Alpha Theta Training (A/T)
Alpha Theta is a protocol designed to produce a pathway from the subconscious to the conscious.
6-8 Hz theta seems to be the frequency that most relates to memory, visualization and access to the subconscious. That’s why we train for 7 Hz crossovers in alpha-theta training, which ideally takes the client as an observer to the entrance to his own subconscious mind.
When you are producing more alpha, you are in the observer state; more theta (7 Hz) you are standing at the entrance of your own subconscious. Going down into theta and staying there is likely to lead to drowsiness and perhaps sleep. Staying in alpha is just meditating. But if you can go into the observer state, then dip down into your subconscious (home of memory and emotion with a language of imagery), then come back up, then dip down again, etc., you are crossing over, becoming an observer of your own history, feelings, etc.
Instructions for brain-trainer’s provided chants: “Let the mind be still and pay attention to that while the piano is playing. When the girl starts her chant, either visualize something you’d like to have in your life in as much detail as possible, or mentally replay a video of you doing something you don’t want to do but keep doing. But change the script in the movie in your mind, so you respond in some other way. Once you’ve visualized, then just go wherever your brain takes you, but remain aware of it. The male voice chants and then the violin begins to play. The violin is telling you that you’re on your way back, just a few more minutes.”
Site to Train
O1/A1 for more visual experience; P4/A2 for more physical/kinesthetic experience. O1 often results in more visual “trips” where P4 often involves more physical sensation to the memories and experiences.
Training More Than Plan Indicates
If that seems to be helpful (the visualization of the [singing] experience) you can do one a week through the first couple circuits, then perhaps just do 5 A/T sessions.
You are doing A/T every fifth session, as suggested in the training plan, right? If you are doing 4 sessions of your identified training, then one A/T, and having uncomfortable reactions, then try doing A/T only every 10 sessions for a while.
You can “suggest” to your brain several times a day during the 3-4 days preceding an A/T session that you would prefer that it bring up material that is less upsetting to you (though usually brains do that on their own). Don’t forget the powerful ability to prepare a visualization to carry into the session. If there is a a behavior or habit that you would like to change, visualize yourself in detail going into a situation that would normally trigger that behavior (or has recently done so). But change the script. When you get to the point in the visualization where you would normally do X, take a breath and smile and do Y instead. See yourself doing it. Once you have run through the visualization once or twice, your brain will normally begin bringing up material of its own, and you can drop the visualization. You are carrying a new program into your subconscious–an image-based program, since imagery is the language of the subconscious–and dropping it there. Repeat these several times over several sessions, and you’ll be surprised how the patterns begin to change automatically.
Another thing to mention: The first goal of A/T is to move into the still/present “observer” state, where you are watching what is happening within and around you–that’s alpha. The visualization will help carry you down into theta (the 7Hz visualization and memory state), but if you can go there as an observer, that “distance” will help you deal with what the brain brings up without falling into it quite so hard.
One thing that I find very helpful–absent a therapist you can talk with after the session (I know you guys don’t live near much of anything)–is to either write or (even easier) get yourself a little digital recorder. After the session, you may choose to keep your eyes closed and just dictate what you remember, how you felt, any connections that come up for you, etc. Some people prefer to get up and go out for a walk and do the same thing. As with dreams, in many cases moving the imagery and memories into language helps to integrate the left and right sides of the experience and remove its more primitive power.
It’s no surprise to you that all that stuff is down there, and probably you are well aware that it will have to be integrated for you to be able truly to let it go and move past it, but it should not be a frightening or seriously painful process.
What is Happening
Any time you train in a channel, you are training the difference between the active and reference electrode signals. The fact is that you are training the pyramidal neurons close to the line between the active and reference sites whose axons happen to be pretty much parallel to the line. In a sense you are always training an area, because that’s what’s being read.
A “monopolar” montage, like C3/A1, trains to reduce or increase the difference between the two sites in whatever frequencies you choose. But you know that A1 (the left earlobe) isn’t going to change, because there’s little EEG there! So you can say you are training C3. But the reality is that you are training that same line. It’s just that there’s not much activity at one end of it.
