Neurofeedback Meets Brainwave Entrainment


For those of you not familiar, brainwave entrainment is using either audio or visual stimulation to induce certain brainwave states. Brainwave entrainment, which is an affordable alternative to other forms of treatment, has been shown in some studies to have potential efficacy for treating things like ADD, as well as other disorders which have been shown to be effectively treated by neurofeedback.

Entrainment, though showing efficacy in the same realm, does its magic by entirely different means and thus can be used in conjunction with neurofeedback — even at the same time!

Though I’ve tried brainwave entrainment using NeuroProgrammer 2 from Transparentcorp, I’d never used audio stimulation while doing a neurofeedback session. I was pleasantly surprised. I checked my neurofeedback results and my alpha amplitude was the highest it’s ever been before consistently throughout the session. I’m going to continue doing this. I’m hopeful that entrainment stacked with neurofeedback will prove to be great catalysts for change when used in conjunction.


Where do you get your science news?


My feedreader got whiped, meaning I lost a lot of the RSS feeds I frequent! Fortunately, I knew most of their addresses by heart and was able to get the most important ones back… but it leads me to a major question.

Where do you get your SCIENCE news from?

This can be neuroscience related, or more broadly simply science but I’m looking for a good place to scrounge for new information! If you have any personal favorites, let me know!

Currently MY favorites include:

physorg.com
newscientist.com
eurekalert.com
sciam.com

Did I miss any good ones?


Refreshing memory training sensations.


I actually just did a session of digit span exercises roughly 30 minutes, and I feel… strangely euphoric once again. I’d have to say, despite the compelling evidence that memory training can increase a person’s intelligence and potentially emotional wellbeing, the immediate light sense of euphoria I feel after a sensation is what seems to make it the most interesting to me.

After doing a session I immediately felt so good that despite feeling a little bit irritable earlier, I almost immediately came to some significant decisions about how I’m going to spend the next many months. My conclusion? Now’s the time to get organized. Tomorrow will be the beginning of a new era.


Neurofeedback to Aid with “Emotional Fluency” in Psychopaths


Susan shot me a link to an article I had missed. It’s a recent New Scientist article talking about a successful study showing compelling results that psychopaths (think: rehabilitating criminal offenders) could become better at understanding, and expressing emotions.

After four training sessions they had learned to raise and lower their insula activity levels, in turn changing how they rated the emotional quality of disturbing or neutral images.

It’s interesting to note that they then measured how the inmates rated the emotional quality of images, and that there was a chance induced by the neurofeedback. The idea that neurofeedback might be clinically effective, is, of course, nothing new. But I’m glad to see some attention being drawn to it.


Fish Oil’s Effect on Kids’ BRAINS!


Antenatal fish oil supplements boost kids’ hand-eye coordination

Fish oil supplements given to pregnant mums boost the hand-eye coordination of their babies as toddlers, reveals a small study published ahead of print in the Archives of Disease in Childhood (Fetal and Neonatal Edition).

The researchers base their findings on 98 pregnant women, who were either given 4g of fish oil supplements or 4g of olive oil supplements daily from 20 weeks of pregnancy until the birth of their babies.

Only non-smokers and those who did not routinely eat more than two weekly portions of fish were included in the study. Eighty three mothers completed the study.

Once the children had reached two and a half years of age, they were assessed using validated tests to measure growth and development.

These included tests of language, behaviour, practical reasoning and hand-eye coordination. In all, 72 children were assessed (33 in the fish oil group and 39 in the olive oil group).

There were no significant overall differences in language skills and growth between the two groups of children

But those whose mothers had taken fish oil supplements scored more highly on measures of receptive language (comprehension), average phrase length, and vocabulary.

And children whose mothers had taken fish oil supplements scored significantly higher in hand-eye coordination than those whose mothers had taken the olive oil supplements.

This finding held true even after taking into account other potentially influential factors, such as the mother’s age and duration of breast feeding.

High cord blood levels of omega 3 fatty acids at birth (from fish oil) were strongly associated with good hand-eye coordination, while low levels of omega 6 fatty acids, found in many vegetable oils, were not.

Prompted by concerns about mercury content in certain types of fish, pharmaceutical grade fish oil supplements are becoming increasingly popular, say the authors.

The findings show that relatively high doses of omega 3 rich fish oil supplements in the second half of pregnancy do not seem to have any adverse effects on neurodevelopment or growth, they add.

