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TUCoPS :: Wetware Hacking :: Others :: brainwav.txt

The Brainwave Investigation

Edited by Michael Hutchison


                      by Michael Hutchison

The brain is powered by electricity. Each of its billions of
individual cells "fires" or electrically discharges at a specific
frequency. The electrical activity of the brain can be monitored
by placing sensors or electrodes against the scalp, which
register the minute electrical signals happening inside the
brain, much the way a seismograph can detect tremors taking place
inside the earth. These electrical signals are known as the
electroencephalogram; the device that registers them is called an
electroencephalograph, or EEG. What the EEG reveals to us are not
the firings of individual brain cells, but the cooperative or
collective electrical patterns of networks or communities of
millions of cells firing together--fluctuations of coherent or
synchronous energy pulsing through the networks of the brain.
These collective energy pulsations are called brain waves.

Since the first EEG was devised early in this century, scientists
have found that the brain has a tendency to produce brain waves
of four distinct varieties, which they have called beta, alpha,
theta and delta.

BETA. The most rapid brain waves, beta waves, range in frequency
	from about 14 cycles per second (called 14 Hertz,
     abbreviated Hz) to more than 100 Hz (some scientists now
     refer to brain waves above 30 Hz as Gamma waves). When we
     are in a normal waking state, eyes open, focusing on the
     world outside ourselves, or dealing with concrete, specific
     problems, beta waves (particularly beta waves between 14 and
     40 Hz.) are the most dominant and powerful waves in the
     brain. Beta waves are associated with alertness, arousal,
     concentration, cognition and--at excessive levels--anxiety.

ALPHA. As we close our eyes and become more relaxed, passive, or
	unfocused, brain wave activity slows down, and we produce
     bursts of alpha waves, which range in frequency from about 8
     to 13 Hz.  If we become quite relaxed and mentally
     unfocused, alpha waves become dominant throughout the brain,
     producing a calm and pleasant sensation called the "alpha
     state."  The alpha state seems to be the brain's "neutral"
     or idling state, and people who are healthy and not under
     stress tend to produce a lot of alpha activity.  Lack of
     significant alpha activity can be a sign of anxiety, stress,
     brain damage or illness.

THETA. As calmness and relaxation deepen into drowsiness, the
brain 	shifts to slower, more powerfully rhythmic theta waves,
          with a frequency range of about 4 to 8 Hz. Theta has
          been called the "twilight state," between waking and
          sleep. It's often accompanied by unexpected, dreamlike
          mental images. Often these images are accompanied by
          vivid memories, particularly childhood memories.  Theta
          offers access to unconscious material, reveries, free
          association, sudden insight, creative ideas.  It's a
          mysterious, elusive state, and for a long time
          experimenters had a difficult time studying it because
          it is hard to maintain for any period of time--most
          people tend to fall asleep as soon as they begin
          generating large amounts of theta.

DELTA. As we fall asleep the dominant brain waves become delta,
	which are even slower than theta, in the frequency range
     below 4 Hz. When most of us are in the delta state we're
     either asleep or otherwise unconscious. However, there is
     growing evidence that individuals may maintain consciousness
     while in a dominant delta state. This seems to be associated
     with certain deep trance-like, transcendent or "non-
     physical" states.


                        CONTROL YOURSELF
Stop a moment. Now, change your brain wave activity into an alpha
rhythm. . . .  The question immediately arises, How?  How do I
know when my brain waves are in alpha?  And how is it possible to
change my brain waves intentionally?

One of the central assumptions of western physiology has been
that there is a fundamental distinction between parts of the
human body that we can consciously control--the so-called
"voluntary" components--and those parts over which we have no
conscious control--the "involuntary" or autonomic components.
These involuntary components traditionally included brain waves,
as well as such things as the expansion and contraction of our
blood vessels, blood pressure, heart rate, the secretion of
hormones, healing and the activity of the immune system.

Then the lightning bolt hit.  With the development sensitive
instruments that could measure minute changes in the body,
scientists found that if they monitored the activity of one of
the so-called involuntary processes of a human subject and fed it
back to the subject with some sort of visual or auditory signal,
the subject could learn to bring that process under voluntary
control. They called this process biofeedback.

                    DISCOVERING THE BODYMIND

In a burst of studies throughout the 1960s that caused a
sensation in the scientific world, biofeedback researchers proved
that subjects could take voluntary control of virtually any
physiological process--even the firing rhythm of individual nerve
cells. One researcher, John Basmajian, hooked up subjects so they
could monitor the firing rhythm of a specific neuron (called a
single motor unit). Each time the neuron fired, the subjects
would be fed back a sound like a drumbeat. Amazingly, the
subjects quickly learned how to control the rhythm with which the
cells fired, creating intricate drum rolls, gallops and beats.
Elmer and Alyce Green of the Menninger Foundation wrote with
excitement, "It may be possible to bring under some degree of
voluntary control any physiological process that can continuously
be monitored, amplified, and displayed."