A “bipolar” montage, like C3/C4, is active at both ends of the training area. You can reduce the difference between them in, say, theta by increasing theta at the lower site, or decreasing it at the higher, or doing both, or moving them both down or both up. You have no way of knowing how brain activity is being changed to meet the training challenge. But sometimes bipolar montages do things that monopolars don’t. hat’s why we use them. Hard as it is for us to say, “I have no idea how that is working,” we like being able to say, “but it sure is working!”
Coherence – multiband
The idea of training is not necessarily that the feedback will teach your brain something new; rather it is designed to reflect when the brain moves toward a more desired state. It’s a mirror. So the idea of MBC down is–much like most other trainings–to find that place in yourself where your mind is still and you are present/aware–the observer–of what is going on within and around you.
I personally prefer the Manual protocols for Multi-Band Coherence. The auto ones change the targets to fit what the brain is doing–training the software to follow the brain. It’s not uncommon for a trainee to experience what you have: you get lots of feedback, but there is no movement in the brain.
With the Manual versions, I ask the client to get into as quiet and still a place as possible, then I click the A=>M button at the bottom of each of the 4 thresholds on the trainer screen, which sets the manual targets (M) to where the auto-threshold thinks they should be (A). Then I play with the bars a bit, dragging them up or down, until I find a value where most or all of them are scoring (see the number just below the threshold bargraph) 40-60% or more. If possible, I set all 4 targets at that level, though sometimes I’ll have to set one at a different level either because it is much more successful at staying down or has a much more difficult time (and needs a higher target.)
That way, instead of getting 75% feedback, no matter what your brain does, you get feedback on one or more of the bars as they manage to shift below the threshold. As you are already doing, just watch and listen, recognizing when you hear all 4 tones plus the deep bass tone that you are doing very well. Usually over a series of sessions, you’ll be able to move lower and lower with the targets–and sometimes you may have a session where you manage to stay below all of them most of the time.
Remember that you never set them below 40. If your brain is able to stay below 40 in a frequency, that feedback should stay on all the time. When you can set them all at 40 and score well, you’ve made very solid progress.
Because rigidity in fast-wave synchrony forms a kind of frame which
locks the brain’s homeostasis, it’s not uncommon that people who don’t shift coherence much have a hard time shifting their activation patterns.
Coherence and “Phase Resets”
I’ve recently heard or read people talking about “resets” rather as if the brain where a computer operating system and we could generally reset the whole system. A lot of people talk about harmonizing the brain and balancing it as well.
My understanding of a phase reset is that it is something that happens in an oscillatory system, usually in response to some stimulus. It’s not a thing you do to a whole brain or to produce a stable state of phase synchrony. When two sites are required to work together to perform a task, there is a momentary shift in the phase curve to allow them to link up (like your smartphone ringing and you answering it).
Outside of some specific frequencies during cortical resting states (and specific task-related linking) most of the brain’s activity isn’t in phase most of the time. So as cool as “in-phase” and “synchrony” sound, they aren’t necessarily expected long-term states.
When you train to change the relationship between two homologous sites, like C3/C4 or T3/T4, the most common protocol is to reduce the difference in all frequencies and increase it in SMR. If you train to decrease the difference in amplitude, the argument goes, one way the brain can meet the challenge is to move the waveforms out of phase. And that makes sense, except what is the waveform from 2-11 Hz or from 19-38 Hz. Those aren’t frequencies, they’re rather broad bands of frequencies, so the chances of their being in phase in the first place are basically nil.
When you train to increase the difference in 12-15 Hz, you could achieve that by moving the two sites out of phase. Once again my response is very simple: If the client responds positively to that protocol-as many do–does it matter what the effect on phase was?
Exacerbating Low Coherence
If you are exacerbating “the situation”, whatever it may be, then the client won’t respond well to the training. If the client responds to the training, I guess exacerbating was what was needed. Since most bipolar montages train to REDUCE the difference in slow frequencies (thus theoretically moving the two sites more into phase)…isn’t that what you wanted anyway?
