nIR-Specific Information

The HEG signal isn’t an electrical signal at all. It’s a ratio of red to infrared light reflected by the surface of the brain. I use HEG with everyone, though I’m less likely to use it at Fpz if there is obsessiveness or compulsions. I’m more likely to go to F7 and F8 than Fp1 and Fp2 if there are impulse control, social or emotional regulation issues. I base that on the Client Report, which will likely be more integrated into the TQ7, so it will be possible to indicate that in the training plan. There are about 60,000 miles of capillaries in the human body and only about 6-8 pints of blood.   The capillaries that serve the area are being exercised and perfused with blood. That’s why nIR HEG, done with single-pointed focus, which demands the most PFC function, pushes the delivery system in the PFC.

Training up or down – closed focus or open focus

One of the main jobs of your Prefrontal Executive Center is to screen the constant flow of data coming from your senses and within your body and brain. It chooses which information is important to be processed and what should be ignored. It decides what it all means and what, if anything, to do about it. It also manages the screening of physical impulses before they are sent to your body to be acted upon. It controls how you see the world, how you understand it and how you act in it.

Your brain can operate in an auto-pilot mode when you are doing something it has mastered: The first few times you drive from home to work, you have to pay attention to where you are, where to turn, etc. But after a few times, you can make the trip without worrying about those things. They’re automatic. The Executive Center doesn’t need to activate. It can idle and simply keep an eye out for things that don’t fit in the program—for example, a puppy running toward the street. That’s called Open Focus, and it’s very efficient.

Your brain makes up 2-3% of your body weight, but it uses more than 20% of your oxygen and up to 25% of its glucose. It does not store blood, so its ability to function is highly dependent on the body’s ability to supply it (with its oxygen and glucose) rapidly when it is needed.

Your body contains roughly 60,000 MILES of blood vessels. Depending on your size and weight, there are only 9-12 pints (about 5 liters) of blood in that network. Like money in an economy, blood flows around depending on what is being done. You get sleepy after a meal, because more blood is involved in digestion and isn’t available to the brain.

State Changer doesn’t change how much blood you have. It improves the system for distribution of blood to the prefrontal executive center. Just as aerobic exercise improves the body’s system for getting blood to the heart and lungs, State Changer games improve the ability to get blood more quickly to the brain—and even provide short-term storage during demanding tasks.

State Changer trains the left, right and center sites on your forehead, working the whole prefrontal executive center. The software automatically changes sites in the order you selected on the startup screen. At the end of a segment of the selected number of minutes (some games are preset) the game will pause. When you click the Continue button, it will move to the next site and start a new segment. If you look in the upper left corner of the screen, you’ll see three bars. The white one shows which site you are training at the moment. We recommend you train all three sites in each session.

Closed focus is concentration. It requires an increase in the supply of oxygenated blood. It is the state when the prefrontal is working hard.

Open focus is consciousness/awareness. It allows the brain to release blood to the rest of the body. It is the state when the prefrontal is idling in autopilot.

The most efficient brain—the peak brain operating in a Zone or Flow state—is able to perform tasks over which it has mastery in auto-pilot. In Open Focus, however, it is always aware of events that require active intervention. In such a situation, the brain shifts to Closed Focus takes action. Then, ideally, it returns to Open Focus. This efficient ability to shift smoothly and quickly is one of the things that State Changer trains.

Both states involve keeping your mind still. When you think, try or judge, you are inside your head rather than focusing externally. Let your mind stay still.

For Climbing, or closed focus, I find it is helpful to focus my eyes on a single point in the game. You’ll often notice, when you stop scoring, that you have started thinking or paying attention somewhere else. This usually indicates that your brain has not been able to continue supplying enough oxygenated blood. Remember that, like aerobic exercise, your brain gets better by practicing. It actually changes its ability to supply blood rapidly to the neurons, so they can work harder for longer. Over time, it actually re-purposes capillary beds for use as storage areas, so there is fuel available during periods when the body is having to find more blood.

