TQ vs. NeuroGuide
NG is a database of EEG’s recorded largely from the 1970’s and 80’s using amplifiers that could only read up to 30 Hz.
It provides a stastical sample of people who were determined to be “normal” 30-40 years ago. Of course at that time there were 180 “mental disorders”. Now there are more than 300. Psychoactive medication was not used much outside psychiatric hospitals. People who were “shy” didn’t yet have “social anxiety disorder”. Kids with trouble being still in boring places didn’t yet have “ADHD”.
In case you weren’t around then, the people in those databases had never heard of a personal computer, tablets, smartphones, social media, YouTube, cable TV. People read things called books. If they wanted to learn about something, they went to places called libraries. They actually wrote on paper and mailed things called “letters” to keep in touch with loved ones. When they met with friends they had what were called “conversations” instead of texting and surfing on their phones–they just talked with one another. They went to places called “theaters” to watch movies with lots of other people instead of streaming on their computers or phones.Movies or TV shows in which even ONE person was killed were fairly shocking. Police departments didn’t have drones and SWAT teams. Governments didn’t have high-definition satellite cameras that watched citizens from space, nor did they track the celular conversations, emails and surfing habits of citizens. You could not be tracked physically anywhere yu went via your phone. Most people would have defined terrorism as what a bully did to kids in a school. There were no commercials on TV selling psycho-active drugs to consumers. It was a very different time, and we were very different people.
NG was recorded before research showed differences between male and female brains, so it treats both sexes as if they were one.
Because amplifiers couldn’t read fast frequencies like high-beta or gamma, NG doesn’t really have those.
NG has data on eyes-closed and eyes-open measures, but it doesn’t show you how the brain activates–or de-activates–at task.
NG is a large set of micro-measures of the brain. For example, what is the magnitude of the EEG signal at F8 at 9 Hz with eyes open.
This is like describing a tree by measuring its circumference at 1-inch intervals from the ground, measuring the diameter of each branch and limb, the distance between nodes on each branch, the number of leaves on each, etc. You can get pages of graphs and charts, but you probably won’t really know much about the tree.
All population-based QEEG’s are based on the assumption that there is such a thing as a “normal” person and a “normal” brain.
This is like saying that there is such a thing as a “normal” tree. QEEG assumes that “normal” is defined as “very close to average.”
Hence, people who are “above average” are not “normal”.
If we compare a 50-year-old Oak tree in a forest with 45 inches of rainfall/year in Vermont with one standing relatively alone with 12 inches of rain in West Texas, they are likely to be quite different because they grew up in very different circumstances
I would say they are both “normal” because they represent adaptations to their environments.
But if we compare them (all the micro-measures I mentioned above) against the means and standard deviation for 23 Oak trees someone considered “normal” and put in a database, each will produce pages of z-scores. Not very useful.
In fact, here’s a direct quote from Jay Gunkelman, one of the most highly respected QEEG analysts in the world: “The group average is a terrible way to describe an individual, and everybody is an individual.”
The database is not designed to guide training, and most of the people who process the QEEG’s don’t do neurofeedback.
One common way of training based on NeuroGuide is train to “normalize” all the z-scores that are outside a specific range.
A z-score is simply the number of standard deviations that an individual micro-measure is away from the mean of the database.
In other words, train everyone to be more average in everything. That’s probably NOT what your clients are looking for.
NG is a tool designed to allow researchers to compare statistics from groups (sub-populations like anxioius people) against the overall population to identify patterns in the EEG which differentiate them. But that’s not what you do when you use NG to try to figure out how to train ONE person. If you want to do research, swell, use a normative data base.
The Trainer’s Q (used to be the TLC) takes a very different approach, because it’s not designed for research. It’s designed for training.
1. TQ7 avoids the concept of “normal”. It doesn’t use databases or norms or z-scores. It doesn’t aim to make the client more “average”; it aims toward the brain patterns identified in “peak” brains.
2. TQ7 doesn’t look at the brain through hundreds of micro-measures. It looks at a macro picture of “stable activation patterns” that all brains demonstrate. Researchers using QEEG as described above have identified and published patterns that correlate with specific problem areas or symptom sets. TQ7 is a tool to seek out and identify those patterns where they exist.
3. TQ7 doesn’t require you to lease or buy or rent a database. You don’t have to send off youir data for someone to process. You load the data (20-channels of eyes-closed, eyes-open and task) directly into the assessment file. It produces graphs, tables and charts showing you multiple views of the brain, usually in a minute or two.
4. TQ7 produces, with a click of a button, in less than a minute, a detailed customized summary of findings in the client’s brain and suggests what strengths and weaknesses are likely to be related to each of them.
5. TQ7 avoids diagnostic categories. It uses a Client Report which includes ratings of a large number of symptoms. When the client completes this, the trainer receives a report and a file that is automatically loaded into the client’s TQ7 assessment and used in his brain-pattern summary and training plan.
6. TQ7 automatically produces a customized Whole-Brain Training Plan (WBTP) based on brain patterns and highest rated symptoms. This plan defines a circuit of 5 sessions which train multiple patterns from the client’s brain, releasing the brain’s homeostatic patterns at multiple points and allowing it to shift to a new stable set point no longer tied to old experience. Training cycles through this circuit, changing only those issues which are related to the client’s training objectives.
7. TQ7 is currently available in English, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian and German. A click of a button in the software changes all the pages and reports to the target language.