This was a momentous discovery--it meant that the long-held
belief of a clear separation between voluntary and involuntary
components of the human system was not accurate. It meant such
processes as the secretion of hormones and the operation of the
immune system could theoretically be intentionally controlled. It
also meant that the whole foundation of mind-body dualism upon
which all of western thought had been based--that there was a
clear and necessary separation between the mind and the body--had
to go out the window. For clearly there was some link, still
mysterious, between mind and body.

It was the beginning of a great paradigm shift that was to lead
to the development of such fields as psychoneuroimmunology and
psychobiology, and to the emergence of a new vision of the mind
and body as a single, indivisible unit, a field of intelligence,
a bodymind.


The 1960s was a time when large numbers of people were extremely
interested in experiencing peak states. For many, psychedelics
were the most quick and reliable mind expansion technique. But
drugs, while powerful and effective state change tools, had
drawbacks.  They were illegal, which caused much inconvenience.
The state changes they produced were long-lasting and durable,
which made it next to impossible to change back into ordinary
brain states on demand.  This too caused much inconvenience, not
to mention bad trips. They also had unknown long-term effects on
health.  So, many people were eager to find a "drugless high," or
some way to expand consciousness without the drawbacks of
psychedelic drugs.

The Beatles, among others, had become followers of a guru who
taught them meditation. They began singing the praises of
meditation as a way of reaching heightened states of
consciousness without drugs. The guru appeared on the Johnny
Carson show, wearing his white robes, giggling, and holding a
flower.  Meditation was In. Millions of people began trying to
meditate. Millions of people were disappointed to find that
meditation took practice and discipline, and did not instantly
catapult them into enlightenment.

Many of those most interested in exploring mind expansion were
young psychologists and other scientists who had chosen the brain
as their field of study. It made sense to them to focus their
research, and use whatever technology was available to them, such
as EEGs, to explore what was going on in the brain during
experiences of expanded consciousness, such as meditation.

When they looked at the EEG tracings it quickly became clear that
meditators produced a lot of alpha waves. Some of these young
researchers, led by Joe Kamiya, developed a type of EEG that was
"tuned" to respond to alpha waves by producing a tone: brainwave
feedback. When people used EEG biofeedback, they could quickly
learn to produce alpha waves simply by doing things that produced
the tone, such as sitting with their eyes closed, in a relaxed,
passive state.

The researchers noticed that people who went through this alpha
feedback training process experienced interesting changes--they
became more calm and relaxed in their daily lives, they tended to
give up such habits as smoking and heavy drinking, and they
learned how to produce alpha waves at will, even when not hooked
up to the biofeedback system.

This was exciting.  I remember it well. What a mysterious thing--
changing what's happening inside your head. And when you do it,
how exciting, what fun, and what a sudden surge of power.


I had gotten my first taste of it when I had overheard someone
talking about an experiment going on at New York University, and
wangled my way into the experimental group by claiming to be an
NYU student. I learned to generate alpha waves by making a
go click click click.  For long delightful periods I would sit
there with the machine caressing me with timeless strings of
beautiful clicks.  It was delightful and mysterious, and a large
part of the delight and the mystery was that I was listening to
the activity of my own brain, and becoming aware of every subtle
little change that took place within it, learning that if I
thought of certain things the clicks would stop, and if I thought
of other things, or stopped thinking, the clicks would start.

To me it was amazing to learn that I could in fact change my
brain, and the things that were going on inside it.  What a
revelation.  Until then, I had always assumed that whatever was
going on in my mind--sadness, anger, confusion, joy--was simply
"going on," and that it would keep going on until it stopped
going on and something else started going on. But as I sat by the
alpha trainer learning to spin out lovely chains of clicks--and
learning to make them stop, if I wanted to--I learned that you
could change your mind.  It struck me as being a process
something like changing tv channels.  If you don't like the soap
opera that's on channel 2, change to the western on channel 4.

I was filled with a sense of power.  Not the power to stop
speeding locomotives, or leap tall buildings at a single bound.
But much more modest and personal power. The power of being aware
of my own mind, of learning how to pay attention to how I was
paying attention, and knowing that I had some control over it.  I
loved the sessions, and would have kept coming back to the lab
for years, except suddenly the experiment was over.  No more
sessions. And so my experience of EEG biofeedback was over. Or,
as I was later to find out, put on hold for the next 12 years.

But meanwhile, the word was leaking out. You could get high on
alpha feedback. Some researchers even suggested that the alpha
state was synonymous with meditation. This was Big News, and the
mass media soon latched onto it.  Sensational stories about
"instant nirvana," and "mechanical meditation," claimed that the
Alpha State was not only the same thing as meditation, but could
also be a quick cure for stress, one without all the mystic
voodoo and spiritual trappings that most people associated with
meditation. As research psychologist Joe Kamiya, who was the
pioneer investigator of alpha feedback, remembers it, "a
surprisingly large number of people seemed to conclude that alpha
would be the royal road to bliss, enlightenment, and higher
consciousness.  Nirvana now, through feedback." Sales of "alpha
machines" boomed. Thousands of people sat around learning to get
into alpha.

