Archive for 'Neuro-Imaging (EEG, HEG, MRI, etc)'

Emotiv EPOC, NeuroSky and more now supported by Mind WorkStation and Neuro-Programmer 3!

A number of very exciting connections between top EEG devices and Transparent software are now possible thanks to just-released updates for MindWork Station and Neuro-Programmer 3. Here’s an excerpt from the news story that just went up at TransparentCorp.com:

Today we’re releasing Mind WorkStation Version 1.3 and Neuro-Programmer Version 3.1. Along with bug fixes and general performance improvements, the main attraction in both updates is new compatibility with even more of the most advanced and popular EEG devices available. 4 new devices, representing developers that are true leaders in neuro-technology innovation, can now be utilized in both NP3 and MindWS:

Read the full news article here!

I’d personally suggest checking out the websites of the developers listed there as well. They’re involved in some of the most fascinating developments in the realm of EEG technology, so this certainly won’t be the last time these names come up on this blog.

TED Talk On Biofeedback

If you haven’t viewed any of the TED videos, you’ve been missing out. There are some really stunning and thought-provoking ideas floating around.

Released this month is a short talk by neuroscientist Christopher deCharms, on the future of biofeedback technology. More specifically, he talks about the use of a rtfMRI, or “Real-time Functional MRI.”

Thoughts on Mind-Gaming

Mind-based gaming is all over the news lately. The concept is being met with equal parts excitement, skepticism and downright paranoia. Who likes the idea of Microsoft “reading your thoughts”?

Of course, to those of us in the EEG industry, “mind gaming” is nothing new. On this blog I’ve written many posts about EEGs being used to play games, or move online avatars. You’ve seen Canadian Idol judges spar at MindBall. You’ve read about light-sabers coming to life using the mind alone. In fact our latest product Mind WorkStation is even capable brain-gaming by controlling on-screen visualizations. For example, one game involves starting a fire with nothing but brainwaves!

But, what this area has lacked thus far is a brain-computer interface that avoids the messy paste and exhaustive setup that most EEG units require. We need something that can just be slipped on and off. The device that looks like it will spearhead this new movement is the EPOC Neuroheadset from Emotiv.

Mind Hacks has a great write-up about the Emotiv technology here: http://www.mindhacks.com/blog/2008/03/playing_mind_games_.html

He brings up some good points about EEG gaming. Gamers expecting this headset to instantly transform them into Jedi masters will likely be disappointed. EEGs are measuring very minute electrical signals that have to first pass through the skull, and other biofeedback technologies have delay issues that will render them useless for the fast pace of most games.

These issues have caused some problems already, as shown in a recent Emotiv demo in San Francisco, where they had to resort to using a handheld controller in order to complete the game. 

You can get an idea of the problems involved by looking at some demos uploaded to YouTube:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PDpmSiMiscA&feature=related

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=59hgJlQ0tJI

Here is a better demo, but still illustrates how hard it is to use an EEG as a complex game controller: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YxMux4uEkLI

Despite these problems, I do think mind gaming could be very successful if it is used in a way appropriate to the limitations of the technology. For example, it could easily be used to enhance the powers or abilities of certain characters in the game. In a Harry Potter game, the magic wand could be more powerful if the gamer produces a specific brainwave pattern. In a sports game, the team could run faster and score more if the gamer is in the “zone.” These types of uses, although less sexy than “moving things with your mind”, would actually be a much more realistic use of the technology.

Using neurofeedback-like technology for recreational gaming does bring up some concerns. Suppose, for example, a popular feature of a game – such as using objects or weapons – is triggered or enhanced by the production of theta waves. Given the addictive nature of games, I could easily see avid gamers developing “brain fog” or other problems associated with excess slow-wave activity.

It will be interesting to see what happens when this technology is released to an unsupervised mass market. Perhaps the algorithms used, and the way the games are structured, will help mitigate any problems that could occur. I admit that the geek in me wants to get one of these things immediately.