8. TQ7 integrates with the brain-trainer design package of 36 different training protocols (1, 2 and 4C) for amplitude, peak frequency, symmetry, synchrony/coherence, deep-states, SMR, TAG synchrony and other specialty approaches. These offer feedback in a selection of music, game, video, imagery and other modalities which can be done eyes closed, eyes open or at task
Used with a QWIZ 4C amplifier, BioExplorer software and an electrocap (total of $1,825), the trainer can complete preparing the client, recording the 20 channels, artifacting the data, loading the assessment, producing the Client Summary and the WBTP in a total of 30-40 minutes. The brain-trainer design package of protocols and the TQ7 cost an additional $945 one time. Updates are free.
If your mission is to help people make lasting changes in the areas of their lives they want to change, TQ7 is the tool to use.
TQ7 vs. Other systems
Another system is popular with many new trainers because it promises “one-size-fits-all”. The trainer doesn’t need to know anything about the brain, anything about the client–doesn’t even need to know what the client needs to change. Just pay a lot of money for hardware and software, learn to place electrodes in the same two places on every head and guaranteed results. Of course such a system cannot guarantee results–any more than a mechanic who only changed the brakes on every car can guarantee to fix any problem brought to him. The systeml trains to reduce variability in the sensory-motor cortex, so if a client happens to have a high degree of variance in the EEG signal in that area, it can be very helpful. If, as we often see in actually looking at the brain with a TQ7.5 or any other QEEG system, variability is NOT an issue–or the brain shows very LOW levels of variability–(which we can see in the assessment), obviously it will have little effect–or negative effect.
There are some very powerful differences between this simplistic approach to the most complex system in the universe and the one that Brain-Trainer systems can offer.
1. With the Brain-Trainer system, you can gather data from 20 standard sites around the brain with eyes-closed, eyes-open and at task in less than 25 minutes. This allows you to produce a very detailed and complete view of the brain’s energy patterns. This requires no additional databases or resources. It is all done with the same hardware and software you will use to train the brain.
2. With the TQ7.5, you can process that data into multiple views of brain energy, removing “artifact”–electrical data that appears in the EEG but does not come from the brain, like muscle tension, eye-blinks, etc–and producing graphs and tables of various measures of brain function (including Variability), within 1-3 minutes.
3. The TQ7.5 does, build in the expertise from dozens of research studies of the stable brain energy patterns that underlie the real-life habits of thought, mood, physical function, behavior and performance that most clients wish to change. This one file produces (in a matter of seconds) a summary of client brain activity (see attached) which can be produced in English, Spanish, Portuguese or German with the click of a button in the software. This 3-6-page summary tells you exactly what brain patterns are found in this client’s brain–and what symptoms are likely to be related to each. It also explains what each means. It can be a great help to the trainer, but it is especially valuable to share with other professionals or referral sources, the client and/or the client’s family. Most people are very impressed with how accurately the report describes the client by identifying the patterns in his brain.
4. Even more important, the TQ7.5 produces a training plan customized for the specific client’s brain. This also is produced automatically with the click of several buttons, usually in less than a minute. This plan is called a Whole-Brain Training Plan. It defines 5 training sessions through which you cycle with the client. These cover the most fundamental/ subcortically-driven training issues with likely underlie many autonomic and emotional issues. They also respond to any head-injury issues which are identified in the brain, training of the salience network, coherence and synchrony connectivity issues among sites–either very high or very low–in a range of frequencies from Delta to Gamma, training of the sensory-motor cortex, training of the cingulate/midline/default-mode network and a deep-states training protocol which improves communication between subconscious and conscious material at deeper levels each time you cycle through the 5-session circuit.
5. This plan specifies exactly which sites to be trained (in 1, 2 or 4 EEG channels) and defines which training protocols to be used from the brain-trainer protocol package (see attached description). These highly-sophisticated training protocols allow you to train issues of frequency dominance (brain which does not smoothly shift among energy levels), symmetry in various frequencies (left/right and front/back), connectivity, frequency relationships, and deep states. However, each is designed to allow even a brand-new trainer to achieve effective training without having to learn or focus on a great deal of technical material. Each design which requires adjustment of thresholds to provide optimal feedback levels automatically calculates the correct value for each client in each session–and allows you to track and manually override the targets with the click of a single button. It allows the trainer to focus on the client–not the technology.
6. Where another system provides a single feedback option, Brain-Trainer allows you to choose between music (not recorded music, but melodies produced by the brain as it’s own reflection of itself), games, video files, streaming movies or nearly any other item you can do on a computer. Hence feedback can be tailored to a broad range of clients, from very inattentive to highly stressed and activated.
7. The full Brain-Trainer system includes an electrode cap, which allow new trainers to find all 20 of the major training sites quickly and without learning to measure, and to produce clean, stable EEG signals with almost no practice whatsoever. In addition, we recommend use of nIR HEG, which trains perfusion in the prefrontal cortex. This executive center of the brain is not amenable to training with EEG due to excessive eye blink artifact, but HemoEncephaloGraphy (HEG) trains to improve metabolic capacity and thus allows the area to activate more fully. It is fast and easy to use, and it is often used as a part of the client training session.
This simple, sophisticated, customized, integrated system is not only the least expensive alternative, it is also clearly the most powerful. You can be training a new client based on a detailed customized view of his brain patterns within 30 minutes of his sitting in the client chair without any additional resources. You can give him (and any referral sources) a detailed description of brain patterns and their effects on his life within half-an-hour of his sitting in the chair. You can literally train “whatever walks in the door”, from trauma (physical or emotional)–to autonomic issues of sleep/digestion/elimination/sexual response/panic attacks/ migraines/etc.–to issues of attention/impulse control/learning/memory/executive function–to problems of obsession/compulsion/ addictive behaviors–to seizures/closed-head injuries/autism–to aging–essentially any problem related to brain patterns. You can guide the client to lasting changes. You can do all this with or without diagnostic categories.
