Me And Heg

hzahza ✭✭



*EDIT*  I'm going back through the record to indicate at the top of posts how many minutes of training I've done to that point




 


I got the Peanut nIR HEG system from here a couple of weeks back:  http://brain-trainer.com/equipment/pendant_heg_details.html  It's the same basic system sold at Upgraded Self, or I'm about 99.7% positive it is, as both systems have the same stats, the same headband, and use the same proprietary HEGStudio software.  The Upgraded system is here:  http://www.upgradedself.com/tech/upgraded-focus-brain-trainer.html


 


Both systems are within $5 of each other price-wise.  I went with Brain-Trainer only because I had been researching home neurofeedback (NFB) for quite a while and had already settled on them.  Regardless of who you choose to buy from, in any case I'd recommend checking out the B-T site for basic information.  They also have a Yahoo newsgroup dedicated to NFB with something over 2000 members, many of whom are NFB professionals.  I'm pretty sure you don't need to purchase anything in order to join the group.


 


Here's what they have to say about HEG training (apologies if this comes out screwy, I haven't learned the BBcodes here yet):


 



HEG trains the brain's executive center. The one area of the brain that EEG really can’t do very well, because of electrical artifacts, is the prefrontal cortex (PFC). What does the PFC do?

•Controls attention, so you screen out distractions and sustain focus;

•Controls physical and verbal impulses, so you think before you act/speak;

•Moderates emotional and social responses;

•Regulates mood and maintains brightness of mood;

•Controls motivation, so you start and complete tasks on time;

•Organizes, plans, and orients you to goals;

•Predicts future results of current actions;

•Evaluates and ranks options;

•Understands the meaning of what is read/heard/experienced;

•Sustains memories needed for current tasks;

•Processes language;

•Is the center of the Personality.



 




I don't know where I would fall on, say, a 1-10 scale for any of those categories, but I can definitely state that I could stand a lot of improvement in most of them.  Actually, I'm not good at any of that stuff.  I have a decent amount of raw brain power, but I just can't get anything done, and it's way too easy for something to throw my mental/emotional game off, often for the rest of the day.  


 


Also, I'm having a lot of trouble with language study.  I've been studying Chinese off and on for the last 10 years, with daily classes 2-3 hours a day for the last year, and still I can't hold my end of a conversation, mainly because I can't understand what's being spoken to me.  When someone else starts a sentence, my brain bails out after the first 10 words or so and I can't follow the rest of it well enough to process it.  I think this may be corrected with improving my attention span and focus. 


 


Also, my step-daughter is graduating high school this year and taking her college entrance exams.  The system here is something like 5 or 6 modules (science, math, reasoning, language, etc) with a total of 15 points possible for each.  She tests in the 13-15 point range for everything except math, which was 8.  She has a re-test scheduled in June, and given that HEG training is supposed to have rapid results (something like 20 sessions), I'm thinking this could boost that number at least somewhat.  Some people just suck at math, but she doesn't; just has some trouble getting through the tests, I guess.


 


So that's why I'm interested in this particular line of training, and a sort of baseline report for my starting point.  

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Comments

  • hzahza ✭✭
    edited July 2013

    (18 total minutes trained to date)


     


    So for my first sessions, I've been using the HEGStudio software, although I also bought the (much more expensive) BioExplorer software package, but I haven't learned how to use it yet.  


     


    B-T recommends starting out slow, average of 3 minutes per site.  The "sites" are all on the forehead:  left and right side, as near the temple as you can get without actually going "around the corner," and the center of the forehead.  You do this by moving the headband around to the left or right.  So at 3 minutes per site, you end up with 9 minutes of total session time.  At this low level, it's recommended to do no more often than every other day--overtraining can result in headaches and other problems.  


     


    Over time, you're supposed to be able to maintain focus for up to at most 10 minutes per site.  I haven't learned yet what happens after that.  