Using gamma waves to distinguish false memories from real ones

New research from the University of Pennsylvania has unveiled distinct gamma brainwave patterns associated with memory formation and recall:

Patients volunteered to study lists of words which they were then asked to recall at a later time.  When asked to recall the studied words, participants recalled some number of correct items and also made a small number of errors, recalling words that had not appeared on the target list.  

While patients performed the memory game, scientists observed electrical activity in their brains to determine whether specific brain waves were associated with successfully storing and retrieving memories. Researchers found that a fast brain wave, known as the gamma rhythm, increased when participants studied a word that they would later recall. The same gamma waves, whose voltage rises and fall between 50 and 100 times per second, also increased in the half-second prior to participants correctly recalling an item.  

These analyses revealed that the same pattern of gamma band oscillatory activity in the hippocampus, prefrontal cortex and left temporal lobe that predicts successful memory formation also re-emerged at retrieval, distinguishing correct from incorrect responses, said Per B. Sederberg, lead author and former Penn neuroscientist now performing post-doctoral research at Princeton University.  The timing of these oscillatory effects suggests that self-cued memory retrieval initiates in the hippocampus and then spreads to the cortex.  Thus, retrieval of true as compared with false memories induces a distinct pattern of gamma oscillations, possibly reflecting recollection of contextual information associated with past experience.

Full article: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/10/071023163853.htm 

These kinds of advancements in our understanding of memory will be incredibly useful in diagnosing and alleviating neurological problems from epilepsy to schizophrenia.

Here is the full paper: http://memory.psych.upenn.edu/publications/files/SedeEtal07b.pdf

For more on recent work on gamma waves, check out this lecture by Robert Knight: http://www.mindupdate.com/?p=63 

Thanks to Tyler on the forums for finding this.

Using neuroimaging to analyze mind-over-body effects

NPR brings us one step closer to understanding the mind-body connection in a recent segment on the mysterious placebo effect. Using relatively recent neuroimaging techniques, researchers are able to isolate the specific neural effects of belief and expectation.

Take a listen: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=12487035

EEG-Generated 3D artwork under hypnosis

There is something irresistible about the brain’s electrical activity that continues to inspire new researchers to bridge the gap between science and art, or between medical research and entertainment.

The idea has been explored for decades. A few months ago, browsing around YouTube, I found a video of Yoko Ono and John Lennon experimenting with EEG-assisted music creation on some talk show (I was not able to locate this video later, unfortunately). We’ve explored this topic here a number of times before, such as in this entry where EEG is used to compose music, create images, control games and robots.

As old as this type of research is, the allure of pure thought flowing into a form of art remains as attractive as ever to new researchers. And, the technology behind it continues to advance.

Perhaps in the future there will be a way for an audience to experience such artwork in the same technologically advanced way in which it was created.

Here is the latest installment into the category of brainwave-art.

It is called “Shapes of Thought”.

Participants are put into a hypnotic state and asked to recall various memories in order to create pure emotional states. The hypnotic state is induced to make the recollection both easier and more realistic.

EEG activity is then recorded and filtered to create unique 3D shapes. Here is an example:

This image was formed after asking a participant to recall a traumatic incident where he was seriously injured.

You can find more on their website, here: http://www.ucalgary.ca/~einbrain/shapes/index.html

Weekly Brain Video: Thoughts on Gamma Brainwaves 70-200+ hz

Extremely high frequency gamma was previously thought not to exist because it is difficult to measure from the scalp. However, if electrodes are implanted in the brain, it becomes clear that ultra high gamma plays an important role, and could even be the dominant frequency band of the brain.

Today’s video is a lecture by Robert Knight, a neuroscientist at Berkeley, talking about his work with high gamma.

This video is (unfortunately) only available in Real Player format. Click the image below to open it.

Robet Knight

EEG research on psychedelics, or what your brain REALLY looks like on drugs

Here is an interesting study on the effects of psychedelics measured from an EEG. For those of you who lived throught he 60’s, this is what was happening to you.

Some of the results may not be what you expected.

