Before he strapped the electrode studded hood to my head, neuropsychologist Dr. Victor Zelek explained a bit of the science of the qEEG test he was about to perform on my brain and the use neurofeedback.
One might think of the brain’s everyday functioning like as a posture, similar to a body’s natural posture. Our bodies tend toward a usual way holding ourselves. A well aligned spine promotes health while a slouch can create problems; similarly, the brain takes on habitual postures which may be unhealthy, Dr. Zelek explained.
In the brain, these postures are habits of mind and (amazingly) can be seen on the qEEG as patterns of brainwaves. As a mirror can show a person how to adjust physical posture to a healthier alignment, neurofeedback shows the brain how to adopt better alignment, that is, a healthier pattern of brainwaves.
The qEEG test can show overactivity and underactivity of particular wavelengths, locate where these occur in the brain, and map the way the brain is coordinating its activities. Certain kinds or patterns of abnormalities in the qEEG test then provide the practitioner guidance in how to proceed with the neurofeedback training sessions, in order to create healthier patterns of brain activity.
Neurofeedback teaches patients to alter their own brain wave activity by increasing or decreasing particular kinds of brain waves. Patients attend a number of training sessions using a computer which provides brain activity feedback.
Lasting change does not happen in one session, Dr. Zelek further explained. When the mirror is taken away the old posture may soon return, however, with practice, the new healthy posture can be maintained long term. When I begin the training itself, I will describe what the process actually is like.
But first, the testing.
The red hood, Dr. Zelek commented, made me look like a cross between Amelia Earhart and Little Red Riding Hood. (I chose Earhart. Both were brave, true, but Earhart accomplished great feats in her life.) He attached it very snugly and squirted a conduction gel through specially designed holes. After a number of adjustments, all electrodes were recording and wave patterns showed on the computer screen.
To get a clean test (free from artifacts created by movement) I had to sit still for about the longest three minutes of my life. My eyes kept twitching trying to keep looking at the quarter on his desk to stay still. The next three minutes were easier, with my eyes closed.
It would take some hours to interpret all the data, so I left his office extremely curious about my results. What would the squiggles produced by my brain (as recorded by the electrodes) say about how my brain is working?