What Makes It Unique?
Technologies evolve as discoveries are made. The evolution is often on a slow, smooth gradient; however, a tipping point sometimes occurs, resulting in a sudden leap. The NeuroVizr™ is such a leap. The modern lineage took birth in the late 1950s when William Burroughs used the book The Living Brain (just written by Dr. William G. Walter) to explain to his friend Brion Gysin the probable reason for his recent unusual visual/cognitive experience while on a train ride. Along with a technical buddy, they created the Dream Machine (aka Dreamachine), a crude cardboard cylinder with evenly spaced cutout slits that spun round and round on a record player. Their alpha frequency eyes-closed experiences resulted in the first pre-contemporary “Mind Machine.”
THE FREQUENCY FOLLOWING RESPONSE
(FFR): In the 1930s, in neurology, there was an accidental discovery. It was noted that various external signals could easily affect the common internal electrical signals naturally occurring within the brain. The external signals could be visual, auditory, kinetic, electric, or magnetic. Furthermore, the effect was relatively predictable in that the rate of the external signal would typically begin to coax the internal brain frequencies into the same rhythms. The phenomenon was considered curious but of no significance at this early stage of brain research. It was in the mid-late 1960s that brain research moved ahead, and the Frequency Following Response (FFR) was investigated again. It was in the years following that FFR was renamed Brain Entrainment. Brain Entrainment forms the core of the “Mind Machines” developed in the 1980s and is still the basic theoretical principle of the various “Neo-Mind Machines” resurfacing on the market now
BRAIN ENTRAINMENT – Deja Vu
FFR/Brain Entrainment became very attractive in the late 1970s and 1980s. During this period, there was an attempt to explore consciousness with methods and techniques that integrated Asian spiritual approaches combined with Western psychology and psychedelics. Transpersonal Psychology emerged at the heart of The Human Potential Movement. No “personal technology” and analog devices were large, expensive, and unreliable during this period. Two brain-related processes inserted themselves into the Human Potential Movement with tremendous promises and expectations. These two processes were Brain Entrainment and Biofeedback. These two approaches were expected to revolutionize bodies, minds, and spirits in rapid, powerful personal developments. The promises were never fulfilled, and the approaches slid into the social twilight. With the explosion of cheap, potent, digitized personal computing technology combined with worldwide social media, Brain Entrainment is being renewed – often with the exact naïve, innocent glorified expectations that echo from 40 years ago. Without the rearview mirror of history, it is understandable that most of those persons generating the excitement were not even born yet during the waves of exploration in the Human Potential Movement. Does Brain Entrainment work? Yes…but not as well as one may hope and not in ways clearly understood. This was evident by the end of the 1980s. The “entrainment” process is reliable but is low in the dynamic outcome. It could also be called Brain EnTrancement because it narrows brain frequency activities into a restricted and sustained corridor. The frequency corridor is created slowly as the signals repeat endlessly and are sustained as long as the repetitive rhythms are produced. As such, an induced shortterm “state” modification persists as long as the redundant signals enforce the state. The level of the retained process is low, meaning that the degree of “learning” is weak. When the stimulation ends, there is a steep drop off of “state” as the brain returns to its common complexity
WHAT ELSE HAS BEEN GOING ON?
Brain Entrainment/FFR was studied intensively for about two decades (1965 – 1985), with some obscure landmark studies between 1955-1965). There was a substantial initial scientific interest because of the projected possible medical benefits. As outcomes flattened out the findings, the research dried up, and the focus shifted elsewhere (primarily to pharmaceuticals). However, numerous fascinating topics were also being developed that did not appear to be related and evolved along separate parallel tracks, as often happens in academia. From the 1950s until now, various significant impact understandings have been brewing that actually have powerful impacts in the domains of consciousness, brain/mind, performance, and optimal experience. To list just the main issues:
1) Information Theory;
3) Complex Adaptive Systems (CAS);
4) General Systems Theory;
5) Brain Neuroplasticity;
6) Brain Networks;
7) Connectome Harmonics;
8) Psychedelic Information Theory;
9) Sensory Enrichment;
10) Virtual reality (VR) Technology;
12) Complex Bio-metrics;
13) Functional Brain Imaging;
14) Consciousness/Entheogenic Studies,
15) Sports/Performance Studies,
16) Personal technologies/digital computing.
