A brain map is essentially a summary report of a brain assessment. The brain, like the heart, produces electrical activity. It is possible to read the electrical activity and chart the results. To do a brain assessment I use an electrocap as pictured below. The cap is looks like a swim cap with holes on the outside and wires on the inside. It is placed on the client's head. The holes in the cap are then filled up with electogel which is a water based electrical conductant gel. The gel is also placed on the ear clips which are clipped on to both ears. The cap is attached to an amplifier which is attached to my computer. The computer program I use, reads and records the electrical activity at all 20 channels located on the electrocap. The client is asked to close their eyes for one minute, open their eyes for one minute and do a task like reading or counting for 1 minute. We do this sequence 5 times. The client tries to remain relaxed and still and tries to avoid a lot of eye blink. The total assessment takes around 20-30 minutes. No electricity ever passes to the client-the computer simply reads the electricity that is being produced.
Once the assessment is complete, the cap can come off. The computer program then generates, in about 2-3 minutes, a 12 page excel document of the client's brain. The program compares the client's brain wave patterns to healthy brain activity and determines whether and where there may be areas of imbalance. There is an analyze page, a maps page (as pictured above and below), a symmetry and synchrony page, several graphs of activity, and a written summary page describing the brain wave patterns of the client and identifying possible behaviours that client may be experiencing. As well, a training plan is produced which can help a trainer determine what part of the brain to train, what protocol or program to use, how long to do the protocol for and whether it should be done eyes open or eyes closed. Every behaviour has a particular brain wave pattern. If we can identify the pattern, we can train the brain to be healthier and more balanced and the behaviours will improve.
Most people that come to see me have a particular issue they are hoping to make better. I see people with anxiety, depression, ADHD, PTSD, OCD, addictions, sleep disorders and more. Many feel a sense of relief when they see that their assessment identifies the very behaviours they have been struggling with. They feel affirmed in their beliefs that something was wrong and now feel that they are not 'crazy', they are not making up the symptoms and they aren't 'complainers'.
But not everyone who comes to me has a behaviour or symptom they want to go away. Some people come to improve their performance. Athletes, business men and women and performers may come to train their brain so that it is working as efficiently as possible and they can be the best that they can be in their particular domain.
Stay tuned next week for my blog "What is Neurofeedback" where I explain that the brain is changeable and describe how to change or train the brain into healthier patterns. Feel free to comment or ask questions below!
Recently my brother and I had a conversation about anxiety. He works in the education system and is increasingly working with students who are dealing with debilitating anxiety. As the holidays approach, even though it is a merry, joyful, gift-giving, family time, it can also be a very difficult time for many people, increasing stress and feelings of anxiousness. I was lying in bed thinking about this the other night. I was remembering growing up in the prairies with the wonderful/terrible snow storms and the wind whistling and the snow blowing. Our house was a 130 year old heritage house and I remember half way up our winding staircase was a tall window where you could look out on all the snow. Often, the window would be thick with frost-that frost that was so beautiful and intricate and unique-forming these 'Jack Frost' patterns that swirled and imprinted in the frost. I remember stopping in my flannel night gown, admiring the beauty of it and then, because I couldn't see out, I would take a deep breath and slowly blow my hot breath onto the frost and melt a circle I could see out of. I did it again several times til I had a lovely melted circle. I did not know it at that time, but exactly what I was doing then, is what I teach those with anxiety now. I think this came to my mind because I was trying to explain to my brother what mindfulness is. It seems to be the buzz word these days, but it seems so mysterious and perhaps only for those who are serious meditators or into yoga. The truth of it is...mindfulness is exactly the simpleness of blowing breath onto a frosted window. And as we take those deep, slow, even breaths for a few moments and listen to and feel our breath, and let other thoughts fall away for a moment or two, you will discover, as I did at that frosty window, that a patch has opened up and you can see a little better.