     


    The system is real easy to get up and running with, but I haven't gotten a lot of training for it yet.  So far, all I've seen is what they have at their YouTube channel, which is public:  http://www.youtube.com/user/TLCbraintrainer?feature=watch  The 3 most recent videos there are pertain to HEG training and using the HEGStudio software.  


     


    Basically the software shows a graph of your bloodflow to the prefrontal cortex (PFC), and a corresponding video animation.  If you're focusing well, the video runs forward; if you slip, it runs backwards.  That's about it.


     


    My first session, I only did 2 minutes per site, because it was late and they recommend not training at night because it can make it difficult to sleep later (wasn't a problem for me, but maybe after repeated sessions it could be an issue).  


     


    I started out with the left forehead site.  The video zoomed forward really fast, and wouldn't stop.  I was looking at it and actually trying to get it to slow down--the thing is though, you can't "try" like that, the only thing you can do that controls what the video shows is to narrow your focus on a small section or point of the video.  I don't know why the thing was playing so fast.  


     


    Anyway, it eventually slowed down and I moved to the center of the forehead.  Then the opposite happened:  the video started zooming in reverse.  This kept up for about 20-30 seconds, and then after some concentration I was able to get it to slow down, and then creep forward every now and then, until it would snap and start moving backwards again.  


     


    Same thing happened on the right side, just zooming backwards at first, after which I was able to slow it down a little bit.  


     


    I was kinda worried that I wasn't doing it right, but now I think that probably this was already the effect of fatigue after the first workout on the left side.  B-T says to switch up the order every session between left/center/right, and in hindsight I'm guessing that's because the brain gets fatigued quickly, so whichever site you start out with is always going to be stronger and fresher than the second and third, so you have to switch it up to make sure everything balances out in the long term.


     


    I did another session today, 4 minutes apiece, and it was like yesterday, strong at first, then quickly getting weaker on the other sites.  This time I trained center/right/left, and it was clear that I'm already getting the hang of the software.  


     


    So now I'm going to give tomorrow a rest, and then try a 5/5/5 minute session on Friday, and then at some point I'll post the results here.


  • hzahza ✭✭

    Unexpectedly called back to the hospital today.  Long story, wife having surgery, probably won't have a chance to do HEG again until next week.


  • Very interesting stuff. I look forward to reading your progress on this.


  • hzahza ✭✭
    edited July 2013

    (48 total minutes trained to date)


     


    Sorry for the delay in updating.  It's been a screwy couple of months in and out of surgery/hospitals with my wife--really put the kibosh on trying to to BP anything, too.  


     


    I've discovered that the reason why I was able to do so well on the first site (as in, right/left/center placement of the HEG headband), only to see the video zoom in reverse for the next two sites, is not because of fatigue, but because of the baseline measurements being taken.  


     


    That is, the HEG device measures oxygenation of the blood in the PFC as a means of determining your state of focus at any given moment.  When you sit down to run a session on the first site of the day, your oxygenation is at a normal level because you haven't been doing any training.  But after you spend a few minutes intently focusing on a NFB session, naturally you've got all this extra activity going on immediately afterward, so it becomes necessary to take a break to allow the blood flow to return back to normal levels before moving on to work the next site.


     


    As an example--and I don't yet know what the numbers actually represent--the HEG software reports an "HEG" number.  My normal baseline starting off cold is about 140.  140 whats, I have no idea.  But if I start off training the left PFC for 3 minutes, it begins at about 140, and climbs steadily until I get to maybe 150 or 160.  What I was doing on the first couple of sessions was, I'd jack up my PFC blood flow on the first site, move the head band and almost immediately start the next site, but the blood flow was still elevated, so the next time, starting off I'd be near 160, which was a peak for me, and very hard to maintain.  Every measurement the HEG takes is relative to where you start, so naturally, already being somewhat fatigued, I'd start backsliding immediately.


     


    The trick is to wait a few minutes in between sites.  Since I've started doing that, I get much more consistent results.