The upshot of all this hullaballoo was predictable. Mainstream
psychologists, determined to establish psychology as a hard
science, were uneasy with talk of nirvana, bliss and higher
consciousness, instant or otherwise. Mainstream psychiatrists and
the medical establishment--already up in arms about the so-called
Psychedelic Revolution--felt a clear duty to suppress this
nascent "mind-expansion technology." Except for those who
undertook EEG studies for the express purpose of "debunking"
alpha feedback, EEG feedback research was not encouraged--the
grants and research fellowships went elsewhere. Some determined
psychologists continued to do EEG research, but for the next 20
years, their research was largely ignored by mainstream
psychologists, or dismissed as "fringe" science.

As a result, by the early 1970s the popular craze for alpha
machines came to an end. In part, it was because of the concerted
opposition of the medical, scientific and cultural mainstreams.
In part it was simply because it is in the nature of crazes to
come and go. Another reason personal alpha trainers didn't really
catch on was that the machines themselves were still too crude
(this was before the invention of the microprocessor, which would
later make it possible to shrink such devices down from the size
of a suitcase to the size of a pack of cigarettes).  Another
reason was that people had exaggerated expectations.  They'd
heard that alpha was a mystic state, satori, bliss and sudden
illumination. So they tried it out, and found that it was . . .
well . . . okay. As I say, it could give you a feeling of power,
but it was a very modest and subjective sort of power, the
usefulness of which was not immediately apparent. Also, most of
these expectant seekers of bliss only used their devices
sporadically and for relatively brief sessions, while later
research was to reveal that many of the most profound benefits of
alpha EEG training depended on "massed practice"--substantial
blocks of training time.

Meanwhile, ironically, as the public and mainstream psychologists
lost interest in EEG biofeedback, some of the hardcore EEG
researchers began making some discoveries that were in actual
fact earthshaking and dazzling.

Earlier, in the 1960s, Japanese scientists had conducted a series
of EEG studies of Zen monks going into deep meditative states.
They had found that as monks went into meditation they did indeed
go into alpha, but the most skilled meditators sank right through
alpha and began producing the slower theta waves. And,
intriguingly, even in the depths of theta--for most people the
gateway to sleep--the monks were not asleep but extremely
mentally alert.

Interestingly, the more meditative experience a monk had, the
more theta he generated. And the only ones who were able to get
into this deep theta state quickly and at will were those monks
who had more than twenty years of meditative experience.

Excited by this work, biofeedback researchers Elmer and Alyce
Green of the Menninger Foundation decided to explore the effects
of theta, and designed a biofeedback device that enabled them to
train subjects to enter theta. As they observed many people
experiencing theta, the Greens concluded it was "associated with
a deeply internalized state and with a quieting of the body,
emotions, and thoughts, thus allowing usually 'unheard or unseen
things' to come to the consciousness in the form of hypnagogic

The Greens next designed a study in which one group learned to
enter theta for a period of time every day, while another group--
called a control group--simply became very relaxed. They
discovered that the theta subjects frequently reported vivid
memories of long-forgotten childhood events: "They were not like
going through a memory in one's mind," said the Greens, "but
rather like an experience, a reliving."  They also found that
those producing theta waves frequently became highly creative,
and had "new and valid ideas or syntheses of ideas."

They were also surprised to discover that the subjects they
taught to enter the theta state reported that they had
life-altering insights, or what the Greens called "integrative
experiences leading to feelings of psychological well-being."
They fell in love, discovered new talents, decided to change jobs
and strike out in new, more satisfying directions. In essence,
these people felt their lives had been transformed. When they
gave them psychological tests, the Greens discovered that the
theta subjects were "psychologically healthier, had more social
poise, were less rigid and conforming, and were more self-
accepting and creative" than the control group.

Finally, and most astonishingly, the Greens were surprised to
note that those taught to enter the theta state became very
healthy. While the control group (the one not producing theta)
continued to have its normal number of illnesses, the theta group
had almost no illness whatsoever.

It seemed the Greens had stumbled onto something unprecedented.
They reported that the theta state caused people to "experience a
new kind of body consciousness very much related to their total
well-being."  Physiologically the theta state seemed to bring
"physical healing, physical regeneration."  In the emotional
domain, the theta state was "manifested in improved relationships
with other people as well as greater tolerance, understanding,
and love of oneself and of one's world."  In the mental domain,
the theta state produced "new and valid ideas of syntheses of
ideas, not primarily by deduction, but springing by intuition
from unconscious sources." All in all, it seemed as if there were
something magic about the theta state.

Working independently of the Greens, biofeedback researcher and
clinician Dr. Thomas Budzynski also sensed something magic about
the theta state. He conducted extensive research into the
properties of theta, which he dubbed the "twilight state." People
in theta, he found were hypersuggestible, as if in a hypnotic
trance. They are also able to learn enormous amounts very
quickly. Theta, Budzynski suggested, is the state in which
"superlearning" takes place--when in theta, people are able to
learn new languages, accept suggestions for changes in behaviors
and attitudes, memorize vast amounts of information. Said
Budzynski, "the hypnagogic state, the twilight state, between
waking and sleep, has the properties of uncritical acceptance of
verbal material, or almost any material it can process."