Get used to not knowing “why” something works in training. Think of all the high-powered academics and brain scientists who published for decades as an absolute surety that you are born with all the neurons you will ever have. Not fun to suddenly have to swallow that…oops, yes…well, it seems neurons ARE added to the brain throughout our lives. At least a trainer has the reward of seeing people with whom he works change their lives in positive and lasting ways–even if he can’t “explain” exactly how or why it happened.
The idea simply is that a brain which tries to keep coherence high often has trouble figuring out how to make it go down. Starting off by training it UP, the direction it already wants to go can pull it out of its comfort zone but on the upside, which is easier for it to do. Then, after 2 minutes, switching to DOWN training coherence asks the brain to go from too high back down, and it often then goes down lower than it’s accustomed. After 2 minutes of that, you train it back up for two minutes, then back down (and keep training down). This creates a kind of momentum and helps break up the stuck-point in the brain, so it often results in the client being able to do what they couldn’t do training straight ahead. People up north probably know about rocking a car to get out of being stuck in snow; in the south being stuck in mud. Same concept.
If you are supposed to be training down, then once you get it going down, forget the rocking. That’s just to break free of any stuckness. You might rock your car back and forth to get out of a snowdrift, but once you are driving, you don’t need to keep doing it.
Default Mode Network (DMN)
The DMN protocol trains to increase synchrony in Theta, Alpha and Gamma between sites in the front and back of the brain–especially related to the so-called default-mode network (what your brain is doing when it’s not doing anything), and it is related to self-awareness and knowledge of oneself–some say to empathy as well. It’s not necessarily a peak state protocol, though a solid default mode network may be a precursor to the peak state.
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.
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.
Controls and Tracking
You can use the game without any of the site buttons turned on–or all of them–if you don’t care about tracking results. They were added to allow use of the Excel file Rah has produced and refined. Since there’s no way for the software to know where the training site is, you simply click the button to inform it and save the file in the same folder with the others for that client. Then opening the summary file in the HEG LIFE training stats in Excel, the graphs are produced automatically (see attached). It does require you to click the mouse two times instead of one, but this is already a very complex design and BioExplorer isn’t built for this kind of choosing.
I suppose, if you really want to simplify things, you might pick one measure, just like you could pick just one value as a measure of a nation’s economy. Not very useful, but simple.
There are three values I watch, because they show me different things, and I can often help the client see how he or she is progressing with one or more of them in each session.
1. The percent increase (or decrease) from baseline shows me how well the client is able to activate or de-activate. Early in training, most clients will rise and fall, remaining more or less around the baseline. As training proceeds and they begin to build improved perfusion systems and state control, they are able to rise further, or dive deeper.
2. The percent change from highest climb to deepest dive appears to be a very good measure of the client’s range–ability to shift from maintaining closed focus to maintaining open focus.
3. The Average AI Points per minute are an excellent measure of ability to sustain a state. The client must produce 1/2 second of ratio values increasing/maintaining (or decreasing/maintaining) in order to reach an attention index of 100. Having reached it, he must maintain it for an additional period (half a second) in order to score an AI point. It’s possible, if the client sustains without a drop (see attached) to score a point every half second. However any value that doesn’t equal or improve on the prior one drops the Attention Index, so the climb or dive must be maintained again for half a second to return to 100 and start scoring again. This is the reason sometimes the client can produce a whole string of lifeforms, while others they produce one at a time with pauses between them.
The Average AI Points allow us to measure comparable values regardless of session length. Many clients will start early sessions achieving 0, 1 or 2 AI points. Since the points can be scored climbing or diving, getting a higher score requires that the client learn to do both well and sustain both. Values in the middle 20’s are very good.
The client Scores points by staying in climb or dive mode over a period, as explained above. Each score places a life form on the screen. But the number of points scored changes based on what type of life form–and that changes based on percent change from baseline. In climbing, the lowest climbs produce rabbits, which give 5 points each. When the percent increase rises further, dogs (10 points), lions (15 points), horses (20 points) and elephants (25 points) are added. The same is true in reverse, when diving, for fish, turtles, sharks, dolphins and whales.