Diving, or Open focus, for me involves two things. I de-focus my eyes–see everything in peripheral vision, or look “through” the screen. Sometimes I find it helps when I close or almost close my eyes and just hear the sounds. Be aware of the feedback but don’t “pay attention” to it. I also find that shifting my attention from my head down to my belly and noticing my breathing slowing down can help with Open Focus.

Training Outcome

What you are trying to do is to draw oxygenated blood into the area trained–to stress the distribution system to its limit so it is motivated to expand the capillary beds it uses to deliver oxygen and glucose to the neurons in various areas.

The most demanding task for the PFC is single-pointed focus (the OPPOSITE of open focus, which is more of a back-of-the-head phenomenon). It requires that the PFC neurons block all other functions to focus the attention on an external point.

When you think, visualize, try, talk to yourself, etc. you are moving inside your head and, at least in my experience, the graph of the red/infrared ratio begins to fall. When I am blank in my mind, with the intention of seeing the graph rise, focusing intently on the place where it “comes out” of the right wall of the graph window, it goes up quickly and steadily. As soon as a thought enters my mind, it starts to fall.

I’m sure others have found other techniques but that’s what works for me.

Training Guidelines

In general I tend to think about HEG as I would about aerobic exercise. With nIR I would say the following guides me:

1. nIR trains more specific areas (though they tend to have a more global effect when you combine a few of them) than pIR, so train on the left (anywhere from the edge of the forehead to above the left eye), train on the right (ditto) and train in the center in each session.

2.   Rotate the order of training sites. The prefrontal cortex (PFC) is not like an ice cube tray, so when you train at Fp1 on the left, it will have an effect at Fp2 on the right as well. The first site is usually easiest to change, then the second and the third may be difficult to produce much change. What I have found is that most everyone does pretty well raising the ratio at the first site–regardless of which of the 3 I use. They then have a harder time at the second and very difficult time at the third.   From that I infer that improving perfusion in one small area probably raises it throughout the structure, at least collaterally. I rotate the order of the sites, so I may start on the right one time, on the left the next session and in the middle for the third. HEG doesn’t necessarily change activation patterns, as EEG can do. It can change activation capability.

3.   Training too little is better than training too long (training “just right” is, of course, best).  You wouldn’t take a new exerciser out on a 5-mile jog in his first session, so don’t try training 10 minutes at each site in the beginning. Train till the brain shows it is tired, then stop. Train 2 (maybe 3 in the beginning, when sessions are short) times a week.

4. I like to start training with our HEG AI design which has a nice graph for the client to watch.   I ask them to watch the line and figure out what makes it go up (usually single-pointed focus). Most clients can get it to rise a little (maybe 30 seconds to a minute or more), then they can hold a plateau (these are trend lines I’m talking about: they rise and fall, but the tops and bottoms of each successive step are higher–or about level–or they begin to fall). Finally the trend turns down, indicating that the brain is nicely toasted at that site–like finally working up a little sweat and breathing more deeply when you are walking or jogging. That’s a good time to stop. If you don’t want to look at what the brain is doing, you can start with something like 4 minutes per site, then raise it a minute ever 2-3 sessions.

5. I tell the client, don’t think; don’t try. Just pay attention to the screen (or a task if you choose to use one). You can watch a DVD or play solitaire or read a book if you wish. Thinking and trying are inside your head. I find that focusing out and staying focused outside your thoughts is much harder for most people and activates the PFC better.

6. Increase a little at a time until you can do 10 minutes at each of three sites once every 4 days.

7. If you can’t tell it’s working, it’s not working. Can the client focus better in real life? Is he getting more organized?   Is she able to regulate her emotions better? Whatever the client started training to change…should change.

There’s aerobic exercise, and there’s aerobic exercise. I’ve known more than a few people who became so obsessed with it that they damaged their bodies.

I assume you’ve tried just stopping training for a few weeks to see what happens. The working memory problems you are describing are often related to the left prefrontal area getting over stressed, though it can also happen when alpha peak frequency drops.