These findings about theta were exciting, but never became widely
known.  Then in 1989, Drs. Eugene Peniston and Paul Kulkosky of
the University of Southern Colorado (who had learned some of
their techniques from the Greens at the Menninger Foundation)
conducted studies in which they used EEG biofeedback to train a
group of chronic alcoholics to increase alpha and theta activity,
while another group served as a control group. They discovered
that the alpha-theta group showed an extraordinary recovery rate
many orders of magnitude greater than the control group. More
impressively, after thirteen months they showed "sustained
prevention of relapse." (A further follow-up study three years
later has showed the same sustained prevention of relapse.)

And, in the most intriguing findings of all, the alpha-theta
group showed a profound transformation of personality. Among the
extraordinary changes in MMPI clinical scales noted in their
subjects, Peniston and Kulkosky found significant increases in
such qualities as warmth, abstract-thinking, stability,
conscientiousness, boldness, imaginativeness and self-control,
and significant decreases not only in depression, but also in
anxiety and other problems.

Overcoming addiction. Transforming personality. These were magic
phrases. The Peniston studies emerged at just the right time.
Years earlier, in 1978, Dr. James Hardt, of Langley Porter
Psychiatric Institute, had published several papers documenting
his EEG feedback research findings that alpha feedback training
produced profound changes in personality traits, including
dramatic reductions in anxiety (both state and trait anxiety),
and changes in the same MMPI clinical scales documented over a
decade later by Peniston and Kulkosky. But Hardt's while Hardt's
message had aroused little interest, the Peniston studies emerged
into the "morning after" the Reagan era's exaltation of
selfishness and self indulgence, when concern with addictive
behaviors and personality transformation had become subjects of
urgent interest to millions of people: millions of people who
were going to 12 step programs modeled on Alcoholics Anonymous to
overcome their "addictions" to everything from sex to overeating
to shopping, and who were seeking to transform their present
addictive personality by stripping away their false masks and
communicating with their "inner child."

With its implied message that EEG alpha-theta feedback could help
individuals overcome all sorts of addictive behavior patterns and
find a happier, more integrated personality, the Peniston-
Kulkosky work aroused enormous interest and excitement among
biofeedback researchers and clinicians.

Modifying and expanding upon the work of Peniston and Kulkosky,
many researchers and clinicians have now begun using multi-
channel "brain mapping" EEGs to explore in more detail what
happens in the brain when it goes through these apparently
transformational moments. What they have found is that when a
subject becomes deeply relaxed, alpha brainwave activity
increases, and slows down. As relaxation increases, the subject
begins to produce more and more theta activity. As theta
amplitude increases, alpha seems to slow further until it
descends into theta.

At that point, according to some researchers, at what the
researchers are calling the "crossover point" between alpha and
theta, the subjects experience important, emotionally loaded,
even life transforming moments.  These frequently consist of
creative insights, vivid memories from childhood, or, in the case
of the Vietnam vets suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome
(or adults who were abused as children), the emergence of
suppressed or repressed experiences. Subjects consistently report
these moments as profound, moving, life transforming, even
spiritual moments. One of these clinicians, Houston therapist
William Beckwith, has reported that in his clients the crossover
point is "often accompanied by spontaneous surfacing of
previously inaccessible memories, often from early childhood," as
well as "the seemingly miraculous resolutions of complex
psychological problems."


Meanwhile, other scientists, intrigued by the fact that the theta
state seemed to increase learning, and also seemed to produce
frequent vivid memories, began investigating the relationship
between theta and memory.

They found that for memories to be formed the brain must undergo
a process called Long Term Potentiation (LTP), which involves
electrical and chemical changes in the neurons involved in
storing memory. When LTP does not happen, information that enters
the brain is not stored, but totally forgotten.
Neurophysiologists Gary Lynch and associates of UC at Irvine,
discovered that the key to LTP is theta brainwaves. "We have
found the magic rhythm that makes LTP," said Dr. Lynch.  "There's
a magic rhythm, the theta rhythm."


As virtually everyone who uses a mind machine discovers, theta
seems to trigger the sudden reliving or vivid remembering of
long-forgotten childhood memories. One explanation for this link
between theta and childhood is that, while adults rarely produce
theta, children are in a theta state most of the time--up to the
age of six or beyond, children produce mostly theta waves, and
then the amount of theta progressively decreases as the child
grows into adulthood.  In other words, children spend most of
their time in what we adults would call a trance-like, altered
state of consciousness, and one that is extremely open and
receptive, highly conducive to the learning of new information
and the creation of memories.

In recent years a large number of scientific studies have
explored a phenomenon called "state bound" or "state dependent"
learning.  In essence, they have found that things experienced in
one state (of consciousness) are far more easily remembered later
when we are once again in that same state. Things learned when
we're happy are remembered best when we're happy, what we learn
when cold is remembered best when we're cold, and so on.