I suppose if you want to watch one value, use the score. The greater the rise, the greater the value of the animals placed. The more stable the rise, the more animals placed in a given period. The only problem is that, as one increases the training periods, the score will tend to rise just as a result of time–even though it becomes harder to sustain a high AI points, the longer the session.
It’s perfectly possible for the client to raise/maintain only 2-3% above the baseline but hold it quite effectively, producing a higher AI points per minute, but obviously the percent change will be very low, and the score as well.
There are 3 things that I track in training (though I always remind the client that DOING the exercise–focusing on it–is more important than the score you got. Some times/days your PFC is stronger, other times the blood is elsewhere. Just like working out any part of your body–sometimes it’s easier, sometimes it’s harder, to do the same exercise, but the exercise always helps if you work on it.
I watch the % change from the baseline as a measure of the client’s ability to activate and de-activate that day. AI Points/minute rise as the client is able to sustain the target state (climbing or diving). The Range from highest climb to deepest dive is a good measure of the client’s progress in both areas.
If you have been saving your sessions and clicking on the button before each to identify the site (Left, Right or Middle), you should be able to graph them all automatically.
AI points/minute (Stability): When you score an AI point, if you are climbing and out of the water (or diving and in the water) you will hear the “shing” sound and see an animal added to the landscape. If you are climbing but are in the water (or diving but are out of the water) you won’t get this feedback, but you’ll hear a click. You can score AI points even if you are NOT scoring Game points. AI points are a measure of you brain’s ability to SUSTAIN the desired state.
In each second,LIFE samples your HEG signal 10 times/second. If each measure is equal to or greater than the last (climbing) or equal to or less than the last (diving) for a second, the AI graph on the trainer screen will reach the top–AI of 100. Then, if you continue for another half second without going the wrong direction, you score an AI point. You may have seen times in your training where you placed a whole series of animals on the landscape one right after the other. That happens when you manage to climb or dive without a break for multiple half-seconds. The moment the brain shows a change in direction–even 1 step–the AI drops down, and you have to sustain the climb or dive for a second again to be able to start scoring AI points. So, for example, if you climb steadily for 10 readings (1 second) and reach an AI of 100, then sustain for a half second, then miss a step, then you maintain for another second to reach AI 100 again, you’ll score 1 AI point in 3 seconds. If you get to an AI of 100 and keep climbing without a drop for the next two seconds, you’ll score 4 AI points in 3 seconds.
There are two graphs at the bottom of the trainer page you can look at after the session is over to see how steadily you were able to maintain the desired state.
Game points/minute (Control): Obviously the more stable your brain’s ability to climb or dive, the more animals you will place each minute. But animals also have point values. As you begin, you’ll place (for example) rabbits on the screen–each worth 5 points. If you go up and down a lot, indicating a weakness in your perfusion system that supplies your neurons with blood, you may find yourself always placing rabbits–only rabbits. But as you climb further, you start to place dogs, then lions, then horses, and finally elephants. Each dog is worth 10 points, lions 15, horses 20 and elephants 25. The higher (or deeper) you go, the more Game Points you score for each AI point. So Game Points/Minute is a measure of how strongly you were able to activate or de-activate AND how consistently you were able to maintain the state.
Both AI points and Game Points are divided by the number of minutes of training, so they can be compared in a 1 minute segment and a 10-minute segment.
Range: As you are climbing or diving, in addition to the “shing” sound when you score a point, you may also hear a “ding”. If you are watching the screen, you’ll see a little flag (if climbing) or Life Preserver (if diving) appear on the landscape and briefly you’ll see a numeric value. This tells you that you have reached a new high or low for that session. The third measure for you performance is how high you are able to climb when climbing, and how deep you are able to dive when diving. These are measured against the climbing or diving baseline.
The ideal is that you are able to shift quickly back and forth from concentration to consciousness (climbing to diving) and that you are able to sustain each state when in it. Range measures the highest percent above the baseline you achieved when climbing to the deepest percent below baseline when diving. The greater this range, the more effectively your prefrontal cortex will be able to function.