TQ Pattern-based Trainer’s Q vs. Population-based QEEG
The Q is essentially a research tool that gathers massive amounts of data about the brain and compares it against a normative database of people who were determined to have “normal” brains. If you understand statistical processing, you’ll understand that these readings were used to create a set of means and standard deviations for each age-group/sex combination, and these are used to produce what, for most people, is the most useful part of a QEEG report: the z-scores. These measure how many standard deviations each of the thousands of measures is from the mean for the comparison group. Of course it’s highly doubtful that ANY of the “normal” brains actually had low z-scores in all measures, so even “normal” brains are “abnormal” in some or many of the measures. Just looking at the z-scores, as some “readers” do, isn’t particularly helpful, since you need to know a good deal about brain function and expected patterns to be able to determine which, if any, of the z-score measures would actually be related to the real-world changes the client is seeking. You also need to be able to determine the difference between a “broken leg” and a “crutch”. One is a problem; the other is an adaptation to the problem, but both will appear as high z-scores. Training to get rid of the crutch may not be very helpful. Finally, you need to be comfortable with the whole idea of a “normal” brain. I like to ask people, “Do you really believe that a poet and an accountant will have the same brain?” If not, which one is normal? Norming is a useful concept in medicine and engineering that psychology has tried to apply to a field where it may make a lot less sense. Unlike, say, values for fasting blood sugar or other medical norms, there are multiple QEEG databases, and they don’t all agree on what is “normal”, so it’s important to know which one was used.
The TQ Trainer’s Q, which you yourself could gather using the hardware and software (BioExplorer or Infiniti) you will use to train, is not normed. It is descriptive. It allows us to say whether a brain is fast or slow or fast in front and slow in back, etc. More importantly, it takes the results of many research studies done using QEEG to determining pattern analysis of various symptom constellations. You schedule an online meeting with someone from brain-trainer and go through what your TQ shows, what your training goals are, and why you are testing specific interventions.
When a person is highly anxious, for example, there are a number of EEG patterns which are very likely to appear in their brains that won’t appear in the brains of people who are not anxious. The brain-trainer system (the assessment and design package) is designed to guide you to protocols and sites that are likely to result in positive responses relative to the client’s desired changes. You usually get 3-6 “sessions” to test (where to place the electrodes and what patterns to train), one time each, to see what seems to have the greatest positive effect. Then you continue training that until it stabilizes.
If you purchased a Q, it would be fairly rare that it would not have come with some kind of reading and set of recommendations–often provided by someone other than the person who gathered the Q. Jay Gunkelman (qeegsupport.com) is probably among the most highly respected readers of Q’s. If I had to have a Q and have someone interpret it, I’d probably go to him, though there are many others in the field who are good as well.
Using a database against which we compare everyone assumes that there is such a thing as a “normal” (i.e. ‘”average”) brain, and that everyone wants to be average.
Since the QEEG database was developed for purposes of research, it is made up of hundreds or thousands of micro measures (e.g. eyes-open power at 4 Hz at F8) which mean nothing. It is like deciding how to prune a bush by counting how many branches and twigs there are and measuring the internodal spaces on each and counting the leaves on each, etc.
Certainly if one had such a database–even one which did not differentiate between males and females, though we know there are significant differences and one which was comparing against a 30-year-old sample and one which did not measure beta3 or gamma because of limitations in the amps when it was recorded–it would be tempting to market it. You could tell everyone that your approach was “scientific”, “evidence-based” etc. and leave out the fact that it didn’t actually guide you in terms of where to prune and how much to get a bush to look the way you wish. But from a trainer’s point of view it’s costly, slow and doesn’t really answer the question of where to put the electrodes and what to train.
But what if someone who actually WAS a researcher–guys like Lubar, Monastra, Fehmi, Hardt, Davidson, Sterman– actually DID some research? Let’s say someone gathered a significant n of people who qualify as anxious and measured their brains in great detail. He could then compare that sub-population against a population and identify any patterns that reliably differentiated the sub-group from the whole. Such work has been done more than a few times, and there are some pretty well-accepted brain activation patterns that correlate highly with anxiety. These patterns are measured as relationships between frequencies (e.g. theta/beta ratio) or sites (e.g. L/R beta ratio) or levels of activation, etc. No other brain needed.
The brain-trainer approach doesn’t seek to make you more like everyone else; our goal is to make your brain the best it can be itself and thus improve your ability to be and do what you really want–no matter what that is. We look at most of the same data as a QEEG uses, but our focus is macro rather than micro.
Jay Gunkelman, whose ability as a brain reader could get him burned as a witch in certain areas, describes brains–even with all that data–in terms of phenotypes. Back around 2005, he and I compared his phenotypes and the Stable Activation Patterns around which the TQ7 is constructed, and they matched better than 80%. Jay himself has said. “The group average is a terrible way to describe an individual, and everybody’s an individual.” I agree with him on that as well.
I’m a trainer. My patterns specifically relate to trainable issues that separate many brains from their peak capabilities. The TQ7 specifies, based on a client’s subjective report and the objective data from 20 EEG sites with eyes closed and open and at task training protocols to guide the brain toward changing frequency patterns, synchrony relationships, symmetry and activation up to 42 Hz. Because our approach is not about “normalizing” but rather oriented toward Whole-Brain Training, we include training of prefrontal activation (up and down) and deep states access to the client’s subconscious. A client trains multiple patterns in multiple areas of the brain in a circuit of 5 sessions through which he cycles. Just like a training plan at a gym. The TQ7 can gather its 20 sites of data in about 20 minutes and can produce a detailed resume of the client’s brain patterns AND a customized training plan in about 10 minutes more. No special equipment is required; the software is the same as used in training, and the trainer need not send the data off. The expertise is built-in.