This provides an explanation for the appearance of childhood
memories to adults who are in theta. Children spent most of their
time in the theta state.  But as adults, we rarely experience a
true theta state. Most of us have a few seconds of it as we fall
asleep, and that's all. During those brief moments in theta we
may experience sudden flashes of memory, vivid images, odd
disconnected ideas, but we're quickly asleep. Virtually all of
our memories from childhood, then, are state dependent--they're
laid down while we're in one state, but it's a state that we
almost never experience as adults. To remember them, we have to
get back to the state in which they were first created.

One of the characteristics of mind machines is that they are
capable of putting people into the theta state and keeping them
there for long periods of time while they remain awake. Mind
machines can put us back into the childlike theta state. That
means that all those memories, creative ideas, spontaneous
images, and integrative experiences that occur during theta
become available to our conscious mind--we become consciously
aware of what had been stored in our unconscious mind, and we
remember it when we emerge from the theta state.  This is one of
the reasons that psychologist Thomas Budzynski has called one
type of mind machine "a facilitator of unconscious retrieval."

                        THETA AND INSIGHT

For thousands of years humans have been aware of the enormous
creative values of the theta state.  Budzynski notes that
"Shamanistic and other primitive ceremonies often included
procedures designed to produce these states.  It was believed
(and still is in certain cultures) that the dreamlike images
elicited in the twilight state allowed the dreamer to foretell
events, instruct as to healing procedures, and give important
The 18th century mystic Emmanual Swedenborg wrote in detail about
his own theta experiences and described ways of inducing them.
The chemist Friedrich Kekule vividly described his state of
"reverie" in which he suddenly saw a mental image of atoms
forming a chain, and of snakes biting their tails, which led to
his discovery that organic compounds occur in closed rings--
described as "the most brilliant piece of prediction to be found
in the whole range of organic chemistry." There are countless
stories of such moments of inspiration and creativity occurring
when the thinker is nodding off to sleep, or wandering lonely as
a cloud, gazing into the fire.  All of them speak of the
drowsiness, the relaxation, the vivid imagery appearing
unexpectedly, that mark them as examples of the theta state.


Meanwhile, other researchers have been using sophisticated EEGs
with 20 or more electrodes, which permit them to monitor the
activity of the entire cortex simultaneously, and present it
visually in the form of colored "brain maps."  These
investigators, including F. Holmes Atwater, of the Monroe
Institute, Dr. Ed Wilson of the Colorado Association for
Psychophysiologic Research, and Dr. Julian Isaacs, have been able
to observe the brain maps of numerous individuals as they move
from ordinary waking consciousness into peak experience or
transcendent brain states.  They have found that in progressing
toward transcendence, the brain goes through or produces several
distinctive whole-brain patterns.

RESTING STATE ALPHA. Normal waking consciousness, these
researchers have found, is characterized by dominant beta
activity, along with a lot of alpha activity in the rear part of
the cortex.  This back of the head alpha is called "resting-
state-alpha."  This alpha activity seems to be an "anchor,"
serving as a stabilizing force, linking us with our "normal" and
familiar modes of mental processing. It's like the alpha observed
in the early stages of Zen meditation.

THE DISSOCIATIVE STATE. However, when subjects enter expanded
states of consciousness, they lose awareness of the physical
world, and reach a point at which, as Atwater describes it, "when
non-physical phenomena constitute the whole field of perception;
when there is no impression of being 'normally' in the physical
body; when the physical body is asleep or fully entranced."  This
is what Atwater calls the Dissociative State.

In the Dissociative State, resting-state-alpha disappears, and is
replaced by high amplitude theta and delta activity, centered at
the top of the head (the median of the central cortex).
Interestingly this high amplitude theta and delta activity is
synchronous.  This dissociative state seems to be essentially
what earlier researchers, such as the Greens, have been
describing as the Theta state, and is equivalent to the state
reached by experienced Zen meditators as they sink downward past
alpha. It also seems to offer access to what has been called the
unconscious mind, or the personal unconscious.

THE TRANSCENDENT STATE. Beyond the dissociative state is the
state Atwater calls transcendence. In this state, individuals
move beyond their own ego, beyond the personal unconscious mind,
into a peak state of universal awareness.  As Atwater observes,
"Experiences in this state are many times ineffable and cannot be
explained or described in words.  Experiences in this realm are
more than passive diversions.  Their creative power can change
the very nature of the participants' reality."

As they observe the transition from dissociation to transcendence
on their EEG brain mappers, these researchers such as Atwater
have found something very odd occurs. First, the high amplitude
and synchronous theta and delta activity of the dissociative
state continues.  However, it is accompanied by bursts of very
high beta (or gamma) activity in the temporal regions of the
brain (in the area of the temples).