     


    Unfortunately, the computer I did my first 2 sessions on burnt out last week, so I've lost the record as to where my starting baseline was.  As I mentioned above, the last session I did, I was at a cold baseline of 140 HEG, but I was also able to get my stepdaughter's first session in, and her baseline was just over 120.  I would love to know if I've gained that much in my 4 HEG sessions, or if it's due to other factors such as blood pressure (although mine is pretty consistently in the green zone, 12x/7x), or just having a more complex brain capillary system having lived longer, or just having a fully-formed adult brain (never mind what I've done to it in recent years).  


     


    So, anyway.  I wasn't able to do my third session until this last Wednesday.  I was planning to do a 5-minute-per-site session, but capped it at 4.  My eyes were really fatigued, and I've since figured out that it's really easy to forget to blink when you're staring at the video willing it to move forward.  I've had one more session on Friday, this time for the full 5 minutes per site, and, having figured out to take a few minutes' break in between sites, this was easily the best session I've had yet, in terms of being able to control the video playback.  


     


    In sum, I'm just now at a point where I feel like I've got a good grasp on how to work the software for future sessions.  I still have a lot of questions about things, still am not an expert by any means about what I'm doing, but at the very least I know what I need to do right now, and for the foreseeable future.  So there's that.


     


    Now, I have to report on gains so far.  Given that most of what I can say about this or that, I feel calmer, I make better decisions, I've got a better grip on my reactions to bad situations--all that stuff is about as subjective as it gets, and in any event my expectation was not to notice anything worth reporting until getting about 20 sessions under my belt.  


     


    One thing has happened that is much less subjective, to me at least, that I was not expecting or even thinking about at all, and that happened much faster than I could have guessed:  


     


    I have mentioned in this forum (mostly in the coffee section) several times that I've had really bad acid reflux for years now.  I had endoscopy done last year and there were 4 long burned streaks going all up and down my esophagus, and some bleeding near the junction with the stomach (no ulcers though).  I've tried to get a handle on this with making better food selections, including recently cutting down on all wheat products, as well as certain food combinations in a given meal, and etc.  


     


    I don't like the pharmaceutical approach to solving problems, so instead of acid-limiting medications I've been using baking soda when I have a bad flare-up.  On a normal day in the last year or two I would have to have a dose sometime within the first hour or so of waking, and in any given day I might have to hit the soda anywhere from 3 to 7 times.  It's gotten especially bad in this last year.  


     


    (as an aside, I've tried the approach of treating heartburn as an acid deficiency, adding vinegar, lemon juice, aromatic bitters, and some other stuff.  It worked a handful of times, then made things worse.)


     


    Anyway, I've noted that I had my initial 2 sessions with HEG, and then had to wait about 5 days until the third session.   It didn't occur to me right away, but in the time between that second  session and the eventual third session 5 days later, I had almost ZERO occurrences of heartburn.  In fact, I had to resort to the baking soda a total of 3 times, 2 of which were on the same day.  


     


    Never upon waking, whereas every day prior to that without fail I had to have some within an hour of getting up, and on plenty of occasions had to get out of bed earlier than I wanted to because my stomach demanded it.  It's now been 9 days since that second session with the HEG, and in all that time I've used the baking soda about 5 times.  A couple of weeks ago, I could easily have done 5 times in one day, and often did.  


     


    I don't know what to make of this, but it's been long enough now that I don't think it's just some outlier or coincidence.  There are no other factors to account for it.  My diet has not only not improved in that time, it's been total dogshit.  I've been living at the hospital sleeping on bad furniture taking care of my wife and foraging at roadside vendors and convenience stores for weeks now.  Just on that basis alone, I should be hospitalized myself, given my history of stomach problems.  Instead, I'm doing better than I have in more years than I even remember, and eating stuff that I didn't dare eat just a month ago.  