Other Approaches to Training
The Q is based on the concept of comparing an individual brain against a normative database in dozens, if not hundreds, of measures to determine where the brain varies from “normal”.
The TQ does not focus on making a client’s brain normal. It focuses on making it the most possible the way the client would like it to be. It does not compare against norms. It compares relationships in the brain itself, between sites, between frequencies and between states ( e.g. eyes closed vs. task). We don’t look for high Z-scores, which denote measures that vary significantly from the norm. Rather we look for activation patterns that help explain difficulties the client is having in performance, mood, behavior, control, etc. The Q is essentially a research tool. The TQ has one simple (well, maybe not so simple) focus: To provide a set of working hypotheses for montage/protocol combinations that can be tested within 4-7 sessions to determine which one(s) most effectively move the client toward the desired training outcome.
The TQ is a brain-based assessment of activation patterns.
Whole-Brain training is all about changing habitual brain responses in a lasting way.
Many people fail at changing habits because they are working with the wrong thing–trying to change their conscious minds. If the ego/conscious mind/beta brain were able to change habitual responses, an anxious person could simply say, “I have no reason to be anxious, so I’ll just stop”, and it would work. But everyone who’s tried it knows it doesn’t work. For learning facts or processing material in a logical, rational way, for thinking in words, the conscious mind is well-suited. Training to improve this capacity is a valid goal of brain-training for many. However, for creating or changing automatic responses, it is the experiencing energy brain that controls habitual strategies and responses in the brain. Training must affect the brain, not the mind.
The brain learns from one thing: Feedback / Experience. It might be: falling down the first time you try to ride a bike; failing a test for which you have not studied; or having a movie get darker or brighter as you watch it. All of those are experienced consciously as reflections of brain activity. Experience occurs in the brain.
One of our brain states, the conscious mind, knows what it wants and goes after it. When the conscious mind decides you should ride a bike, the whole brain begins experimenting and adjusting. The mind continues telling us to get up and try again, and the brain learns from each failure until it finds the right combination of balance, strength, relation and movement. Then it stays up. The brain creates the habit,and encodes it in the left hemisphere. The conscious mind decides what it wants, but it can’t do it. The brain discovers and refines the most effective strategy. The conscious mind stores and applies it.
So in training, one of the most important secrets is NOT TO THINK OR TRY. That’s the conscious mind. The client’s goal–as in meditation–is to be still and present in the moment, aware of the feedback. The more the client tries to “understand” or “control” the feedback, the more it literally jumps between the brain and the information. It blocks the change.
There are many types of feedback. Any kind of sensory (or electromagnetic) signal that the trainer sets up to reflect brain patterns can be useful. Musical sounds, tones, changes in brightness of an image, starting/stopping visual images, scoring in games, even kinesthetic tones can all mirror the degree of success to the brain. When the brain notices that a visual or auditory or kinesthetic input is changing, its first response is to discover, “what am I doing to make that happen?” To the extent we can make that mirror the primary input to the brain, the more powerful it becomes and the more effectively the brain discovers a new strategy.
It is my experience that the more the feedback appeals to the conscious mind, the less effective it is.
There are two primary types of feedback: continuous and contingent. When a brain is hearing music tones or seeing changes in brightness of an image, that is continuous feedback. It provides a constant flow of information, like the old children’s game where a group of people tell a person who is trying to find something that she is getting “warmer” or “colder”–closer or further away. Contingent feedback is on/off. You found it. Or you didn’t. It doesn’t tell you how close you came or if you are moving in the best direction, only whether you succeeded or not. When you are learning to ride a bicycle, you don’t immediately collapse. You often wobble along for a second or a few before falling. That’s continuous feedback. When you fall, it’s contingent. BTI’s feedback seeks to combine these two approaches. For example, hearing sounds which change in pitch and volume is continuous. Adding a visual image of a fractal which moves or pauses depending on whether you are in or out of the “scoring range” is contingent.
Two of my clients from my days as a trainer in Atlanta taught me a lot about feedback. Both were boys of about 9. One resisted training, because he felt his parents were forcing him to do it. They were trying to make him what they wanted him to be instead of what he was. He had a great trainer who played along with him but kept him aware of the feedback (if not “valuing” it.) At the end of training, we recorded a video of the client and parents being interviewed about the process. One of the questions was: Based on your experience, what would you tell someone who asked you if it was worth doing? This boy, who had made significant improvements in school performance, social skills and more, answered, “I’d tell them to be careful. You go to the training and you don’t want to change. You don’t try to score points or anything. And you end up changing anyway!” The second young man also made significant improvement in school, in soccer, in being invited to birthday parties, etc. When he was asked about changes, he admitted that his parents and his coach and his teachers seemed to have improved a lot, but he didn’t think it had anything to do with the training. Responding to his parents’ amazement, he explained, “I’m doing the same things I always did, but they just come out better.” In both cases the client had not tried to change. The automatic responses of his brain had changed “on their own”. The habits had changed as the brain changed its energy patterns, and consciously he had no more to do with the new outcomes than he felt he had with the old ones.