These findings become even more intriguing--and lead to even
wilder speculations--in light of the amazing findings of Dr.
Michael Persinger of Laurentian University.  He was fascinated by
evidence that people who had experiences of being abducted by
UFOs, and a variety of other sorts of extraordinary or
transcendent experiences, were influenced by changes in the
earth's magnetic field.  He began placing electromagnets at the
temples of subjects and pulsing them at various frequencies.  To
his amazement, he found that his subjects had transcendent or
extraordinary experiences. Even when subjects knew they were
seated in a laboratory, with pulsed electromagnetic fields at
their temples, they would emerge with realistic reports of being
abducted by UFOs, having out of body experiences, communicating
with God and so on.  Apparently, high frequency, high amplitude
activation of the temporal regions of the brain is linked with
extraordinary experiences.

                        WHOLE BRAIN POWER
All the unusual abilities that some people are able to
manifest . . . are associated with changes in the EEG
pattern toward a more bilaterally symmetrical and
integrated form. . . . My research has led me to
believe that the 'higher mind,' on the
neuropsychological level, was what Carl Jung called
transcendent function, and that it was manifested by
the integration of left- and right-hemisphere function.

					C. Maxwell Cade
					The Awakened Mind

One of the ways scientists investigated peak brain states was to
bring skilled meditators into the laboratory, paste electrodes
all over their skull, give them a button to press to signal when
they were "there," and record the activity on an EEG. They found
that when meditators were in their peak state, the brain wave
activity throughout the whole brain fell into a state they called

Now whole brain wave synchrony is a very specific state. It does
not mean simply that the whole brain produces dominant waves of
the same frequency, such as 10 Hz alpha. If you visualize brain
waves as a series of peaks and valleys, then synchrony occurs
when brainwaves reach their peak at the same time. When brain
waves are "in sync," their power increases (think of two waves
joining together: they produce a larger wave). So, when
researchers noted that meditators produced whole brain synchrony,
what they saw was also an enormous increase in power or amplitude
throughout the whole brain.

What are the effects of synchrony?  One of the leading
researchers into brain wave synchrony, Dr. Lester Fehmi, of the
Princeton Biofeedback Research Institute, points out that
"synchrony represents the maximum efficiency of information
transport through the whole brain." This means that brain wave
synchrony produces a sharp increase in the effects of various
brain wave states.  Fehmi notes that "phase synchrony . . . is
observed to enhance the magnitude and occurrence of the
subjective phenomena associated with alpha and theta" and of beta
as well. Thus, for example, the phenomena associated with theta,
such as vivid imagery, access to memory, spontaneous creative
insights, and integrative experiences, all are enhanced in
"magnitude and occurrence" by whole brain synchrony.

Some of the researchers and clinicians who have been using EEG
"crossover point" training now believe that part of the
extraordinary transformational powers of moving through that
critical point where alpha is superceded by theta are a result of
brain wave synchrony.  William Beckwith observes that "The
production  of synchronized, coherent electromagnetic energy by
the human brain at a given frequency leads to a 'laser-like'
condition increasing the amplitude and strength of the brain
waves."  He notes that "as clients learn to increase their alpha
amplitude and produce theta waves without losing consciousness, a
critical point is reached when theta amplitude begins to exceed
alpha amplitude. Cross-lateral brainwave synchronization also
increases, creating a more coherent system. At this point, there
are profound alterations in client mood and behavior," including
"the seemingly miraculous resolution of complex psychological
problems. . . . There is a sudden re-ordering of the entire
personality in ways that cannot be readily explained by other


In addition to synchrony, there is now evidence that whole-brain
symmetry (i.e. the relative balance of EEG activity between the
right and left hemisphere) is an important key to peak brain
functioning. The clear link between left side of the face
activity and sadness and right side of the face activity and
happiness has recently been scientifically documented. In some of
the studies the researchers simply asked the subjects to
vigorously contract either the right or left sides of their face.
They found strong evidence (in over 90% of the subjects) that
contorting one side of the face produces emotions, with the left
side of the face producing sadness and negative emotions, right
side producing positive emotions.

But why does facial asymmetry affect emotions? Several groups of
scientists working independently have found that "EEG asymmetry
in anterior regions of the brain" can predict and diagnose
emotional states and emotional styles. That is, people with more
activity in the left frontal cortex than in the right tend to
have a more cheerful and positive temperament--they are self-
confident, outgoing, interested in people and external events,
resilient, optimistic and happy.  On the other hand, people whose
EEG shows more activity in the right frontal cortex than in the
left tend to be more sad and negative in their outlook--they see
the world as more stressful and threatening, are more suspicious
of people, and feel far more fear, disgust, anxiety, self-blame
and hopelessness than the left-activated group.

In one study, researchers found that these brainwave patterns
could predict "affective responses to emotion elicitors," i.e.
how the subjects would react to film clips that were preselected
to elicit positive or negative emotions (the positive film clips
were of a puppy at play, or an amusing gorilla taking a bath; the
negative clips showed gory surgery scenes). Those with more
right-frontal activity showed far more powerful negative
emotions, such as fear and disgust, when viewing the surgical
scenes than did those with more left-frontal activity. On the
other hand, those with more left-frontal activity derived far
more pleasure and delight from the positive films than did the
gloomy right-frontal subjects.

