Archive for October, 2011

This post is not a criticism of Scientific American Mind magazine, which I read regularly and enjoy very much.

In one recent issue, there were articles about all sorts of exciting new developments in research in the field of memory, mental functioning etc. and I started to notice a pattern, after about the third or fourth such article, to the way the information was being reported.

Typically, the report would start out by explaining how some research team in some part of the world had made an exciting breakthrough discovery about the way the brain works, and there would be a brief discussion about how the team had made the discovery and what work was ongoing. It became clear, at the end of each article, that the clinician, and not the self-developer, was the target audience for these articles. I’ll quote an example:

Emerging research suggests that compounds in blueberries known as flavonoids may improve memory, learning and general cognitive function, including reasoning skills, decision making, verbal comprehension and numerical ability. In addition, studies comparing dietary habits with cognitive function in adults hint that consuming flavonoids may help slow the decline in mental facility that is often seen with aging and might even provide protection against disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

Or what about this one, concluding an article about “dumb” genes:

Despite their suspicions that the consequences of disabling this gene will materialize eventually, both Silva and Dudek see theraputic potential: the RGS14 gene and protein are now promising future targets of treatments for learning and memory disabilities.

And so on.

Now, I don’t think anyone would believe for an instant that I believe people who are experiencing difficulties with some area or another of their cognitive functioning shouldn’t receive appropriate intervention. But I certainly feel that I am very entitled to ask why average and above-average people are not at least regarded as equally deserving of a chance to try any new brain-enhancing discoveries on themselves.

I had the chance to speak to some neurofeedback professionals, a leader in the neurotech field, and a professor of psychology at a recent workshop, and they all seemed to be of the opinion that my interest in this field was a minority one. To put it very crudely there are two main camps. There are the academic research bods, who are basically interested in rats and stats. Then there are the clinicians, who are interested in restoring roadworthiness when the wheels come off. But where are the people who share my particular interest?

“So, where are the hot-rod builders?” I asked. “Where are the people who want to take a Formula One brain and fine-tune the hell out of it?”

There are people out there who don’t have degrees etc. but are handy with electronics and technical stuff, like Dave Siever. There are people who have built up whole on-line businesses selling BWE products. But sooner or later, if they are to achieve any credibility, they have to align themselves with either the academic or clinical camp.

And of course, there are a lot of quacks out there, selling a lot of quack products, a fact which does none of us any favours. One particular piece of quackery around the turn of the last century probably created enough fallout to stall scientific discovery and product development in the field of applied electricity as a brain enhancer about 100 years.

So let’s say someone discovers something that has been proven in trials to significantly improve memory functioning. Why are the sick and the senile given first dibs at using the technology, process or supplement that caused it, instead it being immediately available for already capable people who are into self-development?

Hidden under the thin veneer of an argument about “most need”, there is an agenda: Capable people are a threat. And if some rising star entrepreneur, or a member of one of the selective societies of which I am a member, were to develop some part of his/her cognitive functioning by (let’s say) an extra 10%through the application of science, I can imagine an awful lot of the High Priests on this planet being afraid. Very afraid.

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I had the very good fortune a few days ago to meet Dave Siever of MindAlive in Canada, and to attend one of his workshops.

The workshop was entitled Introduction to Audio-Visual Entrainment: Arousal, AVE Technology and Cranio-Electro Stimulation (CES) and Transcranial DC Stimulation (tDCS). Sounds scary? Not really. This technology has been thoroughly tested in research trials and I believe is the most exciting developing field in the area of neuroscience.

You can see the outline of the course here.

I have been using light and sound entrainment, as well as CES equipment, on and off for some time now, and it is wonderfully relaxing. In fact, I haven’t explored a fraction of what these gadgets can actually do yet, and when I do, I will probably write up my findings here or on my main site. As a person who is very excited about the field of cognitive enhancement,  I find the work that Dave and others have been doing particularly fascinating.

tDCS (transcranial direct current stimulation) units are not normally sold to the public, but are supplied to clinical professionals. I, however, have managed to order one. The manufacturer is satisfied I know what I am doing.

I found the information about quantitative EEG from the workshop filled in a few gaps in my knowledge of neurophysiology, and it is very possible I may be attending further workshops in the future on neurofeedback. Watch this space for further reports and articles.

I have been reading (well, actually re-reading) Dave’s book “The Rediscovery of Audio-Visual Entrainment”, which you can order as a hard copy from MindAlive Inc. but I found that you can actually download certain key chapters from their site.

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Dear Miss Knox,

Let me start by saying I am not going to even begin to speculate on whether you are guilty or innocent. I was not present at the scene of the crime, and I was not there in court when the evidence was heard.

The topics I would like to raise are: money, and being in the public eye.

Media speculation has it that you are about to return to your home country where there is more than likely going to be a multi-million dollar fortune thrown at you – publishing deals, interview rights, film rights, the works.

What are you going to do with that money? Will you forward it to something that will help forward the advancement of the human race, like educational research or neuroscience?

Probably not. Like most average members of the human species, you will spend it on the same old Planet Earth humanoid dramatizations – houses, cars, champagne, trips around the world, all manner of consumer gadgets, parties, the list goes on.

You might be about to become too rich to care about what I am about to say, and it would probably (very sadly) go over your head anyway, BUT…there are those of us who are willing to roll up our shirt sleeves and DO worthwhile things in the world. Are you?

I, for instance, would be over the moon if I could open my own college with research facility, to investigate into ways of revolutionizing education, enhancing personal ability, and using science to improve the way our brains work. Even yours.

The only things that are stopping me from getting even a small-scale project going are lack of finance, and lack of a public platform to promote the findings. You have both a fortune coming your way, and you have the eyes of the world upon you.

Now you have to consider what you are going to use them for.

Yours truly,

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