Attention/focus Hack: Heg Vs Neurosky Vs Epoc

Hey there guys!


My first post here, so a little bit of intro about myself:

30 years old, been struggling with attention/focus problems during my whole life. Tend to procrastinate often. I live in a country where adult ADHD is almost unheard of and medications are banned.


When i discovered Dave's site i got really excited and knowledge about neurofeedback became available to me. So, after a bit of research, i consider following options:


  • nirHEG - The only affordable device that i found is Peanut headband which is, i believe, a part of Upgraded Focus product that can be bought here. There are some speculations that HEG is more effective for training attention/focus because of better reaction times of the sensor and better ability of tracking what is happening in the PFC. Total cost of a solution: $999
  • NeuroSky headband. Now, fairly cheap device which can be bought for under $100 and must be used with an application designed for that device (not sure about cross-compatibility of this device with other software). What discourages me the most about this device is the fact that it only has one sensor and looks like it is intended more for entertainment rather than being helpful for specific therapeutical tasks. Total cost of solution: depending on which software one decides to go with, it will cost anywhere near $75 to about $500.
  • EPOC - Now, this device is much cheaper than the Peanut and comes with 16 (or is it 14?) sensors and thus should be more accurate in terms of readings. One can use sessions built in Mind Workstationw hichare specifically tailored for treating ADHD. Total cost: $480 (299 for the headset and 179 for Mind WorkStation).


So those are what i am choosing from. The most cost effective solutions to me seems to be the EPOC. But am i really loosing anything when i decide to go with EPOC instead of nirHEG? Do i really need this extra processing speed at the PFC that nirHEG is offering?



I hope this post will trigger some discussion.



  • hzahza ✭✭

    Hey Artie, 


    I can't tell you anything about the EPOC (that's the Emotiv one, right?) from personal experience, but everything I've read on the subject of training add/adhd problems all suggest that HEG (particulary nIR) is much faster and more effective than EEG.  


    In addition to the processing speed that you mention (and the Peanut so far has the fastest in this price range, and maybe on the consumer market), HEG also has no problem with false readings (artifacting) that EEG gets.  The idea--and I'm not an expert so please someone correct me if I get something wrong here--is that since EEG is tuned to pick up and amplify very faint electrical activity from the brain, the muscle activity in the forehead (where the pre-frontal cortex, the target for ADD training) and also facial muscle activity can get wrongly identified as brain activity.  Since HEG measures blood oxygenation, it isn't susceptible to this kind of false signalling.  


    The fast processing speed means you get near-instant feedback on PFC activity, which makes the neurofeedback response from you much more effective than older nIR and pIR systems.


    Somewhere a few pages deep in the archive on this subforum, another member here wrote up a bit on the EPOC and noted that it was so weakly amplified or sampled--sorry, can't recall which--that it effectively isn't much better than a fancy toy.  Again, I have no firsthand experience with it and don't personally know anybody who does, so please do check around, maybe the advanced forum search here will turn up the post for you. 


    Just the other day on a neurofeedback discussion group I read that HEG is generally said to produce lasting results with ADD after 300 minutes of training (how that gets broken up over time is a different discussion, no need to get into it here).  


    Here's a website with a lot of articles from Heshel Toomim, the most famous researcher (inventor, maybe?) associated with HEG:!biocomp-research/c1u6v  Some of it's fairly accessible to a normal reader, particularly the introductory material.  Other stuff, not so sure, might get a bit technical (I haven't read them all by a long shot).


    There are some threads on the Upgraded Focus Trainer and HEG here in the Brainhacking forum, too, that might give you a better sense of what's involved.  I haven't seen anybody posting about Mindworkstation here yet, but Transparentcorp, the company that produces it, has a good website and forum with lots of info available free of charge.  


    Hope that helps.  Good luck with your decision.

  • hzahza ✭✭

    One last thing I forgot to mention:  Yes, the EPOC has 14 sensors, but as they're placed at sites all around the head, that doesn't translate to more accurate readings (that's a matter of amplification, filtering, and processing), but it does give a fuller picture of overall brain activity.  Focus and attention treatments, to the best of my knowledge, all deal with the pre-frontal cortex, which inhabits a small part of the forehead region.

  • Can you point me to the neurofeedback discussion group you frequent? I have been doing neurofeedback led by a person with a limited technical background but who has taken instruction by the Othmer couple and uses their Cygnet neurofeedback technology. Your mentioning of "artifacts" made me wonder if she is correct that talking during the session has no negative effect on the outcome. We talk because I was told of no adverse consequence and I talk so little at work. I truly have no idea what she does aside from affixing the nodes on my head and activating/deactivating the neurofeedback software. It seems like she is mainly responding to my initial questionnaire (mood/attention) by placing the notes in the places she has been trained to use. When I ask her about what she is seeing on her computer (runs the softweare), she always says I look "good" and "calm". This is not cheap so I want to select the most efficient option. I imagine this has been discussed on the discussion group.