In other words, things that might produce delight and euphoria in
some people will leave others cold, unmoved, or even suspicious;
and things that some folks find only mildly unpleasant will fill
others with enormous revulsion, disgust and horror. And,
astonishingly, these responses can be predicted, simply by
observing their brainwave patterns!


There is also evidence that these brainwave asymmetries may be
linked to depression. The researchers tested the EEGs of a group
of normal subjects who had never been treated for depression, and
a group of subjects who had been previously depressed and later
successfully treated for depression.  They found that the
previously depressed subjects had far less left-frontal activity,
and far more right-frontal activity, than those who had never
been depressed.

A recent brainmapping study of depressive patients by C. Norman
Shealy, M.D., Ph.D. at the Shealy Institute in Springfield,
Missouri, revealed that 100 percent of the patients had abnormal
brainwave activity, with the most common finding being "Asymmetry
of the two hemispheres with right hemisphere dominance."

Another study revealed that patients who had just been diagnosed
with depression and were about to begin treatment had less left-
frontal activity than non-depressed subjects. "You find similar
brain patterns in people who are depressed, or who have recovered
from depression, and in normal people who are prone to bad
moods," said one of the researchers, Dr. John Davidson, of the
University of Wisconsin, Madison. "We suspect that people with
this brain activity pattern are at high risk for depression."

There is even evidence that these brainwave patterns and
emotional "styles" may be hereditary or genetically-influenced.
Davidson has studied the behavior and the EEG patterns of 10-
month old infants during a brief period (one minute) of
separation from their mothers, and found that "those infants who
cried in response to maternal separation showed greater right-
frontal activation during the preceding baseline period compared
with infants who did not cry." Observed Davidson, "Every single
infant who cried had more right frontal activation.  Every one
who did not had more activity on the left." He concluded that
"Frontal activation asymmetry may be a state-independent marker
for individual differences in threshold of reactivity to
stressful events and vulnerability to particular emotions."


The next step, of course, is to move from simply observing the
existing brainwave patterns and using them for diagnosis to
actively developing strategies and techniques for altering the
patterns.  As Dr. Davidson pointed out, "If you learn to regulate
your negative feelings better, it may turn out that you have also
learned to turn up the activity in your left frontal lobe."

All of this research casts new light on the well known
differences between the right hemisphere and the left hemisphere.
In most people, the left hemisphere is superior in processing
verbal material while the right hemisphere shows superiority in
handling visual/spatial information.  Studies by neuroscientist
David Shannahoff-Khalsa of Salk Institute for Biological Sciences
indicate that hemispheric dominance is constantly shifting back
and forth from right to left hemispheres, with average cycles of
90 to 120 minutes.

Other scientists have reached similar conclusions by testing
subjects at regular intervals on verbal (left-hemisphere) and
spatial (right hemisphere) tasks.  They found that when verbal
ability was high, spatial ability was low, and vice versa.  This
discovery, Shanhnahoff-Khalsa points out, "suggests we can exert
more control over our day-to-day mental functioning.  For
example, certain cognitive functions, such as language skills,
mathematics and other rational processes that are thought to be
primarily localized in the left hemisphere" might be boosted by
"forcibly altering" our cerebral dominance. And in the same way
we might "accentuate the creativity that is thought to be
characteristic of right-hemisphere dominance," through similar
forcible altering.

However, one key finding that has emerged from these studies of
shifts in hemispheric dominance is that each time dominance
shifts from one hemisphere to the other there is a point at which
dominance is equally balanced between both hemispheres. And, the
researchers have found, it is at this point, and during this
short period of time, when the brain is at its most fertile and

The truth is that two brains are better than one. While each
hemisphere seems to have its specific beneficial capacities, each
has its downside as well. The right hemisphere has been linked
with visual/spatial skills, emotional and musical sensitivities,
and intuitive, timeless, imagistic thought, but also with
depression, suspicion, sadness, hostility, paranoia and negative
emotions.  The left hemisphere has been linked with verbal
skills, orientation in time, rational, logical, analytical
thinking, happiness and positive emotions.  But mere analytical
thought, without intuitive, emotional, imagistic, time-free
insights, is rigid and uncreative.

There is a reason why we have two hemispheres: they are both
necessary and complementary, and they function best when they are
functioning together, synergistically. This is an obvious point
of much of the research we have looked at so far. EEG studies of
meditators clearly demonstrated that peak states were
characterized by increased synchrony and symmetry between the
hemispheres. Neuroscientist Jerre Levy, of the University of
Chicago, a  leading authority in the field of hemispheric
lateralization research, believes that, "Normal brains are built
to be challenged.  They operate at optimal levels only when
cognitive processing requirements are of sufficient complexity to
activate both hemispheres.  Great men and women of history did
not merely have superior intellectual capacities within each
hemisphere.  They had phenomenal levels of emotional commitments,
motivation, attentional capacity--all of which reflected the
highly integrated brain in action."