     


    I guess it must come down to a reduction in anxiety or something, although to be honest I don't feel notably less anxious than before.  Perhaps there's an underlying level of cortisol or something that I'm producing less of without being consciously aware of the effects, but really, it's not like I went around before being anxious all the time; I have plenty of tension and etc, but it tends to be punctuated and in direct response to some unpleasant stimulus.  


     


    So anyway, that's the big news.  Reflux is more than 90% reduced, consistently and for more than a week.  There are hints of other benefits so far, but nothing that I can point to with near as much certainty.  I'm due for my 5th session tomorrow, and I'll be watching sharp for the baseline numbers going in.  


  • hzahza ✭✭

    Sorry for the document dump yesterday; too much time had gone by since the previous update, and there was a lot to tell.  Plus, when I try to explain this HEG stuff, everything I write looks to me like it would be totally incomprehensible to a casual reader, so I've been kinda going out of my way to put in more detail.


     


    About to do my fifth session this evening.  I haven't had any trouble with it keeping me up late (I'm usually up late anyway) so I don't worry much about issues there.  


     


    Also I'm thinking very seriously about trying it on my son.  He'll be 6 years old in May, and while he's quite sharp mentally, he does have a lot of trouble with emotional restraint (even considering how young he is) and easily getting frustrated.  I'm not sure if I'll be able to explain to him what to do.  Guess we'll see.

  • hzahza ✭✭

    Yesterday's session went quite well for me, 5 minutes per site.  I tried a different animation, one showing the blood flowing through the brain.  Very cool--actually a little bit too cool, because it made it harder to focus on one point without wanting to look at the whole picture.  


     


    I alternated with my son, did 2 minutes per site for him.  There's an animation of a robot climbing a ladder and sliding down a slide, and he liked that so it held his attention long enough to get through a session.  I hope he doesn't get bored with it too quickly.


     


    I found that even with the break imposed by taking turns with my son, hy baseline HEG number was still too high on the last site, the left PFC (also I had trouble keeping track of which site I'd already worked, so I'd better write it down next time).  Also interesting, my base numbers were much lower this time:  the first two sites I started out at just over 105, whereas two days ago they all started out near 140.  Then the third and last site, even though I'd taken about a 5-minute break, still it started off over 175, so I had to stop it and watch tv for a few minutes to shut my brain back off :D which worked, and I went back down to 107 or so and was able to do the last 5 minutes just fine.  


     


    I've been meaning to ask if taking breaks is good, or if I should just power through at the higher baselines.  Actually I've got lots of questions but I haven't asked at the forums yet.  One of these days...


  • hzahza ✭✭
    edited July 2013

    (56 total minutes trained to date)


     


    Sent a couple of questions to the forum about taking breaks in between sets, and also what the "end game" of HEG training is, that is, what's the upper limit on benefits, how to recognize when you've maxed the system out, and what to do then (like is there a maintenance routine you have to do like one long session a month or etc).


     


    Did 6th session today, upped it to 6 minutes.  Seems like I'm still able to steadily increase concentration throughout the entire set, but the baseline numbers are still all over the place.  1st set started at 120 or so, second was 165--I canceled the first attempt at the 2nd set and closed my eyes and then tried to watch tv for a few minutes, but even after that it was still over 165.  But then the 3rd set, oddly enough, the HEG baseline was all the way down at 105.  Beats me what that's about.


     


    Ran 2 minute sessions with the boy, too, and sure enough he's starting to get bored with it already, but even so on the 3rd set he had a pretty decent looking upward curve, so who knows.


     


    Not much to report today, really, but if I don't make a note of what days I do sessions, sooner or later I'm bound to forget.  


     


    Oh, one interesting thing I guess:  I was in middle of my daily BPC when the opportunity presented itself to do HEG training, and wow, the caffeine made it a lot harder to concentrate.  I'll have to remember to do these things at different times.  I've read others here saying that when emWave training the BPC makes it impossible to get into coherence, so I guess that's not all that big a surprise. 


  • Hi guys, any updates? Can you report any success so far? How is the effect on your daily life?


