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Research Findings

Neural Feedback and Brainwave Training Part 3



Sleep Cycle

The EEG pattern changes throughout the night. These changes can determine when dreaming occurs. The chart below is an average sleep cycle during those eight hours.

Stage one is the drowsy period of sleep, characterized by what is known as sleep spindles (spindle-alpha).

Stage two is a sleep where responses to external and/or internal stimulation can occur. This stage is characterized by what are known as K-complex waves.

Stage three means you are on your way to State 4.

Stage four is deep sleep. It is also delta state and is not associated with dreaming. REM states (Rapid Eye Movement) is where most dreams occur.

Notice how one spends most of the first part of the night in Stage 4 sleep. The latter part of the night is spent mostly in REM sleep. Therefore, most dreams occur toward the end of one’s night’s sleep,. When this stage is deprived or not allowed to occur, temporary personality changes occur with other psychological changes. When one them makes up that lost sleep, they will spend more of it in a lighter stage, REM. In a sense, this make up for that lost dream time.

Although there is a lot of variable data on EEG changes with age, there is a basic curve that shows the usual rate of development and change with time. Primarily the EEH frequency of a person stays very low, about 1 to 2 cps in a newborn infant, gradually increasing until the age of 19, where the normal adult rhythm, while awake, is about 20 cps.

Things which lower the EEG frequency are:

  • LSD, sedative drugs
  • Large doses of alcohol
  • Very low blood sugar
  • Lack of oxygen

Things which raise the EEG frequency are

  • Caffeine
  • Small doses of alcohol, barbiturates
  • Low blood sugar
  • Excess of carbon dioxide (CO2)

Hypnosis, per se, has little effect on the EEG. What is contained in the hypnotic suggestion which change frequencies and make the difference.

How The EEG Works

The EEG generates a feedback signal by picking up the very low voltage brain wave signals with two or more electrodes. A high-gain circuit amplifies the signal and drives a wide bade filter. This filter passes signals in the alpha through delta range and attenuates signals of higher and lower frequencies. The feedback is usually in the form of a modulated white-noise with the modulation at the brain wave frequency. There are usually two controls, one for amplitude variations and the other to discriminate frequency bands for tighter control.

The cerebral cortex is the outer most part of the brain. It is this convoluting mass of tissue that man has more of than any other animal. The cortex of each hemisphere is divided into four main areas, called lobes. Alpha is found predominately on the occipital lobe or back-part of the brain. This is the section which deals with visual systems. Alpha is also found in the frontal lobe, but not as easily. Theta is found more commonly on the temporal lobe, which the speech, sensory, and motor areas tend to show primarily beta activity.

Electrode placement usually uses a ground or reference point under one ear. The potential generated between the two electrodes is very important. Therefore, the second electrode is usually placed in the occipital region, just under the inion (“bump” on the back of the head) at one side about one inch. The side chosen is the same side that the “ear” electrode is on. This gives the most optimum gradient form brain signals being easily monitored.

Flower image

Potential Application

Pleasure, relaxation and sleep are associated with alpha-theta output. The combination of relaxing, clearing the mind and turning inward can be a very pleasant and rewarding experience. Learning to relax and go from alpha top theta has proven to beneficial to the insomniac. In some cases, it can also be a sleep-substitute.

Hypnosis patients are much more susceptible to suggestion when in lower alpha states. It is now possible to achieve states of consciousness within several weeks of autogenics training to those of Zen masters with 20 years meditation effort. The main drawback is that when one learns these states, continual reinforcement is necessary for similar continued ability, day-to-day.

One of the main purposes for sleep is to transfer information and experiences from short to long-term memory. Concentration, learning and recall ability can and is greatly enhances with alpha-theta control exercises. Recall capability is greatest in alpha state. Also, by learning to exclude all external stimuli when trying to achieve alpha-theta control, increases one’s ability to concentrate.

The reverie state which is indicated by theta and low-frequency alpha seems to increase hypnagogic and dream-like images. There is also a link between reverie and hypnagognic imagery and creativity. These images are critical for the creative process.

Other Biofeedback Directions Include:

EMG (Electromyography) is used for hypertension, deep muscle control, and reading improvement by eliminating “subvocalization.”

Thermal Feedback for controlling body temperature at various points on the body. Current research shows that most individual can raise or lower finger temperatures about 8 degrees Fahrenheit, useful in the control of migraine and tension headaches.

GSR (Galvanic Skin Response) is used as a lie detector and supposedly is a way of communicating with certain plants. Although the latter is highly questionable, there is a statistical significance in the change of skin resistance in certain fish 8 hours prior to a major earthquake, offering a new early-warning system for the prediction of major quakes in high-risk areas.

These have been just a few of the many suggested possible applications. An exciting field with promise, biofeedback technique research should provide more new discoveries and ideas for years to come.

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