Certainly the kinds of feedback that would guide a slow, internally-focused brain to speed up and the kinds that would help an overly activated one to calm down may be different. And certainly a trainer who keeps trying to “explain” to an adult what is happening and what is supposed to happen and how to do it is falling directly into the trap of empowering the thinking brain. I remind new trainers (or older ones who have “learned” so much that they are seduced into trying to make things happen) it’s much easier to learn to ride a bike without someone telling you what to do. And that one of the foundational developments in early neurofeedback was Barry Sterman’s training cats to produce SMR without even trying to explain it to them or have any real sense of what they wanted to happen.
Stay out of the way. Trust the process. Train the leverage points–those patterns which are most correlated with the behaviors the client wants to change. Reflect the positive changes you see.
You’ve already trained yourself to look at the human world in terms of “norms” and pathologies. Let me try to answer your question in a different way. First, what the hell is ADHD? It is, like most mental health “diagnoses” merely a description of symptoms. What does it mean? “A person who has difficulty paying attention.” Why? Don’t know. What do we do about it? Give drugs and/or talk with the client–the standard mental health responses to all problems–oops, I mean disorders. But let’s take a look at two kids–one you put in a chair in a classroom and he sits quietly, staring out the window, making universes out of pencils, attending briefly then drifting away. You probably have to rap on his forehead to ask him a question. He’s “got” ADHD. Second kid, you put in the same chair and within seconds he’s got his head inside his desk, throwing spit-wads at the kid across one aisle, whispering to the one on the other side, standing up or lying on the floor, but when the teacher tries to catch him by popping a question at him, he can respond immediately. He’s “got” ADHD. That’s a really useful diagnosis if you are attempting to find something that will draw in a large percentage of the population, but it seems rather broad to me. What is generalized anxiety disorder? A person who is anxious most the time. Why? Don’t know? How do we treat it? Drugs or talk.
Let’s tentatively step away from this paradigm and see what the alternative might be. What if, instead of labeling a person as “having ADHD with comorbid anxiety disorder” (which certainly sound serious), we just said this is a person who tends to act or speak impulsively, tends to be unable to block distractions, has quick emotional responses that are often out of scale with the stimulus and is often worried or frightened? We’d also probably see that he had difficulty falling asleep, moved around a lot while sleeping, etc. We’d also see that he was remarkably social (though sometimes not so good at following the social rules), fearless, active and perhaps very bright. That’s “descriptive” instead of “judgemental”.
Now we know that one of the enticements of brain training is that it actually DOES suggest what to do (beyond drugs/talk), and that what it suggests actually does seem to work in many cases–not just to teach the client to adapt to an “incurable disorder” but actually to get rid of it! So how useful are these diagnostic categories through which you’ve trained yourself to see others (and perhaps yourself)? Not. When I look at this child’s brain, I may find that he has high levels of both slow and fast-wave activity but is missing middle frequencies, that he reverse activates at task–but that takes him into the expected range of theta vs beta, that his fast activity is particularly strong on the right side and in the right-rear quadrant of his brain. Or I might find that he has very high levels of fast activity in his temporal lobes with a strong asymmetry between them, has lots of slow alpha across the front of his head, or that he has high levels of fast-wave coherence in the frontal, parietal and occipital areas, or that his anterior cingulate shows more slow activity than the hemispheres do in the same lobe, or…
Same diagnosis–heck, even the same symptom constellation–but completely different training plans. So why diagnose? Why not simply identify the symptom set and look at the brain for related training patterns? The client doesn’t end up with an “incurable” diagnosis in his medical and school records–he just moves past the difficulties as his brain expands its range until he’s no longer “ADHD”. Could you find these training patterns from a TQ7? Yes, in fact they’d be pointed out to you specifically. Could you find them in a Population-based Q? Yes, but you’d have to sift them out of dozens of other findings–or perhaps send the Q off to someone who is very knowledgeable about EEG patterns and their behavioral effects and ask that person to tell you what to train. Or you could just train everything (Z-score) that diverges from the average and hope those related to the problem changed and those related to special strengths of the client didn’t.
Since you’ve read a lot about neurofeedback, you surely know that it is an “operant conditioning” process, right? It’s right there in the preface of every published article, so it must be true. Of course the published articles are mostly by Ph.D. psychologists (who talk about “ADHD with comorbid Anxiety Disorder”), and psychologists understand the world according to a particular set of terms and theories. But what exactly is being conditioned? And how? Again, let me offer another possible view. The brain is part of the body. It is a chaotic system that, like all chaotic sytems, has certain stable points in its operation around which it tends to organize. A lot like the body system that controls weight. When you start working out at the gym and lose weight, is that operant conditioning? Why not consider that when we “train” a brain, we are exercising it. If we go to the gym and get a trainer to guide us, he may recommend yoga/stretching/Pilates to build flexibility, or he may say we need aerobic exercise to build metabolism or we need weight training to build muscle mass, etc. We practice specific exercises in each of these areas–most likely a circuit of them and using a cross-training approach so we don’t only train one way with one exercise over and over. We do it consistently over time, and our body changes. Is that operant conditioning?
We look at brain training as exercise. My trainer doesn’t label me with some disease or disorder when I come in wanting to reduce my weight, improve blood pressure and circulation and increase my energy levels. He establishes a training plan and guides me to follow it (recognizing, as I do with my brain clients, that it is the CLIENT who is doing the work and takes the credit, not the trainer.) So when a client comes to me, I help him identify a fairly complete set of the moods, behaviors and performance he would like to change. I measure how his brain is working, and I produce a training plan which includes a circuit of exercises designed to strengthen his brain’s ability to do things that it currently doesn’t do well–or at least not for long.