Closed Focus / Open Focus
These are two states which are natural and (ideally) constantly shifting. When we are simply aware of what is going on around us (and within us), without trying to do anything, that’s open focus. When we shift into doing–focusing and processing–that’s closed focus. Just because someone has difficulty sustaining the closed focus state doesn’t necessarily mean he will be good at open focus.
Training is about flexibility, about ability to sustain. Do all three sites, both types of training, in every session.Low Left Side Ratio
Using the gym analogy, you would not necessarily stop working your right arm, even if it were stronger than your left. The goal is not to make everything the same. It is to exercise everything. If you decide only to train one side or the other, you run a much greater risk of creating imbalances and reversals.
The baseline doesn’t mean much. If you are using a Peanut or Pendant with LIFE, the baseline will be all over the place. If you are using the WIZes, all of them should be set to around 100.
I tell my clients essentially the same thing to begin:
There’s a place inside of you where your mind stops thinking, stops “trying”, stops judging if you are doing it “right” or not. It’s a place where you are still and in the moment, not thinking about the past or the future or thinking at all. You’re just HERE and NOW. The LIFE game gives you a mirror so your brain can try things (not your mind), just as it did when you first learned to ride a bike. When you are close to that place in yourself–or you pass through it briefly–the brain on the screen will dive or climb and put animals on the screen. Then your brain will know it is getting closer.
What many people don’t get about LIFE is that both climbing and diving are the same place in your head. They are both stillness and presence in this moment. The difference is that when you focus your eyes on a single point and achieve that state, you will climb. When you defocus your eyes (or close them) you will dive.
One is called closed-focus (concentration); the other is called open-focus (consciousness).
I teach my clients to breathe out very slowly and count the seconds and see if they can empty their lungs in 7 seconds then let the air be drawn back in (and count to usually 3 seconds). Once they learn to do this, they keep their minds busy counting and their attention is focused on the movement of their breath. I ask them just to pay attention to the game then as they breathe. Do they climb better when breathing in or breathing out? Do they dive better with eyes closed or eyes partly open but not “watching” anything?
These are first few sessions. Once they find the feeling within themselves, then, like the dancer at the barre, they can move ahead at their own pace.
Climbing and Diving
If you start climbing and set your baseline, then go down for a while, it can be very frustrating (same if you are diving and start by climbing a ways), because you can go in the right direction but not get back into the range where you get feedback for a long time.
In a case like that, I keep hitting the Capture Baseline button if it’s early in the session, so any movement in the correct direction results in feedback. I’ll often pause the session if it is a clear problem (I’ve reset several times), and I’ll point out to the trainee, “Gee, in the beginning, before you were trying to climb/dive, you were doing much better. Since you started trying, you’ve been going the wrong direction. So maybe what you think is concentrating/being still is not really what it is. The game will tell you when you find the right thing in YOUR brain, so let your brain test out several things–always remembering that a still mind, relaxed state and focused/defocused eyes will probably be closer to the right direction.”
In diving, you can click Dive Now multiple times, and I believe it won’t reset the timer. Capturing baseline does reset the timer, so I do that only in the first minute or so if the client is going nowhere.
No feedback=no learning.
The brain-trainer Squash designation uses 2-38 Hz, so you train down the whole band. If the brain is dominated by 23-38, for example, that frequency is most likely be be affected by the Squash, but the Squash also protects against other frequencies surging up as the high-beta goes down.
The Squish is a “mini-Squash”. It combines 2 channels of signal at a selected frequency (23-38 is one option) and trains down the total.
The frequency (FRE) designs allow trainers to do squishes, squashes and windowed squashes (with open or closed windows), including using different bands in the 2 channels, in a single design that uses buttons
Sum Difference (Sum Diff)
In simplest terms, I use Sum Difference when there is a strong differential in a group of frequencies between homologous sites and there are one or more frequency bands that show excessive activation. Training down the sum trains down the activity in both channels, training down difference reduces the asymmetry. You can also use a bipolar montage.
The sum difference designs allow you to choose the bands that are most asymmetrical for your difference training and those which are most out of line with the rest of the brain for the sum training. You can use any combination of the options.
