mindfulness researcher (1)

aestrivex (1398161) | about a year ago | (#44022851)

hard call to make - use mod points, or participate. I'm doing my dissertation work in an EEG lab at UCSD, and while I don't actively research neurofeedback training (NFT from hereon out), my adviser and other lab members do. The OP gets it wrong - there is no cure for these psychiatric conditions. NFT may alleviate some of the symptoms, but it is likely the underlying etiology of ADHD, PTSD and Autism (which we investigate) is different enough from individual to individual that this may not be therapeutic for everyone.

That's precisely right. My lab does not do neurofeedback at all, so my knowledge might be outdated by about two years because neurofeedback paradigms are not something that I pay attention to. But nonetheless, my sense is that neurofeedback is a really cool paradigm -- but not even close to being ready for clinical prime time.

Like so much else in the brain, we don't really have any idea what neurofeedback means. What we do know, is that subjects are able to modulate their own alpha (10 Hz) power or bold response by viewing real-time neuroimaging measurements.

We also don't have any idea what mindfulness meditation means. We do know that alpha power is associated with mindfulness. We have some decent guesses at the pathways that might implement this circuit, regions that are synchronized in the alpha band. But we don't actually have any idea what's going on.

I don't know of any studies that directly examine whether neurofeedback can modulate mindfulness (or more likely, somatosensory attention tasks). That study should be done, but I suspect it would be difficult to find anything useful.

Even if it were done, it is an open question whether home-built EEG systems have a high enough signal-to-noise ratio and spatial resolution to even do this type of neurofeedback paradigm usefully.

MindWave Mobile (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44020005)

My first neurofeedback device was an OpenEEG [sourceforge.net] . It ended up costing just over $300 and took about a week's worth of effort. While the end result was a functional EEG device, limited software support and hassle of use (dealing with ten20 paste, keeping electrodes in place) resulted in rare usage.

I highly recommend the MindWave Mobile [neurosky.com] as a cost effective, simple to use, and well supported EEG. Accuracy is low-moderate given that there's only a single electrode, but the device works and different states of focus are clearly captured.

For a slightly more expensive, more extensible and accurate EEG, check out the Emotiv [emotiv.com] products.

DIY electrostimulation? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44020875)

Sounds like a wet dream for Darwin awards.

neurosky (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44021301)

The neurosky mindwave products are available for a reasonable price and have several good reviews from neurofeedback practitioners.

Amazon has several books on neurofeedback which have good reviews from parents and practitioners.

Biofeedback does work. For instance, with a GSR monitor one can learn to relax faster and more deeply and which aspects of relaxation are key: "feeling heavy", not moving, belly breathing, pausing after exhalation, progressive relaxation, etc. Don't do it lying down unless you want to fall asleep.

I am going to be trying this soon (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44021495)

So as an epileptic who also has ADD Tendencies, I am going to build the openEEG projects and go from there. I do not want to control anything at this moment from it as of yet, however I would like to keep a better record of the things that cause my brain waves to spike and wave with my activities so that I can bring it to my doctor and help him bring some insight on to what is really happening. I know its not perfect, but it is definitely a start especially with the legalization hopefully approaching.

Expand (1)

poofmeisterp (650750) | about a year ago | (#44021993)

Interesting concept.

Now how about watching your seizures start (if you have epilepsy)? Watching your migraine start is fascinating until you have it. :)

Integrate Digital TV with Kinect. There it is. (1)

ClassicASP (1791116) | about a year ago | (#44027991)

Think about it: you integrate the Kinect (which reputedly recognises facial expressions) and let it do its thing while you watch TV. They record your expressions as the commercial runs. In exchange for this (sacrificing your privacy) they give you a discount on your monthly TV bill. I can see it happening.
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