If you do Dive Only training and the graph rises, then clearly you aren’t doing the right thing. Try doing several sessions where you only dive. You can listen to the coach audio when doing dive only. The key is to move OUT of your head. Move your focus of awareness down into your belly, for example. Breath and pay attention to the movement down there. It often helps to close your eyes and just listen to the feedback, but if you want to keep them open, the key is to defocus them: Look THROUGH the screen or something in the nearer focus as if there were something ten feet beyond it that you were looking at. Or look past the screen and only see it in peripheral vision. It takes most people a while to get the feel of making the graph rise. You’ll probably need to practice as much to get the feel of what is happening in you when it is falling.

Remember the point that I’ve made before: The human body is reported to have about 60,000 miles of capillaries to get blood out into all its tissues, yet there are only about 10 pints of blood to fill them. This is part of the body’s energy economy. Blood is constantly being pulled out of certain areas and sent to others depending on what tasks are being performed. We know that the brain is an energy hog–at 3% of body weight, it uses more than 25% of the O2 in the body and around 50% of the glucose. The more efficiently the brain can operate, the more energy is available for other tasks. When you are controlling focus or blocking sensory inputs or performing cognitive tasks, the PFC is involved in screening and organizing and focusing the work of other areas. That draws blood into the PFC’s capillaries. nIR HEG is a technique for pushing the PFC to its limits and identifying areas where capillary capacity limits the capacity of the system. Training should result in increasing the breadth and depth of the distribution network over time.

But when you practice open focus, you no longer screen. You aren’t thinking and doing, you are being. You aren’t acting, you are just conscious, so the processes to be controlled are significantly fewer, and the PFC gets to rest. The whole brain gets to rest. If you are thinking or trying or judging, if you are aware of being in your head, you are NOT in the state that will allow the blood supply to fall. That may very well not be a state your brain knows how to do very well or often–and certainly not to sustain. So practice it. Getting very good at open focus doesn’t reduce your ability to activate–it may actually improve it since the range between resting and active increases.

nIR Ratio

The ratio is a ratio of red light reflected back from the surface of the brain (more reflection, more red/oxygenated blood) divided by the infrared value. Infrared being a fairly stable measure over short periods of time forms a kind of stable base against which the red light values can rise or fall when O2-rich blood availability increases or decreases.

Percent Increase in Ratio

The percent increase in the ratio indicates the ability of the client to activate the area being trained.  The Max% Gain can be tracked over sessions. The more effectively the client is able to produce a single-pointed focus state (no think/no try/no judge)–which demands a great deal of the PFC in terms of braking all other processes, and thus demands that blood be shunted into that area–the higher this percent will go.   I also look at HOW the increase is taking place. Early in training, the client will probably produce rises with bursts upward and then drops, then a higher burst and another drop.  These suggest that the distribution system for blood in the PFC area being trained–the real target of the training in my opinion–is able to squirt blood into the area but the supply lines stretch and break very easily, so there is a period where it must recoup before making another squirt. Eventually you should be able to raise the graph in a steep, steady climb (I’ve done 25-30% in 90 seconds when I was practicing regularly) almost without any “pauses” or drops. That suggests that the distribution system of capillaries is dense and well broad.

Attention Index

The Attention Index is calculated from 1-100% essentially, and it is a measure of the maintenance of the increase.  For half a second (if I recall correctly from a conversation with Hershel several years ago), if each sample of the red/infrared ratio is equal to or greater than the previous sample, the AI will reach 100%.  Any sample that drops will result in a drop in the index. Once you reach 100%, the design starts timing, and every time you hold it at 100% for 1 second you get an AI point.  The value reported on the screen is the average number of AI points per minute that you achieved. If the Max% measures ability to activate, the Average AI points measures the ability to sustain. Running up in the middle 20’s is about as well as I’ve done, suggesting that 25 seconds out of every minute I was keeping the level stable or rising without a slip.

So I may see a person who produces a small rise in percentage terms, but maintains a flat or slightly rising line who has a very high AI points value. Someone else may produce a larger percent increase but does it all with choppy up-and-down activity, and their AI will be quite low. Ideally, as a person trains, both the AI points and the percent increase grow steadily.


