Should the EEG change with training?

Re-Assessing to see the effects of training

It would be very nice to assume that the most individuated and complex system in the universe–the human brain–would neatly change and tell us that training “worked” or didn’t.  Then we could just change everyone’s brain to the “normal” or “average” brain and be like ants. Such an expectation is naive and unrealistic.  We remain ourselves, even if we’ve trained for many sessions, but we become selves that have a wider range of options and are less locked into specific patterns.

I have seen some patterns change in a lasting way on the Trainers’ Q (TQ).  Hot temporal lobes or strong reversals may change in visible ways—or not.  Even if there ARE changes, we may not see them on a Q.  A client may begin with average eyes-closed theta ranging from 12-28 microvolts, with an average of 20.  They might shift to a range of 16-24u, cutting off the outliers, and then to 18-22u. The average is still 20u. The brain has become more stable, but that may not show in what we are measuring.  After I’ve trained for a period, I may or may not see a change in my peak alpha frequency. What I can see is that I process new information more easily, recall words consistently and other real-world effects.

What a QEEG shows

When we look at a QEEG, what we are really seeing is a SNAPSHOT of PARTS of the SURFACE of a system that contains an estimated 100-billion nodes (neurons) and 100-trillion connections (synapses) passing signals anywhere from a few to dozens of times/second. Our “sophisticated” high-tech brain description is such a primitive representation of what’s really happening that it’s pathetic.

What we CAN see, in the TQ or other Q’s, is an overview of averaged relationships between activity at some sites and some frequencies at a moment in time.  Fortunately, that’s enough to help us identify patterns/relationships that have been studied and correlated with particular habits of behavior, mood, performance, physical function, control, etc. That can give us a useful indication of a brain’s energy “habits”.

We rarely assess at the moment when someone just learned of an event that will change their life or when they are dealing with an angry boss or being asked to make a public presentation or meet a new person, etc. We measure them sitting very still in a quiet room with a bunch of electrodes on the head, eyes-closed or eyes-open but not doing anything, for short periods of time.  Not exactly real-world stuff, but good enough to show an underlying energy structure–what Lubar called “stable activation patterns”.  In some assessments, like the TQ, we can also see what happens when a brain is asked to activate at task for a short period.

If patterns are stable, we should expect that whether we look at the brain on Monday at 10am or Thursday at 9pm, this month or last month or next month, we’ll see the same ones.  That’s the point of demonstrating the stability of the TQ’s findings.

What training can do

When you practice yoga or Pilates or t’ai chi, you use slow stretching moves that expand your range of motion and allow energy to flow more freely.  You may or may not feel the change after a session for a while, and it probably won’t be very measurable.  You’ve stretched your habit temporarily, but your body probably looks about the same.

Take a picture of you sitting in a chair, and it’s unlikely you’ll be able to say whether it was pre or post starting exercise.  You could take two pictures of a kid who has learned how to ride a bike between them, and nothing will appear.  When he walks or sits or sleeps in his daily life…no change.  You only see it when he gets on the bike—and then all you see is that he can ride it.

Re-Assessing to see the effects of training

So I repeat:  Each brain is an individual and idiosyncratic response to the experience it has had over hundreds of millions of seconds since it began its life. The greater its range of options and the more efficiently it is able to use energy, the better the experienced life of the individual is likely to be. That’s what brain-training can do–break up limiting habits and allow us to live our unique lives more openly and fully.

If you need to record an EEG to see that training has worked…it hasn’t worked.  Nobody comes to a trainer complaining, “my theta/beta ratio is out-of-whack”.  They want to change how they perform, how they feel and act.  Focus on THOSE changes.

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