Effects of a Psychedelic, Tropical Tea, Ayahuasca, on the EEG Activity of the Human Brain during a Shamanistic Ritual – MAPS Magazine, Spring 2001

By Erik Hoffmann, Jan M. Keppel Hesselink, Yatra-W.M. da Silveira Barbosa

Abstract
EEG data from 12 volunteers participating in a workshop in Brazil were recorded under field conditions before and after a shamanistic ritual in which the psychoactive tea, Ayahuasca, was consumed. Following three doses of the tea, the subjects showed strong and statistically significant increases of both EEG alpha (8-13Hz) and theta (4-8Hz) mean amplitudes compared to baseline while beta (13-20Hz) amplitudes were unchanged. The strongest increases of alpha activity were observed in the occipital lobes while alpha was unchanged in the frontal lobes. Theta amplitudes, on the other hand, were significantly increased in both occipital and frontal areas. Our data do not support previous findings of cortical activation with decreased alpha and increased beta activity caused by psychedelics (e.g. LSD, mescaline, psilocybin). They rather point to a similarity between the altered states produced by ayahuasca and marihuana which also stimulates the brain to produce more alpha waves. We suggest that these findings of increased EEG alpha and theta activity after drinking Ayahuasca reflect an altered state of consciousness. In this state the subjects reported increased awareness of their subconscious processes. This is an altered state comparable to, however more profound than, the meditative state. Ayahuasca seems to open up the individual to his feelings and provide personal, psychological insights, and thus it may be a valuable adjunct to psychotherapy.

Also an excerpt from the study:

EEG research of psychedelics.

The majority of EEG studies done on psychedelics appeared in the scientific journals some 30 years ago before these compounds were banned. Wikler (1954), Itil (1968) and Fink (1978) are all in agreement that psychedelics, regardless of the substance (LSD, mescaline, psilocybin), produce decreases in slow wave (alpha and theta) activity together with increases of fast (beta) activity. This low amplitude, desynchronized EEG pattern induced by psychedelics reflect an activation of the brain and is in opposition to the highly synchronized alpha pattern observed during deep relaxation. Fink (1978) found that regardless of the nature of the drug administered, EEG synchronization (alpha/theta waves) was associated with euphoria, relaxation, and drowsiness; while EEG desynchronization was associated with anxiety, hallucinations, fantasies, and illusions. Don et al. (1998) found an increase of high frequency beta (’40Hz’) with no significant change of alpha and theta activity in the EEG following the ingestion of ayahuasca. All the above studies indicate that most psychedelic compounds tend to suppress low EEG frequency activity (alpha and theta) and enhance beta activity reflecting an activation of the brain. However, other psychedelic-like compounds such as marihuana and MDMA (ecstasy) seem to have the opposite effect and increase alpha activity. In a recent, controlled placebo study, an increase of EEG alpha power, correlating with intense euphoria, was found after smoking marihuana (Lukas, et al., 1995).

Long-term effects of the use of psychedelics, using qEEG monitoring, have rarely been studied. However, in a recent study of 23 recreational MDMA users Dafters et al. (1999) found that the use of MDMA was positively correlated with absolute power in the alpha (8-12Hz) and beta (12-20Hz) frequency bands. These findings were supported recently by another study by Gamma et al. (2000) who found global increases of theta, alpha and beta power in a group of regular MDMA users compared to a control group.

You can download the full PDF version here.

Brainwave monitoring changing the way psychiatrists work

As a follow up to the video about EEG-assisted hypnosis, I came upon an article today about how EEGs could be implemented in talk therapy and traditional Psychiatry. 

Running with scissors 

In many ways, modern day mental health is still a series of trials and errors. If you are depressed your psychiatrist may start you out on a regimen of Wellbutrin. After the medicine has been given adequate time to take effect, the therapist will determine if the treatment is working by asking you questions about your subjective experience. If it turns out the drug isn’t working, the dosage may be increased, a new drug may be prescribed or a new approach may be recommended. This can be frustrating for both clients and therapists.