It's evident that a "highly integrated brain," a brain in which
both hemispheres are functioning in symmetry, synchrony, harmony
and unity, is a key to peak states and peak human performance.
But throughout history, humans have found that it's not easy to
intentionally bring both hemispheres to bear simultaneously. Much
of our lives we spend swinging back and forth between left
dominant states and right dominant states.  This is where EEG
feedback presents revolutionary possibilities.  For research has
shown that users can quickly learn alter hemispheric asymmetry
and imbalance and produce more symmetrical, balanced brainwave
patterns. And, the evidence suggests, by doing so they can assist
in producing the peak performance states associated with whole-
brain integration.


Tuning into Stored Traumas.  In Megabrain Report Vol. 1, No. 2
(1990) I discussed the enormous potentials of "an entirely new
generation of devices that combine sound and light stimulation
with biofeedback capabilities. . . . [which] enable the machine
to read the user's dominant brainwave activity, and then provide
the optimal frequency of sound and light to entrain brainwave
activity toward the 'target' frequency." But even in my wildest
speculations I could never have predicted the extraordinary
results some clinicians are now attaining using such an EEG--LS
feedback loop.

Psychotherapist Len Ochs, Ph.D., had long experience of using EEG
and other types of biofeedback.  He had studied with interest the
succes of Peniston and Kulkosky with the alpha/theta training.
While exploring the Peniston Protocol in his own therapy
practice, Ochs also became intrigued with the potential benefits
of linking EEG feedback with LS machines, so that the frequency
of the light flashes was directly linked to the brainwave
activity of the client. It made sense that by entraining
brainwaves downward toward a theta "target frequency" he could
speed up the lengthy feedback training procedure used by Peniston
and Kulkosky.

Ochs began using EEG-LS stimulation, which he first called EEG
Entrainment Feedback (EEF), and found that as clients moved
downward or upward into certain frequency ranges--which were
different for each client--many of them would begin to experience
discomfort, anxiety or nausea. He found that those who were most
hypersensitive were the ones who had the most symptoms. They
were, he concluded, hypersensitive at certain frequencies. Ochs
used the LS to help gently entrain the clients' brainwaves into
the uncomfortable frequency range. He found that as they
willingly relaxed and entered that frequency range, they
underwent sudden releases of traumatic material. What was even
more exciting was that these sudden releases had powerful, life-
transforming effects. In the process, their symptoms disappeared,
and they became desensitized to the lights.  It was as if the
therapeutic effects of months or even years of traditional "talk"
psychotherapy had been compressed into minutes.

The Brainwave Rollercoaster. In his explorations of EEF, Ochs
experimented with designing the computer program that linked the
EEG with the LS to alternately speed up brainwaves and then slow
them down, reversing direction every minute or two, and producing
a sort of rollercoaster effect.  He found that when he did this
many clients experienced an even more rapid release of symptoms
and problems. It appeared that as clients learned to move through
troublesome frequencies, they released progressively more and
more of the stored traumatic material.  In effect, Ochs
concluded, the process was not really entraining brainwaves, but
constantly disentraining brainwaves, constantly nudging or
pulling dominant brainwave activity out of its habitual "grooves"
and responses.  In doing this, it seemed to have the effect of
"limbering up" the brain, increasing its flexibility, its
capacity to move freely up and down through various frequency
ranges. He concluded that EDF was working by optimizing EEG.  My
own experiences with Ochs's EEG-LS link, which he now calls EEG
Disentrainment Feedback (EDF), and my discussions with others who
have experienced it, have convinced me that this linking of
brainwaves with light stimulation produces a profound brain-
altering effect quite different from either EEG feedback of LS
stimulation alone.

Out of all the EEG feedback research, one intriguing fact has
emerged:  EEG biofeedback training clearly increases human brain
power, including increases in IQ and in other types of
intelligence and achievements. These increases seem to result not
only from the altered brainwave states that are the result of EEG
biofeedback training, but also from actual physiological brain
growth in response to the challenge and stimulation of learning
to use the mind tools--i.e. the "enriched environment" effect.

Among those who have found increased IQ in response to
biofeedback training are professors Harold Russell, Ph.D. and
John Carter, Ph.D. of the University of Houston. They have

"Learning to self-regulate one's ongoing EEG frequency and
amplitude activity is a complex and time consuming task.
It requires a highly focused concentration on and the
awareness of the brain's activity and the repetition of the
patterns of mental activity that produce the desired
frequency and amplitude. . . . When the task of control of
EEG activity is adequately learned and sufficiently
practiced, the functioning of the human brain improves
measurably, e.g. . . . scores on standardized tests of
achievements or intelligence increase by 12 to 20 points."

In other words, there seems to be something inherently brain-
expanding about learning to manipulate your brainwaves.

One valuable but inexpensive technique for manipulating your
brainwaves is reading.  I have no doubts that there is something
inherently brain-expanding about reading.  This issue of
Megabrain Report contains a compendium of articles from many of
the leading figures in EEG feedback, dealing with all of the
issues touched on above. I cannot guarantee that reading them
will increase your IQ by 12 to 20 points, but I can guarantee
with total confidence that they will expand your mind. Read on.

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