ENTER BRAIN ENGAGEMENT:
In short, Brain Engagement is a new term that captures the current evolved development of psychophysiological personal techniques and technology. The time and concepts are multifaceted and may include Brain Entrainment as a smaller subset of processes. The core principle of Brain Engagement weaves together Brain Neuroplasticity, Psychedelic Information Theory, Sensory Enrichment, Connectome Harmonics, Brain Entrainment, and Cybernetic/Information Theory. Without elaboration, all of the above 16 items have influential contributions to the dynamics of Brain Engagement. The approach recognizes that the brain can and will improve when allowed to engage in stimulation crafted in its communication dynamics – what the NeuroVizr™ calls, The First Language.
BRAIN AS A PATTERN-RECOGNITION PREDICTION PROCESSOR
As powerful as it is, our brain cannot process the full range of constant stimulation at a virginal level. It uses a highly efficient processing shortcut called “pattern recognition,” in which past experiences accumulate to form a “reference library” of meaningful information. When new information enters the brain, it is compared to past experiences. Suppose the information is a similar match to old referenced experiences. In that case, the conclusion is accepted as “close enough’. Focused attention is withdrawn. The reaction is reflexive. Essentially, our brain is always “jumping to conclusions.”
WHAT NEUROPLASTICITY IS TEACHING US
Medical science had it all wrong for a long time. And the mistake was huge. The story was that the adult brain could not improve after maturation, and the slide was all downhill. As the saying goes… “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” This is not true.
Three neuroplastic slogans give us tremendous insight:
1) Fire it to Wire it.
2) Use it or Lose it.
3) The Brain Changes What Matters.
Also, every brain neuroplastic technique (regardless of method) demands the incorporation of the following three elements for actual effect:
1) Sustained/focused attention (without tension);
2) Marginal demand (just a tiny level of challenge);
3) Open-minded willingness/belief.
Then, the “secret sauce” #4 element that exponentially increases the benefits of #1- #3
WHY BRAIN ENTRAINMENT ISN’T USED TO PROMOTE NEUROPLASTIC PROCESSES: hence the NeuroVizr™ slogan: Engage. Enrich. Enjoy.
You will note that in the above list (#1 – Sustained/focused attention (without tension) that all neuroplastic techniques require “focused attention.” The action is reflexive and is the opposite of “focused attention” Consequently, you will not find efforts to modify neuroplasticity in the brain that use conventional Brain Entrainment signaling. So, reflect upon the fundamental property of Brain Entrainment – the brain follows the stimulation frequency (hence the term…Frequency Following Response).
The neuroplastic slogan, “The Brain Changes What Matters,” offers additional insight into the issue. Passive reflexive repetitive stimulation triggers the “patternrecognition” response in the brain. As a “prediction processor,” the brain rapidly “jumps to the conclusion” of what stimulus is coming next and stops applying attention.
WHAT INFORMATION THEORY IS TEACHING US:
What is “information” as it applies to our brain and the NeuroVizr™? The remarkable Information/Systems Theory pioneer Gregory Bateson has synthesized this profoundly deep subject. He states:
1) Information is news of change.
2) Information is a difference that makes a difference.
It appears that “Change. Chance. Choice.” may also capture the essence of “information.”
If you make a Change, you will have a Chance to make a Choice.
This again circles back to why the design of conventional Brain Entrainment remains active only within narrow corridors of induced trance and is precluded from the dynamics of neuroplastic change. The very nature of the Frequency Following Response results in almost zero “information” because of its unchanging signaling and lack of “difference to make a difference.”
The brain relies on pattern recognition and prediction processing to free itself to investigate novel and potentially important experiences.
WHAT COMPLEX ADAPTIVE SYSTEMS (CAS) IS TEACHING US:
It is generally accepted in advanced neurological studies that our human brain functions as a Complex Adaptive System (as well as a Dissipative System). A CAS always seeks adaptive interactions to promote its stability better while maintaining responsive flexibility. The factor that we can apply to Brain Engagement is the continual CAS dance between Order and Chaos.
When met with a challenge requiring problem-solving changes, the CAS will abandon stable Order for unstable Chaos for short periods. To paraphrase pioneer Gestalt psychologist Fritz Perl – “Learning requires a passage through ‘creative frustration.’” A system cannot move directly from Old Order to New Order. It must move through a transitional period of diminished resistance (habit) and increased choice selection. This is a period of instability or Chaos. Chaos should not be equated with Randomness. Chaos has a purposeful “deterministic” driver that may not be easily identified. This “driver” acts as a “hidden determinant” that helps form the choices resulting in a New Higher Order (aka Learning).
