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March 7th, ’17: Visual Evoked Potential (VEP)

I didn’t expect this blog to bleed into my optic life.  But, this is exactly what happened last week!

For the first time in my life, I had electrodes attached to my forehead for brain-imaging.  The tech this time was VEP, short for “visual evoked potential”.  (More specifically, what I sat for was the Diopsys® NOVA-VEP test.)

I was in my local optometrist’s clinic for a couple of eye exams.  I’d lost my glasses, and had nearly run out of contacts: so, I needed replacements all-around.

VEP measures electrical activity taking place in the brain’s occipital lobe.  Breaking VEP down, we have:

  1. “Visual” — patients observe provided visual stimuli;
  2. “evoked” — electrical energy is generated at the retina;
  3. “potential” — electrical activity is measured in the visual cortex

VEP-crop

Simplified image of the two main neural-optic pathways

I will leave this post shorter than you can expect others in this series to be.  My encounter with VEP was brief and unanticipated, but the main fun was having the electrodes attached to my forehead.

Now, if only I had my VEP brain scan on-hand…

Sources:

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Introduction to my Brain & Mind Techs Blog

Welcome to my new blog!

Welcome to my (third) WordPress blog!

I’ve had a great experience with WordPress for the past three years.  So, why not make another blog powered by it?

(Well…maybe the real question is: Why make another WordPress blog?)

This blog will be similar to last year’s Meditation Log, in a few respects.  The first commonality is that I’ll be sharing my experiences.  Now, some of these actually will be explicitly meditative–but the majority aren’t necessarily intended to be.  This new blog will instead focus on brain and mind technologies.

Anyone familiar with brain/mind techs–including EEG, fMRI, and biofeedback (among others)–may sense intuitively the overlap these share with meditative practice.  The latter tech in the above list, for instance, ties meditation into its use more explicitly.  However, meditation is not requisite for the successful use of brain/mind techs.

The second similarity with the Meditation Log will be my focus on some technical details of my practice.  I’m excited to delve into these, and I hope that some of you will be, too!

On the other side of things, a key difference that will set this blog apart from its predecessor will be the inclusion of images: pictures that I take, and/or that correspond to aspects of my practice.

Anyhow, that should do for an intro to what this blog will be about.  I plan to update this weekly-biweekly (the latter, meaning once every two weeks; not twice in one week…).  We’ll see how well I can stay on top of that schedule!

Best wishes, to you all; and happy reading.

P.S. For the mind-snobs in the crowd: I apologize that the feature image is merely of the brain (and some rather invasive electrodes, attached to it).  The mind is much more difficult to visualize faithfully!  I’m not confident enough in my knowledge of it yet to feel comfortable settling on one, mere image…

Feb. 10th, 2017: Biofeedback (emWave, HeartMath)

The software (emWave) and hardware (HeartMath) were easy to figure out and get going.  I started with a quick tutorial, then jumped right in with the Coherence Coach and emWave PC.  The former consisted of a programmed voice walking me through the three types of heart engagements: heart awareness (focusing on the heart), heart breathing (breathing from the heart), and heart feeling (reflecting on the good in my life).  My session lasted for 16 minutes and 34 seconds.

emwave-box

emWave box

    The “challenge level” was at 1, by default.  My average heart rate (in beats per minute) was 82, with the following coherence ratios (ranging from low, to medium, to high): 16, 21, 63.  My coherence was in “the zone” from 0-2.5 mins., and again from 4.5-10 mins.–for the majority of my session, then.  For most of the session, I felt curious and engaged, yet simultaneously relaxed and able to address each of the three heart engagements with relative ease.

 HeartMath input hardware and finger sensor

    Overall, my first session was an effective intro to biofeedback.  I was not really familiar with biofeedback’s uses (or even how it worked) beforehand, but now I feel significantly more confident with it.  I think that, next time, I’ll try upping the challenge level; though I wonder how doing so would affect the system’s primary stress relief function…

Measured “coherence” levels

   Perhaps somewhat tangentially, I am also feeling mildly curious about the hardware’s inner design and softwares’ (both emWave and HeartMath’s Coherence Coach’s) codings.

References:

  • Stern, R. M. and Ray, W. J.  (1977).  Biofeedback: How to control your body, improve your health, and increase your effectiveness
  • WebMD.  “Overview of biofeedback”.  Retrieved from http://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-   guides/biofeedback-therapy-uses-benefits#1