Updated: Apr 15, 2020
I recently came into temporary possession of a lot of original research notes on biofeedback and HEG. It's a beautiful thing to stare at handwritten pages written before the work was published. I got to see what made it and what didn't into what got the official pass for the patents and academic writing. What was immediately apparent was that Hershel Toomim and colleagues were, from the beginning, looking at correlations between severe, developed mental/cortical disorders and the underlying treatable facts of our physiology - in this case the relationship between blood flow, stress, and the most common and often most severe symptoms of the various mental illnesses.
What Hershel was finding, along with many of his colleagues (whom he cites profusely in his notes), was that the blood flow training not only improved the self regulation of the person, it increased vascularity in the whole system. That means there were more capillary channels available for the neurons after the training sessions, according to this work. So not only did the user learn something - they gained something very real. Your neurons must "fire to wire." Every time they fire and certain pathways are selected, those pathways are reinforced. What does that mean physically? It means more synapses grow at certain junctions. But every synapse comes with an astrocyte connection to provide nutrition to the neurons so they must also grow, and every astrocyte has one or several capillaries nearby to draw on for that nutrition - so those grow too. We also find that this blood delivery action immediately precedes the neural firing because neurons don't have energy storage, to the point you can find some harmonic brain waves in your cerebral fluid e.g. during sleep. What does that mean in practice? Everything you do or think does something to build and reinforce a physical system in your head, including its ability to survive, everything.
Sleep waves in cerebrospinal fluid. From a study by Laura Lewis - Boston University
The vascular system contains a lot of smooth muscle, down to the capillary scales. Your brain works with and manipulates these smooth muscles in order to deliver fresh nutrition to priority areas as well as cycle out the waste. Stress can prevent up to 90% of the blood from reaching your frontal lobe when needed, according to some of the therapists I've spoken with. That lack of firing or misfiring then inhibits development and leads to all kinds of abnormal behaviors, and consistent stress can throw this physical system off permanently by conditioning it to the point some brain or body systems can just stop working or won't even develop at all. Substances like alcohol also cause huge problems as it penetrates the brain-blood barrier and is literally corrosive to these sensitive connections.
What's my point? Here with something like HEG, we have something that is supposedly giving us hints into how this system facilitates our waking experience - in a way that the user has quite a bit of voluntary control over. It follows very elegant principles from pulse oximetry to provide you with the bare minimal amount of information you need to gain that control and get a vague image of what - from our perspective - improves or hinders the brain's living infrastructure through simple breathing and concentration/relaxation exercises.
Now imagine everything I told you was bullshit, or a very loose spin on otherwise useful information that is meant to gin up interest in what I personally have to sell here. Imagine I had such a good hold on this language that I could simply be taking you for a ride to get your card swiped. For me as a practitioner and someone supposedly occupying a position of knowledge, I hold that power in an absolute way the moment you give it to me. If you decide to believe me, you are letting me build your world for you, including the creation of objects like the HEG within your world as well as the association of it as something for your health - which is a huge market. I hold that power as the person teaching you about it and actualizing it in your reality. This probably isn't where you thought I was going with this, but this brings us back to the title of this blog.
Once upon a time I met a (supposed) PhD psychologist who used exclusively acupuncture and hypnosis. I was totally confused, why was this person who's been through the academic circuit and has access to an amazing amount of resources because of it choose to use wholly temporary relief practices and parlor tricks that really mostly measure your suggestibility? Her answer was "it seems to work." However, she selected who she worked with based off of that suggestibility and didn't see the value in double-blind studies (with a PhD!). The argument with that was that there are certain things "in the moment" and "in conversation" that cannot be measured but are just as vital to the process of healing and integration, but only for the people "who are ready." I mean, the cultishness of that statement aside, I get it to some extent.
I've had many incredible conversations that took me places in inexplicable ways and helped me profoundly in the long run without worrying about how objective my experience of that conversation was. I know how if I'm not willing to listen or don't like the language being spoken, that the message won't be received. I know there are a million ways to deliver what otherwise might be a similar message, and that we all have our independent languages for accomplishing this. BUT. Big but. Is it the best way to deliver that message and engage people on a deeper level? Is it being done in good faith by the practitioner? How much time is it taking? How much money? How much energy? Why a 10 or 20 year plan when there could be a 6 month or even 10 minute solution with a better outcome, leaving you with more freedom and choice? Do you see what I'm saying? We're comparing leeches to antibiotics here, but in terms of psychology.
