Archive for the ‘Paradigm’ Category

Another Inconvenient Truth

Tuesday, May 1st, 2007

Plant Truth ComicJonathan Chait, a senior editor at the New Republic, reports that when the National Journal asked Republican senators and members of the House last year “…whether it’s been proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the earth is warming because of man-made problems,” only some 23% said yes. Since that time there has been a further strengthening of the scientific evidence, and the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a study signed by 2000 scientists to the effect that the likelihood of man-induced global warming now lay at the 90% level. When a similar question was asked of the Congressmen this year, the percentage assenting had surprisingly dropped to only 13%.

This depressing development should be a cautionary tale for those who believe that the acceptance of neurofeedback is just going to be a matter of putting forward better and larger scientific studies. This might just possibly be true in an environment where entrenched interests are not involved. But when real economic interests or basic belief systems are threatened, the skills of scientists in making evidence disappear or look unconvincing are brought into play. Moreover, even if the scientists are of one mind, as they are on the matter of global warming, yet other interests can still manage to confuse the picture. (more…)

Folk Remedies and Folk Wisdom

Friday, September 29th, 2006

I just went for my vision exam, and since it had been three years the technology had advanced once again in the interim. The bright flash that used to be employed to take a picture of the retina is not as fierce as it once was, and they hand you the trigger so that you even know when it’s coming. Efficiently one wends one’s way from one instrument to another, and it’s all done within a half hour. It is recommended that everyone have his or her vision checked on some schedule.

It is odd that we won’t, as a society, do the same for the brains of our children. Some simple tests every year during the school career could expose certain problem areas that should be specifically addressed. We really know a lot more about help for brain function than is being applied, and it’s not just neurofeedback. But whenever this does start to happen, the testing should be applied universally, not just to the child that is identified as a problem. And the helpful techniques should be applied universally, just as we provide education universally, because every brain can benefit to some extent or another. (more…)

The Reality and the Promise

Thursday, September 21st, 2006

The entire research agenda for stem cells is at this moment still based on a promise and an expectation for a big payoff downstream, on some uncertain timescale. There is nothing wrong with that. No one is putting conceptual barriers in the way with the argument that there is insufficient experimental support to go forward. Even the recent major research scandal in South Korea did not nick the halo of stem cell research. This work quite simply has the benefit of belief on the part of the scientific community.

Consider now the comparable state of affairs in neurofeedback. Here we are variously told that the data are insufficient to support our claims. But implicitly we are also being told that neurofeedback is insufficiently promising to be worth pursuing in research. That is the real message. But to be interested in neurofeedback research going forward, you would not actually have to have any data at all. You would simply need an intriguing hypothesis, just as in the case of stem cells. All you would need is the hypothesis that brain function could actually be influenced by means of operant conditioning techniques, for which the implications are so huge that it mandates investigation. (more…)


Wednesday, June 28th, 2006

In reflection on last week’s recitation of considerable adaptive change in clinical neurofeedback strategies over a fairly short period of time [a score of years], one must also observe the countervailing tendency within our field to value consistency and steadfastness in clinical approaches and theoretical models. With respect to such standards, rapid change in one’s clinical approach seems almost reckless. Stasis in one’s position perhaps has even a certain amount of intrinsic merit. Evidence accumulates in the support of one proposition and eventually the proposition becomes a fact. But it may also be true that some of this sense of stasis is a problem of observation. Let me illustrate with an example.

As dusk descends on the freeways drivers gradually turn on their lights, and over a fairly short period of time (say, the length of an average LA commute) one witnesses the transition from nearly all lights being off to nearly all of them being on. Yet one almost never catches sight of a car with its lights just turning on. Similarly, minds may be changing without it being terribly apparent except in the eventual end result. Moreover, while cars don’t mind being seen turning on their lights, scientists may be less willing to let it be known that they have been compelled to change their views, or even worse, that their views may be in a state of flux. (We know how politicians are savaged for the sin of changing their minds!) So it is perhaps unsurprising that we should not actually be able to identify many instances where someone in our field has actually “changed his mind” on some salient issue or another and said so publicly. Mostly, “they” have all been right all along. (more…)

A Simple Proposition

Wednesday, June 7th, 2006

One issue in particular has been weighing on a number of people with regard to our work. It is the question of why a single protocol should be so effective for such a variety of conditions, and why a particular virtue seems to attach to the use of bipolar training, a tactic that has been abandoned by many in the field who have made the transition to QEEG-based training. This issue has come up again recently, so this is not a bad time to discuss it. A secondary issue is why inter-hemispheric training should hold such special virtues for us, but that issue can await its own individual treatment.

First of all, it needs to be recalled that all of the early work of Barry Sterman and Joel Lubar was done with bipolar placement, which is characterized by the fact that both active leads are placed on the scalp over cortex, as distinguished from referential placement in which one active lead is placed on a “quasi-neutral” site such as the ear. (more…)


Wednesday, May 10th, 2006

The Food and Drug Administration uses the term “misbranding” to finger any piece of medical equipment for which specific claims are being made that have not been validated in research. When we now survey the field of neurofeedback and consider the various “claims” that we believe to be reasonable to make for neurofeedback, it is seems much closer to the truth that it is the disorders that have been misbranded, not the neurofeedback claims.

Any condition for which neurofeedback is highly effective is probably not what practitioners say it is. We can start this argument with Attention Deficit Disorder. This “disorder” keeps metamorphosing from one description to another, yet whatever model is currently in vogue is represented as sacrosanct. Apparent throughout this evolution in thinking is that ADHD is not a unitary condition; it is not stable over time within a subject; it is situationally dependent; the boundary between the well and the impaired is not unambiguous; and it is not independent of other defined disorders. To give the impression that this disorder is something discrete on which various professionals actually agree is visiting a kind of fraud upon the public. (more…)


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