Brain Engagement’s Light/Sound compositions are crafted with information signaling following Old Order/Deterministic Chaos/New Higher Order dynamics. These dynamics are critical to the native First Language grammar of the brain.
WHAT VR TECHNOLOGY IS TEACHING US:
Virtual Reality (VR) development required a demanding exploration of binocular optometrists applied to wearable headgear. The research concluded a set of highly reliable dimensional requirements for optimal binocular vision processing.
It is important to appreciate that each human eye is divided into two sections (medial/lateral) and that each eye conducts visual signaling to each brain hemisphere. Consequently, visual stimulation must address both eyes simultaneously for complete visual cortex processing, including depth of field and perspective. This dual processing is directly affecting the “hypercolumns” in the visual cortex responsible for the sense of depth perception. The NeuroVizr™ device, in its Brain Engagement processes, uses an LED template that performs with the exact same optometric requirements as found in VR. By comparison, “Mind Machine” devices that use modified “sunglasses/goggles” deliver one-eye-specific stimulation that bifurcates the light signals into separate messaging.
Another extremely important NeuroVizr™ Brain Engagement element is associated with optimizing optometric design parameters. The design permits three complementary layers of types of light stimulation:
1) MACRO – the patterns of the LEDs (both static or dynamic) in the field of (closed eyes) vision have a direct and potent effect on the Autonomic Nervous System;
2) MESO – the “pulsing” (not flickering) rates act upon the more visceral activities of the body and relate to various rhythms such as heart rate, breathing, peristalsis, etc. – these pulse rates also relate to large somatic movements associated with dance;
3) MICRO – the “flickering” rates of brain electrical firing associated with the Central Nervous System – these frequencies are arranged in progressions and stages as the “grammar” of the First Language and do not simply repeat endlessly in conventional Brain Entrainment.
These three approaches are integrated into one seamless flow of light stimulation, much as the many musical instruments in a symphonic orchestra are blended into one harmonious sound. Light stimulation devices mounted on stands at a distance from the user cannot apply and integrate these three factors because the signaling becomes much too diffuse over distance as the individual messages all blur into one generalized stimulation field. Hence, such devices rely only on MICRO signaling.
WHAT PSYCHEDELICS ARE TEACHING US:
In general, psychedelics “flatten the brain’s energy landscape, ” resulting in multiple waves of atypical neuronal connections. Every nerve cell has a “firing threshold,” When that threshold is crossed, the nerve fires – it is the “all or none” principle. The is ON or OFF – there is no “dimmer dial.” A psychedelic reduces the “firing threshold” of many cranial nerves and permits nerves that do not normally connect to do so continually for long periods.
Consequently, psychedelics are a profound agent of “Sensory Enrichment” and dramatically expand brain activity. Referring back to Information Theory (above), psychedelic stimulation provides “news of change” and presents “a difference that makes a difference.” It is a “mind expansion” opposite to the “mind narrowing” Frequency Following Response of Brain Entrainment. Consequently, the opportunity (not Certainty) of moving from the Old Order through temporary Chaos into a New Higher neuroplastic Order is presented.
Brain Engagement uses integrated Light and Sound compositions to bathe the brain in theme-specific Multi-Sensory Enrichment experiences. Considering that “psychedelic” means “mind manifesting” (from Greek), the Brain Engagement experiences of the NeuroVizr™ are not like a psychedelic – the NeuroVizr™ IS a psychedelic.
Another typical psychedelic action is the disruption of the brain’s Default Mode Network (DMN). Among other interesting functions, the DMN generates the feeling and sense of “ME.” The identification that a “me” has an experience of “that” comes from the DMN. A psychedelic destabilizes the DMN, meaning a user often feels the “ego me” melting away and having the experience of “being at one” with the experience.
The Brain Engagement techniques in the NeuroVizr™ are also capable of generating “tempered instability” in the DMN. This factor is used to develop mental movements in the Light/Sound experience that attractively invite the user into a more “ego-less” state and merge with the experience itself.
Lastly, psychedelic scientific research has noted that when “tripping,” brain frequencies’ alpha range is often suppressed in the occipital/visual cortex region. This suppression of alpha may be one reason the visual cortex is often unleashed and develops many famed hallucinations in the psychedelic experience. The alpha frequencies might be responsible for maintaining signal controls in the visual cortex and acting as one of A. Huxley’s “brain reducing valves.” Interestingly, in popular Brain Entrainment processes, alpha-range stimulation is considered the target for “calm and clear” meditation.