  • hzahza ✭✭

    It's a Yahoo group that you can find linked somewhere (on the main page, I think) at  Judging from the posts there, the group is largely comprised of nfb professionals, but anybody can post questions.  I'm pretty sure no purchase or any other outlay of money is necessary to join the group.  They've been active for quite a number of years, so there are lots of archives to search through for answers.  I only understand about 7-8% of what I read there but I'm slowly catching on.

  • Hey guys.


    Thank you for taking part in this discussion. I am sorry for not replying earlier - i thought i made a post, but apparently it somehow got lost in transmission.


    So i went ahead and bought both nirHEG at brain-trainer and Neurosky locally.


    I received Neurosky earlier than HEG device and started experimenting. So far i found two applications that are available for download at NeuroSky store - Home of Attention and MindReflector. I've been experimenting with HOA. This thing allows to train brain frequencies having to do with attention. There are several pre-installed protocols, but one can design his own. The training principle is simple - as long as the trainee stays in the desired range of brain activity, video/audio or a simple game continues. When the trained parameter(s) goes out of the range, the media stops. One has to figure out the way to make the media play as smoothly as possible.


    The following protocols are available:



    Aside from this, one can choose up to three bands to either augment or suppress during the training if the protocols provided with the program seem not enough.



    I've been exchanging emails with the creator of this application and has to point of that the guy is extremely helpful. First, he provided a lot of answers to my questions via a phone conversation and after that we continued the discussion over the email.


    I will be giving this app a try of at least 20 sessions of 15-20 minutes and see how it helps.



    Next one, MindReflector, is also an interesting application. It comes pre-packed with following protocols: Quiet Focus, Meditative Relaxation, Full Spectrum, Alpha Theta.


    Now, i am mostly interested in improving my ability to focus, stay on task and not becoming bored. The most appropriate protocol would be Quiet Focus, not surprisingly. What it does, is it trains one to inhibit Delta, Theta and Low Gamma waves and to augment Low Beta. 


    Protocols for relaxation supplied with the program are also of interest since relaxing by will has always been a problem for me.


    More info about the program can be found on their site and NeuroSky store. There are some interesting presentations available for download if somebody wants to learn more.


    No trial version is available, which is sad.


    As for the HEG device, i received it yesterday and haven't figured out how to start HEGStudio which comes with the package for free - an application that is supposed to train my ability to focus. I am sure guys from Brain Trainer will do their best to help me out with the installation.



    Another thing that got me interested is a system called Peak Achievement Trainer. Created by Jon Cowan, it is a package of an EEG two site headset, a "Special version of BioExplorer software" and 70 special designs for it. There three main protocols that come with the package: Focused Alert, Neureka!, Excited Happiness. The first one is aimed towards training of an ability to focus, which can be guessed from the name of the protocol. The other two are something that got me excited. Neureka! claims to train an ability to get an "Aha" moment, increase memory, intelligence, mental clarity. Excited Happiness trains one to be more happy. The research cited on the website claims that subjects who completed the training became 30% more happy and stayed in that state for a long time afterwards, which is very interesting.

  • hzahza ✭✭

    That Neurosky software you describe sounds pretty interesting.  It seems there's currently an explosion of sorts for low-cost NFB for popular areas of improvement like focus and concentration, and that can only be a good thing.


    Don't expect to be blown away by the HEG system; the effects can be subtle and take time to accumulate.  The HEGStudio software doesn't make a tremendous first impression, but it's quite easy to use and no more complicated than it needs to be, once you get through the installation (which is just a matter of loading a driver and cut/pasting the software into your programs folder).  


    I was really interested in the Peak Achievement Trainer until I saw the price.  Holy crap, $5000 for a one-channel system and not even a full copy of BioExplorer--strikes me as a huge ripoff.  Huge.  Maybe if you're a vice president at a massive corporation with a deep expense account that you need to burn through, but for the average home user imo you could do a lot better for yourself with that money through other means. 

  • Yeah, i guess one has to be consistent with practicing HEG sessions and not hope for overnight results.


    However, i've read some materials by Hershel Toomim and he was noting 1 point on TOVA score after each session of HEG. This is very interesting and is the highest that neurofeedback has ever delivered per session, as per Mr. Toomim.


    I don't know what my TOVA score is and i don't want to check. However, i guess taking some "attention" test now and after, say, 500 total minutes of HEG would be a good idea. "Go/No-Go" and "Stroop test" are often mentioned in the studies on treatment of ADD people, so i will try to find some decently looking generic version.


    hza, according to your first message, you've been using HEG since February. How many sessions (or total minutes of training) have you completed and what kind of results did you get?