The effects of fish oil on so many different neurological issues makes it seem as though it might be exceptionally useful for a developing brain as well (after all, omega 3 is cell MEMBRANE material). This, however, takes it a step further. They objectively measured the children and showed the fact that the difference panned out in the child’s development two years down the road.  The study in no way even implies that the children themselves received any fish oil after their birth! What type of effect would it have on development had the kids been given fish oil up until the time they were 2 years old?


Conjecture on Fish Oil and Sex


This link was sent to me by a friend of mine at Transparentcorp,and I thought it was interesting. The whole thing is conjecture, but the idea is that your sex life could be affected by supplementing omega 3. Interesting to note there was even affirmative comments on the whole idea.

http://scienceblogs.com/corpuscallosum/2006/12/omega3_to_improve_sex_life.php

It’s kind of funny though… I always assumed that treating your bipolar depression (etc.) in and of itself would do miracles for your sex life. :)


Pupil Diameter and Its Relation to Arousal


Pupil dialation has been a fascination of mine, particularily within the last couple of months. I knew that the eyes level of dialation was correlated to various things including dopamine, norepinephrine and epinephrine.. but have been unable to find a constant in day-to-day personalities.

What have I noticed? I’ve noticed that people who are more socially anxious almost always have extraordinarily dialated eyes when I speak with them. At one point I thought that it may even be reasonable to believe this might be an index of a persons overall anxiety, but unfortunately this did not pan out as I found that often people who were behaving in a gregarious and confident manner might often have significantly more dialated pupils than all of the people he or she was surrounded by.

Developing Intelligence, however, has dug up some information that I find… useful:

Pupil diameter is gaining currency as an index of mental effort (“cognitive workload”) as well as arousal. In the most compelling finding from this literature, pupil diameter has been observed to increase with each successive item maintained in memory, up until each subject’s working memory capacity – and then to contract incrementally as each item is reported back to the experimenter. Some recent work suggests that spontaneous eye blink rate – how quickly the eyes blink in normal, everyday situations – may also be an index of prefrontal or executive processes.

So, essentially, the pupil diameter is directly correlated to the number of items being actively maintained in the working memory. This plugs into my idea of how things work nicely. In my manner of thinking, a socially anxious person may attempt to fill their working memory capacity with the desire to *learn* from the social interaction (obviously, if they are ackward, then social skills are still actively being built)… on the other hand, a person who is confident and gregarious may well not need to fulfill his or her working memory capacity in order to make social decisions, but instead his or her ability to interact is so relaxed and natural that their working memory is actually being actively used for other tasks deemed more important than that individual social interaction.

Psychological Stress Can Exacerbate Skin Conditions


The new research shows that stress can worsen a number of skin conditions. Though this does not come as a surprise to me since omega 3 supplementation has been shown to alleviate skin problems as well as anxiety/depression (stress) — connect the dots.

“In this study, we showed that the increase in glucocorticoids induced by psychological stress induces abnormalities in skin structure and function, which could exacerbate skin diseases,” Kenneth Feingold, one of the researchers, explained, noting the finding provides a link for understanding how psychological stress can adversely affect skin disorders.

Blocking the production or action of glucocorticoids prevented the skin abnormalities induced by psychological stress, he said. (Source: Physorg)


Therapeautic Oxytocin Use


The question as to whether oxytocin use (exogenously) may, in fact, leave a lasting effect beyond its immediate anxiolytic effects has been posed before. Some research seems to imply that it very well might. Or at least that some of it’s effects linger.
Susan at Hug the Monkey — a blog dedicated solely to the discussion of oxytocin and topics surrounding it, recently made a post I found quite intriguing. More research seeming to imply that this, again, is the case.

Study participants showed a significant decrease in repetitive behavior during the four hours. They also did better at picking up on the emotional tone of recorded speech. People receiving pitocin were compared to others receiving only distilled water; two weeks later, the groups were switched.

Interestingly, those who received oxytocin the first week retained their improvement in assigning emotional meaning to the recorded speech even when they were tested again two weeks later after receiving the placebo. This is important because the effects of administered oxytocin are considered not to last more than a few minutes.

And by the way, Susan, you do a damned good job of putting out some great material on such a narrow topic.


Wow. Cats get alzheimers.


From LiveScience.com:

Cats can develop a feline form of Alzheimer’s disease, say U.K. and U.S. researchers who identified a protein that can build up in brain nerve cells and cause mental deterioration.

To tell you the truth, I’m not sure that I’d even notice if I owned a cat and it became forgetful. What do cats usually remember? Regardless, this is good news for researchers because it offers a new animal model of the disease to learn from.

I wonder if they’ll start smoking out the kitties?