Archive for the ‘Professional Issues’ Category

Sense and Nonsense on Autism: Beyond Genetics

Wednesday, August 1st, 2007

Sense and Nonsense about Autism: Beyond Genetics
beach “Autism is currently, in our view, the most important and the fastest-evolving disorder in all of medical science and promises to remain so for the foreseeable future.” —-Dr. Jeffrey A. Lieberman, chairman of the department of psychiatry at Columbia University’s school of medicine.

A few months back David Kirby (author of the book “Evidence of Harm”) interviewed Katy Wright about her autistic child Christian, and more specifically the recovery that he was beginning to make with biomedical treatments that have been developed over the years by the MDs and Ph.D.s involved with the organization Defeat Autism Now (DAN). (

Katy makes no bones about what she believes happened to her son: “I believe that Christian’s regression and subsequent autism was the result of receiving six vaccines during one office visit at two months of age,” she wrote. “He screamed for twelve hours and had a 104 degree fever nearly the entire time. His vaccines contained thimerosal,” the mercury-based preservative. “It is devastating,” she added, “because so much of this is preventable.” (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…)

The Case for Decency

Thursday, July 6th, 2006

An article in the current issue of “The New York Review of Books” by John Gray carries the above title as it surveys the intellectual legacy left by Isaiah Berlin, who died in 1997. Berlin was shaped by the major totalitarianisms of the twentieth century, and he was also shaped by a Russian liberalism that was skeptical of any monolithic system of values or claims of universal truth. Perhaps it takes an outsider to see so clearly how deeply imbedded in Western thought is the ideal of an ultimate harmony of a core set of values, rationally arrived at, to guide human affairs. The existence of such an ideal is almost a given, an assumption needing no further defense or verification. Our society’s contentious values debates are but imperfections and diversions on the pathway toward greater ultimate harmony.

The origins of this notion go back to the Enlightenment and the power of rationality that was its guiding light. It was believed that a society could be achieved in which all of the truly important values could be realized. For a rationally based set of values that had to be the case, in that a rational universe must be a harmonious whole. This utopian ideal of social harmony also drew its support from theology, in that God cannot embody internal contradictions. Both sides in the US civil war may have prayed fervently to the same God, but God himself cannot have been of two minds. (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…)

Hysteria and Hysteresis

Wednesday, January 25th, 2006

There is a Buddhist saying, “you can never step into the same river twice.” And it may similarly be true that we never train the same brain twice. One of abiding mysteries about our way of training is that the advantages of optimizing reward frequency can be so obvious to us and yet remain so obscure to others. Many stay with the standard frequencies and their clients appear to do fine. Indeed we used and taught those techniques for many years; we saw nothing wrong with them then; and we got good results overall with the people who stayed with the program.

An answer may lie in a fairly common experience that we encounter in training, to which attention should finally be drawn. When we walk down the reward frequency in the hunt for the optimum, we will often end up toggling back and forth when we near the endpoint in order to verify our observations. In taking the reward frequency back up the person will often respond very differently than what they reported on the way down. This is not an isolated finding. It is more typical than not. We know this phenomenon from the field of magnetism, where it is referred to as hysteresis. The current state of the magnetization of the lump of material is given not only by the current magnetic field in which it is embedded, but also by the prior exposure history. The magnetic material remembers its past history. Matters may be similar with the brain. It responds not only to what we are reinforcing in the moment, but to a certain extent it is affected by its cumulative training history. That is also where the analogy ends. One response to this phenomenon is for us to consider the neurofeedback training as more of a journey, with each step to a certain extent another venture into the unknown rather than being merely a repetition. (more…)

Service Delivery Models

Wednesday, January 18th, 2006

There has been a lot of discussion round and about with regard to professional ethics in the last few months, mostly as a reference standard for judging who may rightly deliver neurofeedback services. Essentially all of the relevant ethical criteria refer to the relationship of the clinician and the client. The only social dimension in these ethical constraints relates to those situations where that cocoon of mutuality can be broken and the professional may be mandated to report someone who may do injury to another, who may be responsible for ongoing child abuse. The other social dimension relates to the obligations the professional may have vis-à-vis other professionals.

This is somewhat similar to what we have in law, where the attorney-client relationship is privileged in such a manner so as to protect the client. The attorney is, however, also an officer of the court and as such bears responsibility for the integrity of the legal process. So most of the obligations prescribe the relationship to the client, but there is also the social dimension.

Consider, by contrast, the implicit obligations of the soldier in Iraq. Here there are very few individual rights whatsoever. The officer in charge can order to soldier to do virtually anything–even at the risk of his life–that it is somehow connected to the enterprise of war. The soldier’s obligations are entirely in the social realm. He is laboring on behalf of the society at large under circumstances in which his individual rights almost disappear. He has no personal interest in being in the war theater. (more…)


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