  • hzahza ✭✭

    I don't have the machine this week--it's with my stepdaughter and her father so that she can train prior to taking her next test.  We've arranged things so I have it one week, and they have it the next.  As a result, I haven't had any training since the last update.  


     


    However I can relate from the father, who's used it for 4 sessions now (I don't know the details, I showed him how to use it but I don't know how many minutes he does, etc), that he's sleeping "a lot better."  Ever since I've known him he's had real bad insomnia, sometimes unable to sleep at all at night, so that seems pretty significant.


     


    I'll post more when I get the machine back next week.


  • Thanks for the update; looking forward to hear more once you are back to using it. I would particularly be interested to hear more about improvements in attention and focus.


  • hzahza ✭✭

    On the subject of attention and focus, I've been meaning to take some kind of test to give myself a benchmark for future improvements.  I'm not finding much online.  I found this little self-test:  http://psychologytoday.tests.psychtests.com/take_test.php?idRegTest=3361 and scored 27 out of 100 on it, so in general terms you could say I've got real attention problems.  But it's not something I'd be able to take again in a couple of months to see how I've come along; it's all about things that might take years for a noticeable difference to build up.


     


    There's a TOVA test available online, but it's not free (unless you want to take the test without having the data assessed and scored), and it requires a printer, and I don't have a functioning one atm.  


     


    If anyone knows a decent free online attention span test--not necessarily for ADD diagnosis, just something that can be taken repeatedly in order to measure progress--It'd be great if you could pass it along here.


  • hzahza ✭✭
    edited July 2013

    (126 total minutes trained to date)


     


    Just finished my 9th session with HEG today.  I haven't reported on the prior two sessions, but overall my observations are about the same.  I'm finding it very difficult to concentrate during the sessions, but that may also be due somewhat to doing them after drinking my bpc--caffeine may be good for focus for some people, but it tends to send my brain bouncing all over the place, which is one reason why I need extra focus training such as what HEG offers.


     


    I sent inquiries to the brain-trainer group, and it turns out there's no real consensus on how to conduct a session.  I'm told that the baseline HEG number has no particular importance and can be ignored on one hand, and on the other, I'm told that it's important to spend a lot of time in between sets in order to reset the baseline.  I'm leaning toward the notion that training is training, and it doesn't matter so much about the time spent in between sets.  Everyone seems to be getting results.


     


    I'm now up to something like 9 minutes per set.  I'm finding all kinds of difficulties while training.  The video neither leaps forward nor regresses at a particularly fast clip, but instead continually hovers between forward and backward motion, and meanwhile the software charts a fairly steady upward drift in my HEG chart.  


     


    I feel at once as though I'm gaining a lot of proficiency with the system on one hand, while on the other I'm becoming aware of just how bad I am at focusing on tasks.  I try to concentrate on the HEG videos and I have all this incessant mind chatter, I have songs stuck in my head, the video starts running backwards and I feel frustrated and then that makes the video feedback even worse...I found today that by mentally willing the video to play forward that I can actually exert some measure of influence there.  


     


    I'm starting to think maybe there's not so much literature available by way of instructions is because with repeated use you start working out a lot for yourself.  I'm wondering lately if it's all that important to rest as much as I've been recommended to.  I've made a point of researching a bit more to see if there's anybody out there with a more aggressive training model for this system.  For instance, what if you go heavy on alternate days, and then do light sessions on the days in between?  EEG sessions can be done heavily on consecutive days without taking days off, so why not HEG?  I feel like I'm not getting a lot of info here.  


     


    I have the HEG for 2 more sessions, and then I hand it off for another week.  I'm thinking seriously about doing some kind of evaluation test (probably TOVA) during that break, even if I have to pay a little for it.  For the record, I'm not against spending money, I'm just leery of getting suckered in this soft-science market of mental evaluation.  