  • hzahza ✭✭

    hza, according to your first message, you've been using HEG since February. How many sessions (or total minutes of training) have you completed and what kind of results did you get?


    think I've done about 30 sessions now--I haven't been training this last month because I've been doing some fasting and thought it probably wasn't a good idea.  Unfortunately, since my training has been spread out over 3 computers, one of which I don't have much access to, I don't even have a guess as to how many minutes it's all added up to.


     I'll be back on the trainer next week, maybe even this weekend.  As for results, I'm not done yet, and I never quite trust myself not to get excited over potentially trivial things, but I've kept a pretty thorough account of these things in my "Me and HEG" thread, and wrote up a recap in one of the "Neurofeedback" threads here in the Brain Hacking forum.  I can't say if my perceived gains are real or imaginary, but they're real enough to me, and in any event I've done a pretty extensive job of writing my findings down here and there.

  • I see. Well, nirHEG has lots of research behind it and is much harder to screw up. So i think there are gains in your case. There must be.


    I was thinking about using nirHEG in an application to a more specific task like reading.


    I am going to record a 20 minute reading session with an interesting material in BioExplorer and will try to find an HEG Ratio that would reflect a focused state. I guess this will be higher than the baseline that i get in hegStudio and lower than the highest i get in there. Then i will create a design that will alert me whenever i get lower than that threshold. Somewhere in between baseline and a peak, so that i don't overtrain.


    There are tools for BioExplorer that can make the whole screen brighter or darker, or change transparency of a specific window. I am thinking about running an auto-scrolling e-reader on my PC that will be getting darker when i am below the threshold. 


    Hope this will teach me not to get side-tracked when reading boring material. Same can be applied to a listening|watching task like lectures, audiobooks, educational videos. 


    Now, i know that EEG is widely used in applications like that, but not sure about HEG.

  • hzahza ✭✭

    You can certainly use HEG in BioExplorer, so I don't see why you couldn't make a design like the one you describe.  I haven't learned how to do any of that yet, but I'll have a BioEx tutorial soon, so with any luck it won't be that difficult.

  • edited July 2013

    I have the Neurosky device and found it extremely cool. I got hooked on their Brainwave Visualizer.  Here is sample video of a session they have in YouTube, in case you are interested. Otherwise, here is Toomim himself, he is the man behind the HEG system. He says that he sees Neurosky as the model for himself. He was somewhat less sure about Neurosky in a comment he posted in forums two years ago:


    Jonathan Toomim





    The Neurosky headset has a few quirks:

    1. It records from the forehead, in the region of the prefrontal cortex. 

    Most EEG neurofeedback systems avoid the prefrontal cortex due to the 

    heavy artifacts and noise you get from eye blinks, eye movements, and 

    facial muscle activity. The Neurosky software is supposed to have decent 

    artifact detection which makes this less of an issue, and there are 

    likely to be benefits from doing prefrontal recordings; however, it 

    doesn't correspond well to what we already know about what types of 

    neurofeedback seem to work best.

    2. The typical Neurosky software applications use Neurosky's 

    "Meditation" and "Attention" metrics, which are proprietary and opaque. 

    Nobody except Neurosky knows what they are. Nobody knows if they're 

    actually beneficial things to train. Neurosky's software doesn't make it 

    particularly easy to do the types of training that have been studied so 

    far, such as SMR/theta training, beta/theta ratio training, alpha peak 

    frequency training, etc. It's possible to do that stuff, but it's not 

    what most Neurosky applications use.

    As for whether neurofeedback works at all for ADHD: There's a ton of 

    crappy literature on biofeedback and neurofeedback out there, but there 

    also have been a few studies done with decent control groups. Here's one 

    of them (Monastra 2002), comparing EEG neurofeedback to ritalin:

    Unfortunately, with EEG, having professional assistance is fairly 

    important. There are too many variables in how to train a person, and 

    not every approach or protocol works for everyone. This isn't to say 

    that cheap automated neurofeedback is useless, or a waste of money, or 

    anything like that; it just means that you probably won't get as good a 

    treatment without a professional. But given the difference is between 

    $100 and $4000, the cheap version is likely worth trying.


  • hzahza ✭✭

    But given the difference is between $100 and $4000, the cheap version is likely worth trying.


    Excellent point.  You can't even get decent biofeedback equipment for $100.  For the money, it seems like the Neurosky and similar devices are a decent way to get one's feet wet using nfb without shelling out a lot of money.

  • Oops, I meant to post this paragraph in this thread, but I put it in instead.

    One of the issues with the Emotiv system is, as hza mentioned, the amplifier design. Much of it depends on the amplifier's input impedance. Amplifiers have to draw a current from what they're amplifying in order to measure it. How much current it needs to make the measurement depends on the amplifier's input impedance; higher impedances mean less current is needed. The more current you draw from the signal source (i.e. the brain), the more you distort the measurements (since pulling current out across the resistance of the scalp reduces the apparent voltage). The amplifiers in the Epoc have input impedances that are 1/1000th or less of what's typically used in research-grade and neurofeedback-grade EEG systems.

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