Monday, May 18, 2009


Below is a transcription of a conversation I had with Dr. Ed Hamlin, of the Pisgah Institute, concerning my neuro-biofeedback treatment. I had a procedure called a QEEG performed, where my head was fitted with sensors, and I was asked to do different tasks such as reading, doing math, sitting with my eyes opened and eyes closed, and the computer mapped the electrical impulses in my brain. Neuro-biofeedback is a treatment that teaches your brain to make new pathways and nerve connections that promote positive behavior. The therapist places two sensors on different part of the brain, and the patient is asked to look at a computer screen which has a video game similar to Pac Man on it. When the two spots of the brain under the sensors begin to ‘talk to eachother,’ the Pac Man moves on the computer screen. The therapist can adjust what the sensors are looking for, and thus can control what type of energy (theta, beta waves, etc.) your brain produces. Your brain is hardwired to want to win the Pac Man game, and so it teaches itself to produce the sort of activity which the therapist is looking for. Basically neuro-biofeedback is about enforcing and reinforcing your brain to practice efficient neuro-pathways, and discourage any sort of electrical imbalance in the brain that may lead to negative behavior.

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There are 2 parts of the QEEG
1= a medical part (neurologist looks at tracings)
2= quantitative part, see what its made up of

Each line is a location in your head (eyes closed/open, etc.) and each sensor represents hundreds of thousands of brain cells, and they all are not firing at same rate, so each line is an average, but we want to see what that average is made up of, so we put filters on to see a specific range.

Medical part – clinical neuropsychologists analyze your brain, this should be part of your primary care record so you have something to compare to if you were to have a head injury, but they did not see anything that looked like a ‘medical disorder of the brain’

Quantitative part – of the 19 lines there is one that is different (darker = busier = brain cells firing more rapidly) at T4 above right jaw. If someone has a pain disorder there is a natural tendency to clench the jaw, this is a common finding when there is a chronic pain condition, and it feeds back into the pain center in the brain, priming it up to be on the lookout for pain stimuli.

Pain works by kindling – if something is triggered in the brain, like pain, the cells will fire more rapidly, and when they do so they form connections with each other. ‘Brain cells that fire together, wire together.’ The more of this kindling that is done, the lesser the stimulus needed to trigger a reaction. Everything else looks the way that it should.

Looking at a frequency distribution graph, 0-25 hertz, of all the brain cells that are firing 1x or 2x or 3x etc., when eyes are closed there should be peak in back of the head. 10 hertz is the idling frequency of the brain, when the brain cells are not doing something, but they are ready to do something. When you open your eyes you want that peak to drop. Despite all this, there is a point in back of your head that didn’t change between eyes closed and opened; that is ‘very rare’ and ‘very interesting.’ This is what is called a Rogue Spot, and is very unusual. The area where your Rogue Spot is, is that area where your internal representation of your body resides (that would be consistent with a stroke victim), and is also the area where your senses come together. I think the pain has really messed that area up, and it being messed up feeds back into the pain, so you get a repetitive loop of pain. This is medically normal, however, and the primary importance of knowing this is in prescribing the neuro-feedback. What we will do is, hook this rogue spot up to its partner on the other side of the brain and make the two cooperate together so the rogue site has to do more of what the normal site is doing. The rogue spot doesn’t want to be bad, it is just stuck, and I think the pain set this up, not visa versa.

On this next graph, the places that are blue are doing too little (i.e. not firing enough/frequently), and those that are red are doing too much (i.e. firing too much/too rapidly). Here we see a low level of 18-28 hertz on the left front side, and this tells me the stuff we are looking at, that rogue spot, is causing problems with concentration, focus, verbal processing, and short term memory (this would significantly interfere with school). This is purely a consequence of the rogue spot which is sucking up energy from other areas of the brain, and that left side stuff is seen as expendable to the brain.

The brain is like a walnut with two hemispheres, and there is an area in the middle of the fold, connecting the two sides together. We are seeing blue right there in the middle, which is the area of your brain which allows you to shift between different energy level activities (relaxing to having a conversation to driving in a car). This means your brain is not shifting the way it should, which again would make something like school extremely difficult.

Now looking at high frequency, overactive stuff, we are seeing shading towards the right side of your brain. The right side of the brain, is the side that lets us know something is wrong, even before the left side of our brain can figure out what that thing is. The right side of your brain is really overactive, so left side stuff is underactive because of this.

Now we have a graph of one head with little heads inside it. This is measuring how the brain is talking to itself, i.e. how well one spot talking to all the other spots, or the phase symmetry. The rogue spot is really out of step with the rest of the brain, and it sends ripples through the whole system, so we are seeing less symmetry between the spots than we would expect

In conclusion, your brain is intensifying the pain, so the pain perceived is more than the pain stimulus. Our goal is not to get your brain where it doesn’t respond to pain, but where it is not responding too much to pain. We need to get the area that is stuck unstuck, and that will take away the pain that the brain is adding on top of the physically triggered pain.

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