Z-Scores, LORETA and QEEG
What is z-score training? I’m not an engineer like the guys who have developed that approach to the brain. I’m just a trainer. And as a trainer I have some fairly simple (to me) questions. I do get the idea of using a database gathered (by and large) decades ago and training every client to be at the average of that group. But there’s a difference between the way two types of person might approach a problem: an engineer, producing a tool for research on something as complex and individual as a forest, might decide to take a bunch of measures of each individual tree. A trainer would be more inclined to look at the whole forest, note where there were dense groves of trees and where there were open areas, how much underbrush there was in various areas, etc. In terms of actually USING the forest, camping or hiking in it or cutting trees to thin it out, I think the latter approach would be more useful. QEEG’s make multiple measures of very fine resolution, but they don’t provide much of an overview. Great for research; maybe stretched a bit to make it a useful tool for working with individuals.
For those who have unquestioningly bought the heavily-promoted concept of QEEG and z-score and LORETA, etc., I ask that you consider these questions.
1. The kids in that database were raised before there were computers, cellphones, texting, video games, online and cable television, before the internet, before social media, before shootings in schools and security screenings. I don’t suppose anyone has tried to answer the question whether the brain of a 10-year-old in 2014 is directly comparable (or should be) with one from 1984. Are we training today’s children to have 1984 brains? I worked with kids in the 1990′s, and I’ve worked with them in the 2010′s, and I have news for you: THEY ARE NOT THE SAME!
2. I assume you understand that a population statistic is made up of dozens or hundreds of individuals. It is an average of them all. Comparing a population against a sub-population (e.g. people with anxiety disorders) is statistically reasonable. In fact that sort of research has been among the most valuable uses of the population databases, They have allowed researchers like Gurnee, Davidson, Monastra and many others to identify patterns that occur in a sub-population that are not common in the general population. That is the research that the TQ7 is based on–identifying those patterns which have been defined. But also understand that not one single person in the population database was within, say, 1.5 standard deviations of the mean on every one of the dozens of measures. In the same way, no person who gets a Q done today will be within range in all of them. EVERYONE will be “abnormal” in a number of ways–even the people who were in the original database against which everyone is compared! You’re comparing a single individual against the average of many individuals.
3. Z-scores don’t indicate whether the deviation from the average is positive (for example, a special talent in math or music or great creativity, or particularly strong drive) or negative (anxiety, anger, etc.) Z-score training simply trains to flatten out every client, like a bulldozer going through hills and valleys and producing a parking lot. If that’s what your clients want, then you should spend the extra money and train everyone that way. God help us if the Einsteins and Bells and Fords and Steve Jobs and Bill Gates and Bruce Springsteens of our generations are all trained via z-score because they don’t sit quietly in class.
4. I agree that LORETA’s look very cool, and I’ve heard Jay Gunkelman talk about nested quantum rhythms. But I have real people in my office who want to change real things in their real lives. They’d like to spend as little as possible to do that. They’d like to do it as quickly as possible. And they’d like to lose as little in the changing as possible. That’s why I developed and teach and use the TQ7 . With it I can gather a 20-channel EEG, just like a BrainMaster Discovery, but I can gather data on eyes closed, eyes open and task activation and connectivity at all those sites, de-artifact the data and load it into an assessment which shows me the same kinds of maps and histograms and data tables that a Q does in less than half an hour from the client sitting in the chair. I train the surface of the brain, because that’s where the EEG is seen, so it really doesn’t matter much to me that some engineers have developed a way of producing a LORETA map about “where the signal comes from”. I work on the assumption–supported by experience with clients over 20 years–that if I can help them change what’s happening on the surface, the rest changes with it. If there really are nested quantum rhythms down there and if infra-low frequencies are responsible for gamma or the other way around, or how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, I can easily and inexpensively and accurately show a client a feedback mirror of what his brain is doing and he can change it. With simple little BioExplorer and a QWIZ and electrocap, or a Focus and electrodes. Keeps my costs down, lets me charge reasonable prices, increases my ability to work with more clients and get the results the CLIENT wanted. That’s what’s really cool to me.
5. I often ask, “do you really believe that an accountant and a poet have the same brain?” Most people quickly decide that probably they do not. The meat is the same, the size might be the same and the stuff neurologists look at is probably a lot alike, but the energy patterns and connections that make the brain work as an individual system are likely to be very different. So which one is normal? Should we train everyone to be accountants? Or poets? Or, more likely, neither. Using the TLC7 I can identify quickly the patterns that have been shown to relate to specific symptoms or problems a client may wish to change to become more fully him or her self. With whole-brain training, I can offer him a way to make those changes quickly with or without diagnosing and norming and pathologizing.
I’m a live-and-let-live kind of guy. I think it’s great that the Othmers work with infra-low frequencies and Val Brown works with emergent variability, and I’m happy for those who have determined, based on thinking it through, that z-score training is worth all the money. But I find it disturbing that, when I submitted a proposal to iSNR for a 4-hour workshop on the TQ7 as an alternative to the Q, it was found not to be of interest to the membership. When I submitted a proposal for a 30-minute overview of the result of Whole Brain Training as we have implemented it among a number of clinicians here in Brazil…nope, that wasn’t of interest. Despite those proposals, which were judged by a jury of my “peers”–most, if not all, of whom are QEEG guys, when iSNR put together their invited round table discussion of assessment technologies…I don’t need to tell you.