The Sum Difference protocol trains down the total activity at two sites in one frequency band and trains down the difference between the two sites at another (could be the same or different band at the same time. A person with a lot of activity in the very fast (19-38 Hz) band who also has much more on the right side than on the left could train down the sum of the two (reducing overall fast activity) and, at the same time, train down the difference in that frequency between right and left, making them more alike.
I produced this approach as an option to 1C bipolar training. As has often been mentioned on the list, bipolar training has the potential problem that as we train down T3-T4 we have no idea whether the brain is responding by reducing the side that is too high or training up the side that is low. By training in two channels, you can see what is happening. And it is argued that training down T3-T4 doesn’t necessarily reduce the total of the two, whereas Sum Difference is challenging the brain to do that as well and giving us information as to whether that is happening or not.
When your assessment shows two sites that have a large asymmetry in one or the other in specific frequencies, for example, a lot more high beta in CH2 than in CH1, you could train to reduce the DIFFERENCE between the two sites. Then you would look at the histograms page and see if there is a frequency band (for example 2-6 Hz) where both sides are very high. You could train to reduce the SUM of the two sites in that frequency.
TAG Sync (Theta Alpha Gamma Synchrony)
Douglas has certainly made people aware of this protocol, and his version is nicely done from what I’ve heard. Sure alpha, theta and gamma synchrony are desired states, but a bit less than half the assessments I see already synchronize. It would be like training a cheerleader to jump up and down. That’s the problem with buying something you might not need. The assessment will show your synchrony eyes-closed, eyes-open and at task between each site pair in theta, alpha and gamma (and the other frequencies as well). There are alpha synchrony, gamma synchrony, one-band synchrony for delta, theta or alpha, two-band synchrony for alpha and (you choose) theta or gamma. Same as TAG sync in terms of what it does.
Two Person Synchrony Training
There’s a big difference between doing alpha training or alpha theta training with two people and doing synchrony training. You’ll also need something that allows you to send the same stereo signal to each of two headphones at the same time.
I’m not sure how I would do alpha theta with two people, since it is a 1-channel design. Where do you plug in two people? One in the active and the other in the reference? I have no idea what you’d be training then.
Alpha training–or any frequency-band training–is easily be done with the FRE2C design. Hook up one person in channel one and the other in channel 2 and, as suggested, have them hold hands (or in some other way maintain contact between their bodies) with the ground on one of them.
Using the standard FRE2C protocol, you could set frequencies different for each of them. For example, if one has very slow alpha, you could train up 9-13, and the other with fast alpha could train down 13-38 and up 6-13. One potential problem is that the feedback gets a bit unclear, since I may be hearing feedback related to my partner’s brain rather than my own and vice-versa (e.g. I’m doing everything I’m supposed to, but she’s not, so the feedback gives my brain a wrong message.
If I were going to do this, I’d probably do FRE2C with inhibit and reward bands for each based on their brains. 2-9 inhibit and 13-38 inhibit with 9-13 reward would be ideal for both eventually to increase their alpha levels. That design would allow you to track each one of them for slow and fast inhibits and reward activity separately, though the feedback would be combined.
As you may have noticed, doing synchrony training within a single brain is not easy, and doing it between two brains is much more difficult (for the brains). I would use CON4C Alpha Sync. That trains coherence and phase within each brain (CH1/CH2 and CH3/CH4), and it trains between them (CH1/CH3 and CH2/CH4). Each link has its own MIDI sound, so hopefully the brains can begin to sort out which is which, and a melody line which provides information on the total response. I wouldn’t try gamma training between two brains.
As for outcomes, having the two trainees perhaps feel closer at the end of training is cool, but consider asking them to sit side-by-side, holding hands and just listen to some nice 60-beat Baroque Music like Pachelbel Canon, Air on a G-string or others with eyes closed for 20 minutes and see if you get the same result. They don’t need to pay you to do that, and I’m guessing the effect would be largely the same.
The synchrony training, if they are actually able to begin to sync up from time to time, could be much more powerful.