The baseline is a measure of the starting point (if done properly) BEFORE the client starts to really focus. It can be affected by a number of things, but I look at as the person’s ability to “idle” the PFC. If a person who is in what should be “idle” mode is producing ratios of 120-140 or so–well, that’s not very restful. I still haven’t decided it it’s better not to train in that area or to train for decreases. I usually tell the client to focus intently on a single point (obviously the point can move or you can shift what you focus on). Some people with very high ratios at baseline, once they start focusing will go down quite steadily for some time before flattening out or starting to rise. This is equivalent to what one often sees in EEG where the Eyes-Closed and Eyes-Open resting values of, say, high-beta in the temporals are very high and drop at task, because the temporal lobes have something to do and they can stop freaking out (excuse the technical terminology…). Other people with fairly high baselines (especially in the center) are able to raise the ratio quite well. My rule of thumb is, if it doesn’t cause problems for the client, go ahead.

The QWIZ shows you when the baseline is ready. The yellow HEG light stops blinking when the baseline has been selected. If it stops blinking before you are ready to start training, press the link button beneath the green electrode plug on the front of the Wiz. That will restart the baseline calculation.

LIFE Baseline setting: One trick I use before starting to climb or dive is to get myself into the opposite state first. While I’m waiting for the yellow light to stop blinking I go into a focus state before I’m going to dive.

Sites to Train

Over the first few years we returned to recommending nIR over pIR, I did suggest it was better to train at the edges of the forehead, before going “around the corner” onto the temples. The potential for over training–especially at F8–didn’t seem worth the potential downsides. Training on the edges of the forehead and training at F7 and F8 end up training very nearly the same spots.

When LIFE was released, the issue of over-training became much less of a concern, since most trainings ended by “withdrawing” blood from the PFC, so people rarely experienced the sense of tiredness.

F7 is an area strongly related to language output, regulation of physical and verbal impulses. F8 seems to be related to social inhibition and control of emotional impulses, so they seem useful spots to train.

I usually start with F7/Fpz/F8, though I have no problem with switching F7 and F8 for the edges of the forehead. For issues of motivation and emotional regulation, I sometimes train up near the top of the forehead in the center, closer to AFz than to Fpz. After I have a client training 8 or 10 minutes per site, I tend to shift to training 2 sites–above the left eye and above the right eye. It that way I can keep most sessions to about 20 minutes training time.

Rotating One Site a Day

My preference would be to work both sites (or 3 sites, working the edges of the forehead and the middle) in each session and train shorter periods rather than training one site one day and another the next.   You might even try the idea I’ve written about recently of training up for 1-2 minutes, then seeing if you can learn to produce a steady downward movement of the graph. Learning to produce an open focus state which allows the PFC to rest and de-perfuse is very interesting and seems to help some of the folks I’ve tried it with to increase as well.

nIR HEG Locating Training Site

Locating Training Site

The white dot on the outside of the band should be placed over the spot you wish to train.

Timing of Sessions

The idea of spreading out the sessions is to avoid over-exercising. If you are doing 4 minutes per site, and he is able to sustain the blood flow and not get tired or irritable or obsessive or anxious afterwards, you can go up a minute per site. It’s also acceptable to do it more frequently. The once-in-4-days is a guideline from Hershel, stating that according to his calculations that was the optimum in terms of return in response per time spent. If you want to do it every other day–or more specifically if your son does–then try it out.

When I’m training a client with HEG and EEG together, I try to keep the HEG part of the session to around 20 minutes, so there’s time for the EEG. If you are only training HEG, you can train 4 sites (F7 / Fp1 / Fp2 / F8) or 3 or 2. You can train at 3 sites until you are doing 10 minutes at each.

I usually start people with 3 minutes per site and, when they can sustain a rise for the whole period, we work up to 4 minutes, etc.

Differing Baselines at Different Locations

The ratio value you use for a baseline really has not much to do with anything. Nearly everyone is significantly higher at the midline than on the sides. I’ve heard several anatomical reasons for that which sounded fairly plausible, but I just accept that in most cases that’s the way the brain is.