There are a lot of external variables that can make your subjective experience of a therapy’s effectiveness differ starkly from reality. Further compounding the problem is how long it can take for a drug to have a meaningful impact on people, to the extent that one could reliably say “this is working for me.” Under normal circumstances, six to eight weeks will pass before any real benefits will be noticed. Many people are also resistant to specific psychoactive drugs, and some people seem to have very little reaction at all to any drug. 

To help solve this problem, a new EEG device is being developed specifically with psychiatrists in mind. It monitors brainwaves and uses the analysis to determine if a certain drug is having the expected effect. If the drug is doing its job, or is likely to work in the future, brain activity in specific areas will change. Studies of this have shown that it can take as little as a single week to reliably determine if a particular therapy is working – long before any subjective effects would normally be noticed by the patient or therapist.

The new device is also meant to be simple to use, so it can be easily employed with minimal training, and could even be operated by office staff such as a nurse:

Requiring only five electrodes to be placed on a subject’s forehead and temples, rather than 20 or more electrodes scattered over the entire scalp, the device is much easier to use than the EEG systems typically employed in research labs.

The company is now sponsoring a large, multicenter clinical trial to determine if the device can reliably detect antidepressant response. Initial results from the study, presented this week in San Diego at a meeting of the American Psychiatric Association, are promising. After a week of treatment, the device could predict if a particular drug would work in the longer term 70 to 80 percent of the time.

“Psychiatry is the last specialty without a good diagnostic test to guide treatment,” says Andrew Leuchter, a researcher and psychiatrist at the University of California, Los Angeles, and a study leader. “I think there is a lot of enthusiasm for a quick test that can be carried out in the doctor’s office and inform treatment.” Leuchter’s group did some of the early research underlying the device, and he heads Aspect’s science advisory board.

Aspect expects to finish the trial of more than 300 patients this year and is in talks with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) about requirements for regulatory approval. The company eventually aims to market the device to psychiatrists. “Many patients will abandon their medications if they do not feel sufficient improvement in the first few weeks,” says Maurizio Fava, a psychiatrist at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, in Boston. “So having a reliable prediction will help patients stay on track.”

Another device mentioned in the article, called the NeuroStar, is designed to be used with patients that seem resistant to all drugs. It stimulates the brain with magnetic pulses through the skull, and in trials it worked 40 percent of the time. The NeuroStar is meant as an alternative to the very invasive “electroconvulsive therapy”, which requires surgery and has some nasty side effects, but is needed in severe cases where the patient is resistent to drugs.

Though it is not mentioned in the article, audio/visual Brainwave Entrainment could also be a very effective, easy to use and certainly noninvasive way to assist the modern therapist in treating a wide variety of clients. We have many users of our products who experience great relief with BWE where they found none with other therapies. We get a lot of calls from new therapists interested in this technology, most of which heard about it through their clients! Many of them are now sending their patients home with BWE CDs created using our software. Some are even setting up “brainwave entrainment” rooms, complete with a lazy boy, a Light/Sound Synergizer and a laptop to drive the stimulation.

Emerging neurotechnology is going to vastly change the mental health industry in the coming decades .

On the other hand ….

Perhaps someday, a visit to the psychiatrist’s office will resemble a trip to the dentist’s or physical therapist’s office, where a mental hygienist, rather than a dental hygienist, will work on your brain before the doctor comes in to render his final opinion.

I think one of the better aspects of traditional psychiatry is the stereotypical therapist’s office: the couch, the plants, the dim lighting, the shelf full of books probably never read… Many people loathe visiting the dentist or doctor. The lighting is too bright, the mood feels rushed, like an assembly line. I rarely spend more than 3 or 4 minutes with my doctor – most of every visit is spent in the waiting room or talking to the nurse. I think it is important not to let the mental health industry fall into that trap. A therapist’s office should be a comfortable place. Don’t abandon the couch. Instead, employ these new technologies to ensure clients are receiving the best treatment available.

Here’s the article: http://www.technologyreview.com/Biotech/18791/

Weekly Brain Video: Hypnosis and EEG

A hypnotherapist talks about using an EEG to determine the receptivity level of clients.

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