I've been saying lately that for a project like mine to be considered successful in my world - the core health ideas I am trying to present here, with a 2020 level of what should be common brain knowledge, need to be like brushing your teeth. It's simple - breathe deeply, and with purpose, and take care of your damn self and your family (including your global family you got stuck on this rock with). But what the hell does that matter to you? I know what that means to me, because those are a few resonant words I've hit on for a lot of the information I just presented to you. However, I don't want to commit the sin of making the thing that resonates with you something inherently false or infected with some distorted power relationship between me and you that causes me to be able to extract money (and your soul, mwahaha) from you. I don't want to cause you to repeat something stupid, and start a whole other chain of quantum woo woo personality cult confirmation bias bullshit, ending in a pyramid scheme and price-gouged snake oil. I don't want to present a lot of words and academic language just to placate you into accepting what I have to say here.
In the mushroom business, it's the same struggle. We know mushrooms are powerful, we know they're nutritious, we know they're under-represented, we know there's profound mystery still. However, when a cancer patient approaches me and gets starry-eyed when I show them a bag of turkey tail mushrooms, I don't say it's going to help or give my mind the chance to assume it would. I say "I don't know, you should just take it for free and find out." I resist money, it makes me sick to handle it, I don't like the idea that I took your time and life force in the form of your money, when you might have very little of it and you're vulnerable. I even try to avoid a sense of pleasure after someone gives me a good review, I instead try to ask how and why.
I, personally, want to find the best methods to resolve the worst health issues that affect myself and my loved ones directly and indirectly. My family's story is one sullied by addiction, by trauma, by disconnect and alienation - some personal and some witnessed, and I don't think that's just or something future generations should have to deal with to nearly the same degree. I don't want to pretend to help just to get points toward a supposed afterlife, I don't want to write a bullshit self-help book and get on TV, I don't want to sell you anything really, what I'm doing should have been done 10 years ago. No I want a world I can enjoy more. I want more diverse art. I want communities I can feel safe and welcome and inspired in. I want to see light behind the eyes of the majority of the people I see in passing. I want us all to have a fucking point in being here and suffering so much, so often. I don't want to ever give up my principles just to feel false security and to "feel good," that's worse than death in my opinion because it will only lead to more degeneracy and more suffering through inaction and taking more than I'm giving.
A very valuable book.
Things that work and things that work for everybody are entirely different to create, the history of medicine and technology and I'd say even economics and civil rights are proof of this. Any time anybody places their faith in something that is going to remove them from, let's call it consensus reality (oh I know some of you think that's a dirty phrase), they open up their vulnerabilities to possibly some of the worst actors in society - the sociopaths, the narcissists, and the quacks. The reason to build a very strong peer-supported foundation on very strong scientific ethics and education is to ensure this very rarely occurs and that the majority of outcomes are good and always improving. Yes there can be valid reasons to avoid "the system" of public health care (especially America's ultra overpriced, often overly invasive one) but we should always be trying to reshape it with better values in that case since it's just a machine we all mutually agree to support through tax dollars and committees we generally can vote on if we organize well enough. In America this comes with resisting the tides of fundamentalist religion, pseudoscientific hucksters, conspiracy theorists, I'd say even the entire corporate media apparatus (just think of what propaganda and mass marketing might be doing to your brain's physical filters as you watch it and let it into your world).
Side note: watch Century of the Self by Adam Curtis.
I know some of what I say is going to be polarizing, but I simply want to say I feel like I have my own and hopefully your own best and most broad-based interests in mind in my approach to this whole project. I'm a NASA fanboy at my core, I'd be there right now if not for my current path in life, and I aim to replicate that amazing energy and leadership in my own way and bring you something I can be satisfied with from the perspective of a hard-nosed engineer with impossibly high standards.
Here's some more valuable insight on leadership and systems:
The open source, the community-first message, driving down price, everything I'm doing is meant to enable a much more democratic and up-to-date educational process in brain health and in a way that nobody will be able to hinder once it gains the momentum it needs. I've published everything that I can in the public domain, and I don't care if I even get remembered if I do end up having a long term impact in this field. If I can wake up 10 or 20 years from now more settled on the idea that things are on a good trajectory in the human world and that our collective heart and soul is healthy and flourishing, then I'll have done my job.