     


    Lastly, a note or two on effects noticed so far:


     


    While I remain unsure as to more subjective measures as to overall well-being, anxiety, reactivity, and etc, I have to say my acid reflux problem has continued to be reduced to such an extent that I soon may have to describe it as "my former acid reflux problem."  No exaggeration, I used to get up every morning and hit the baking soda first thing, often before I wanted to get out of bed.  I haven't needed to do that a single morning in weeks now.  I've had this problem to one degree or another since I was 17.  


     


    I guess for many people who don't have these issues this feedback must be pretty boring or irrelevant, but it's a big big improvement in quality of life for me.  I can't overstate it.  And the damndest thing about it is, when I bought this HEG rig, the quality of my digestive processes was the furthest thing from my mind--I still don't get the connection between the one and the other, but it's been just about a month now and the correlation can't be denied.  


     


    There are other things, I feel calmer in traffic, temper on a bit less of a hair-trigger, but these are things I expected going in, therefore much more likely a product of my own wishful thinking about the effectiveness of this device than anything I could point to as definitive progress.  The stomach thing impresses me precisely because I had absolutely no conception that it could be improved by my HEG training. 


     


    One other subjective area of improvement that I can note today:  my HRV coherence is better, seems I have a bit more patience for sitting and doing focused breathing for extended periods of time.  At any rate I'm doing it daily now, whereas before I could never bring myself around to doing it.  


     


    There's a long way to go, yet.  I'm guessing that by about the 20th session mark I'll feel comfortable reporting on some of the harder to quantify areas where I feel I've improved.  In the meantime, I'm very happy with this equipment purchase.  


  • Hza, thanks for taking the time to provide feedback on your experience. I look forward to hearing more, especially once you have completed your 20th session. Much appreciated!


  • hzahza ✭✭
    edited July 2013

    (171 total minutes trained to date)


     


    Thanks, Toby81.  There won't be any updates for a while, bc I'm out of town for the next 4-5 days for an annual music festival that takes place here that I try not to miss--you know, camping, bands 12-14 hours a day, all kinds of weirdness.  It won't be a bulletproof weekend by a longshot, but hey, what's the point of trying to live right if you can't throw it all out the window every so often?  


     


    I'm up to 11 sessions now.  When I get back I probably will be within 3 weeks of getting to the 20 mark.  One thing I can say though is that it helps to be consistent; this one-week-on-one-week-off schedule has me feeling good during the week on, and feeling the good effects slip away on the weeks off.  My understanding is that in the big picture, there are solid gains that you don't lose as long as you're reasonably mentally active, but here at the outset I can tell when I take time off.  Or that's what I think is happening.  


     


    Anyway, I'll be away from the forum until next week, and may not have my turn at the HEG again until the week after that.  We'll see.  I'll get the updates in when I've got them.


  • hzahza ✭✭
    edited July 2013

    (291 total minutes trained to date)


     


    Took a long time to get back on track with alternate-day HEG training, but I'm finally on schedule consistently and doing 9 or 10 minute sessions now, still over all 3 sites (left, right, center).  Having taken about a month off at a time, I definitely noticed some backsliding in certain areas.  


     


    My reflux has crept back up, although still less than 50% from when I began HEG training (and I've resumed eating habaneros every now and then, which still is a bit too strong for my stomach and esophagus, but I love it so), but mainly I've noticed how much more difficult the sessions themselves are than I remember when I was doing them semi-regularly before.  Still having endless mind chatter, songs playing in my head, real trouble focusing while doing the nfb.  But I'm thinking maybe that perhaps I'm also simultaneously becoming more aware of all the extra BS going on in my head at any given moment.


     


    So far I'm up to 15 sessions overall.  I've about reached the conclusion that there's no sense in trading off the unit to the stepdaughter on alternate weeks as apparently she's not really using it anyway.  So, more for me.  The studies I've read about so far span a period of about 40 treatments, so perhaps I can get that many under my belt within the next 2 months.  We'll see.  At the very least, there'll be more frequent updates as we go along here.


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