I appreciate hearing that using TQ with a $600 2-channel amp (in the days before we were able to use 4C protocols and 30 minute assessments and the Electro-Cap) had its place among the $6-8k systems with the multiple databases. As for the “normal” human beings (which I suppose means they haven’t gone to a mental health professional to try to change anything they’d like to change) yes, I agree. I see “normal” people every day who have difficulty controlling their anger, or are struggling with low energy or their tendency to worry about things constantly have to work much harder to learn and other normal things.. They stay away from mental health services, because they don’t WANT to be diagnosed and started down that path. That’s an important part of the brain-trainer approach from the beginning. The TQ is based on target areas for change–not treatment of disorders. I work a great deal with “normal” people who come to train and leave sleeping better, happier, better able to relate to family and co-workers, etc. They are normal when they leave and normal when they came. They are just more fully the selves they wanted to be. As you know, for all the hype about alpha asymmetry, there are many other less-widely-touted patterns that may also appear disproportionately in people with low energy.
QEEG may be based on billions of neurons, but it’s linked pools of neurons that make the EEG and that’s the focus o pattern identification assessment. Yes we can only see the surface, hippocampus and cingulate with EEG, and yes there’s a lot below that level. But if the pattern we see on the surface is related to subcortical areas, and if we train to change the surface pattern, does that not imply subcortical changes as well? Whether it does or does not, however, is academic. The real question needs to be “did the client make changes he wanted to make in his life?” I agree that good training changes flexibility in the brain, making it less rigid but more under control. Good training is also likely to produce changes in how brain areas communicate and synchronize to share information more fully and efficiently. And to make the brain’s energy economy–how much energy is being spent where and when–as productive as it can be.
So essentially the new z-score is doing the same thing: training patterns. The f Q’s send to me with their reports, don’t look like what you are describing. Either they give a long report with 1 or 2 protocols that bear little or no relation to the Q. Or they are training all z-scores.
That’s cool about the laser. It will be interesting to see if, when you are able to define that pattern so specifically, and when you can be highly confident that it is related to what the client wants to change, it actually provides better or faster results. Our work with more general relationships and energy levels, rotating through a series of exercises works to change the specific element by changing the system in which it operates. You are describing an approach that hopes to change the system by changing pieces of it.
The TQ is gathered, artifacted and loaded into the assessment in half an hour. We continue to move ahead on the auto-plan version of the TQ . The version I’m testing allows me to produce a (maybe 50% accurate) training plan AND an Executive Summary Pattern Report literally in seconds. For 2 channels or for 4 channels.
As to coherence measures, it’s 100% true that you can look at hundreds in the Q. But the TQ’s focus is on how independently brain areas can operate and how completely they can rest when no task is present. They are useful in improving overall brain function. It’s perfectly possible that an individual site pair might not respond as desired. But what’s interesting to me is that 1-channel bipolar trainings often used with success in autism, for example, are like the sites you mention. And I’ve worked for years with problems of autism, and generally reducing high-fast-wave coherence across the back of the head (and increasing slow-wave synchrony) also has very positive effects.
I must have mis-stated my point. I’m not a fan of fortune-tellers who want to diagnose a person or tell us what he’s like just from the EEG. I’ve done it on occasion, and it’s very gratifying when you hit it, but I’d rather know what the client wants to change–the goals we’ve agreed on. I didn’t mean to suggest that I or anyone could or should be able to look at an EEG and tell me what a client does. I simply meant that there are people who are strongly rationally-based in their view of the universe, others who are more emotionally based, etc. Those brains are very likely to be different (an least in my observation of the assessments I’ve looked at) in peak frequencies, in relationships between fast and slow activity, ability to activate. I wouldn’t try it with Q’s, but I’ll bet if you gave me 10 TQ’s I could do a pretty good job of describing the people.
Brain State Technologies
Cool! In my whole life I’ve never had a feud with anyone, don’t have anyone I consider an enemy and very few I don’t like/trust. I didn’t know I was feuding with BS, but if they say so…
Videos that were put on the internet were made and placed by BS “survivors” (as they call themselves), who had learned about brain-trainer and sold their “chairs” to other unsuspecting well-intentioned folks. I’ll be happy to talk with you by phone, as I have many others who have done some due diligence before dumping $40-grand on the table and committing to an ongoing expense of $600/month. Just let me know a good time and the number at which to reach you.
Yes, I was using music feedback (though we didn’t hype it as magical or revolutionary, didn’t make up fancy names for it like HIRREM, etc.) from about 1997 forward. Yes, Lee Gerdes trained with me in 2002, bought equipment and software and paid for supervision from me. Yes, the very first experience Lee had with NF (oops, I mean harmonizing or balancing or whatever it’s called that’s NOT neurofeedback) was in fact eyes-closed music training, which blew him away.
It was later by a couple years that he “invented” neurofeedback, created BST Explorer software (which everyone else had been buying from cyberevolution.com as BioExplorer for years and continue to buy to this day), etc. Since then he’s “patented” it!
I liked Lee well enough in our meeting in Atlanta for the workshop, but whatever intuitive bells ring to suggest I be careful about trusting someone sounded loud and clear. When I heard that he was selling essentially the same system we sell–well, actually not SELLING it, since you can’t use either the hardware or software if you stop paying BS–for $50,000 (at that time), I thought it was a joke. Who would be foolish enough to buy it when they could get a comparable system from us for less than $4,000? But it was just one of those interesting side-channels of the field.
Then a year or so later I got a call at home from John Demos (author of Getting Started with Neurofeedback). A BS affiliate named Jeff Reich–the sort-of Martin Luther of BS–had broken the rules about never reading anything or taking any training outside the mother ship and gone to a course Demos was teaching. He had approached John in a break and asked what he thought about the BST assessment. Demos said he’d never heard of it, so Jeff showed him, and Demos said, “that’s the TLC Assessment–but where’s all the rest of it?” John asked if I knew about it, and I told him I had trained Gerdes years before.
Jeff Reich got in touch with me (also against the rules) a few days later and sent me a copy of the “BST” assessment, which was in fact one of the 8 pages of the TLC (TQ) assessment Lee had learned in my Assessment workshop. I was irritated but not terribly upset. We give away the TLC and a number of others had developed spin-offs of it (though generally not simple amputations). They had always contacted me in advance and generally credited the TQ–neither of which Lee had done.
Then Jeff sent me the “design package” for BS to compare with the brain-trainer package Lee had bought. They were very nearly the exact same thing with two differences: The BS designs were named differently–an idea I thought was a good one, and we’ve since renamed ours to make finding protocols simpler. And the BS designs were really old. There were several which included items I had developed in the very early days of BioExplorer to get around holes in the program that were later resolved. We had updated the designs and released them, but apparently Lee never bothered to download them. Those were not free. Lee bought them, and then a few years later claimed to have created them himself. I took him off the updates list, so he has never gotten any of our later designs, but that was about it.
We don’t copy protect. I’m sure others have given them to colleagues without regard for any rights we might have, but I don’t lose any sleep over it. A couple deep breaths, and I let it go. Each time a new BS Affiliate who’d heard about Jeff (he left BS) approached me to learn how they could switch boats, I asked to see their latest designs, and at least during that period, they were still the old brain-trainer designs.
At that time people could keep their amplifiers (since the first major exit that occurred around that time, BS added a line to a file in the driver for the hardware that made it fail to work if some BS file wasn’t on the computer). This amplifier (the Intellifier), also “invented” by Lee (at least in the early days) was also sold by us for a number of years under its standard name in the marketplace–The Alpha Amp. We didn’t sell many because it was a lot more expensive than the competitors we sold, but any we did sell were completely unlocked and actually belonged to the purchaser. The key to the re-branded software that BS sells also only works as long as you are in the BS network. Leave and you lose another $425. Everyone else sells the program unlocked.
“There were a couple things that added to the fraud . . . First of all is the fact that Brain state took all comers and since many were unlicensed and had no idea what neurofeedback was the program was designed to instruct as simply as possible at the risk of leaving much basic and necessary information out. Second, for the money paid (42,000) it seemed like a good deal at the time (Never did due diligence though). They gave three weeks of in house training (1 week of classroom and 2 weeks of practical where they actual brought in clients off the street and supervised all work). No equipment company out there does that.
The unfortunate things are these:
* In three weeks of training the word artifact was never mentioned. Since the primary protocol and electrode placements are T3T4, these sites as you know are riddled with artifact and if one is not instructed about EMG then all that is being trained is jaw relaxation and not brain. This may have been covered up by them by using hot electrodes intending that this would eliminate all artifact.
* Since their whole assessment was based on TQ’s relative map, if there was artifact anywhere in the hookup and it went unartifacted, the relative data would be completely skewed and unuseable.
* Part of their propaganda was they said they had the largest database of client brain information captured by all of their affiliates and uploaded to their servers. This is true, however, if that data was taken by people who had no idea how to artifact, what good is it. The data would never be publised, autheticated or peer reveiwed.
* And again their was the cultish sort of brainwashing and the fear instilled of the consequences for revealing proprietary information which promolugated throughout the system.” (–Jeff, previous Brain State user)
A number of people left after Jeff, so many that we helped him do a couple workshops for “survivors” to translate what they knew from BS to how the same thing was done and called in brain-trainer. This initial group was my first experience with what I’ve seen in almost every case where I’ve been asked to help someone switch over (just had another contact us to make the switch a couple weeks ago): These people were working with a level of knowledge about 1/4 inch deep. They did what they were told, didn’t care why, and didn’t expect to be told any more than they already had for their big investment in training.
I feel sorry for many of the BS affiliates, because I’ve worked with so many coming back out the exit, and I see over and over that these are people who really want to do something good–to help others–and see this (often based on their personal experience of training) as a way to do that. They have taken a really deep breath, borrowed money, mortgaged Mom’s house, used the inheritance Dad left (all actual people I’ve worked with) and dived in. All of them got results a fair portion of the time (after all, they are doing neurofeedback based on a fairly sophisticated system–the TQ assessment–using sophisticated protocols). But over time they begin to see that there are quite a few folks who don’t respond so well or who do 10 sessions and go away, and that they themselves are netting little enough that it will take them a LONG time to earn back that (now) $40,000 upfront fee. Often when they contact us they don’t want us sending emails to them, because they are sure that BS has access to their computers (it does) and can see to/from whom they’ve gotten emails, what they’ve been reading, etc. And they have to face the fact that the whole initial “investment” is lost–they walk away with nothing–meaning they have to come up with $2000-4000 more to actually BUY a system from us.
I have some education and experience in marketing and how it can be used to manipulate people who aren’t thinking clearly. I know you can take a bag of plain iodized salt, put it in a really nice small package and call it “calorie-free, gluten-free, lactose-free, all natural condiment”. Especially if you charge 10 times as much for it, there are those who will buy it and feel great about themselves. That’s not marketing (to me). That’s a ripoff.
My goal for 20 years in this field has been to make it as accessible to as many people with the greatest possible chance of success as possible. I’ve been called, “the Johnny Appleseed of neurofeedback”–perhaps not intended as a complement when it was said, but I’ve always taken it as one. So I see the P.T. Barnum approach as being offensive in general–because I can’t wrap my head around how I’d be able to look at myself in the mirror. But I learned long ago that people make their own choices, and we’re doing fine regardless of BS, so why worry?
I’m always happy to review the differences between the systems with someone who’s considering entering the field. Then you can make a more informed choice.