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alpha waves

Curt Siffert siffert at shell.
Wed May 7 05:43:15 EST 1997

Thanks for the tips and I'll do the research.  This isn't a flame:

sblack at UBISHOPS.CA (Stephen Black) sayeth:
>On 6 May 1997, Curt Siffert wrote:
>> Can anyone tell me why alpha waves are considered a good thing?  I'm 
>> trying to do some serious research on alpha waves (as well as delta,
>> theta, beta, sre, and high beta), and everything that turns up on the
>> web just keeps on talking about "peak performance" and how you can never
>> have enough alpha.  It's annoying.  I am in an extremely high alpha 
>> state all the time and it makes it very hard to concentrate and focus,
>Well, I'm probably wasting my time speaking to the converted on this
>one, but the alpha wave stuff is a crock. Barry Beyerstein (references
>below) says "Alpha brain-waves are marketed as a way to produce
>relaxation, healing and meditative or occult states. In fact, they are
>related to activity in the visual system and have no proven curative or
>paranormal powers" (Beyerstein, 1985). 

    Ok, sure, but how can I explain the readings that I get, where 
    I have (at least, this is what I think it is, I'm not trained)
    extremely high-amplitude alpha waves even when my eyes are closed
    and I'm trying to relax?  Is this just because of anxiety and 
    because of the lights flashing through my eyelids (from the eeg
    neurofeedback device)?  And why is it that it's triggered more 
    easily when the electrodes are placed at certain places on my
    head, while when they are placed at other points the lights put
    me in a deep relaxation?

    I'm not approaching this wondering if alpha has some kind of 
    paranormal benefit, I just want to know what they mean.  The
    point is that the machine tracks my "dominant frequency" and 
    I never seem to get beyond alpha.  The clinician tells me that
    it's playing a major part in why I can't focus at work, why I 
    have problems with lapses in attention spans and times where I 
    "check out" and go vacant, and why I have major mental blocks
    when trying to be creative.

>The National Academy of Science (USA) also convened a high-powered panel
>to look at this and other similarly flakey claims (Druckman & Swets,
>1988). I seem to recall that they disposed of the alpha-wave craze as
>well. Worth a look. 

    You don't have a listed source that is more recent than 1990.
    That's kind of a long time ago for this field, isn't it?  This
    particular technology has only been invented in the past five
    years, I thought.
    I would love to hear more response.  I'm in this treatment just
    to try anything that might work, but I am a skeptic myself.  I 
    want to explore all sides in the research I'm doing so I can feel
    like I have a very informed opinion.  I hate believing in something
    without being able to give a rational explanation as to why.

>Druckman,D. & Swets, J. (1988). Enhancing Human Performance. National
>  Academy Press, Washington.
>Beyerstein, B. (1985). The myth of alpha consciousness. The Skeptical
>  Inquirer, 10, 42--
>Beyerstein, B. (1990). Brainscams: neuromythologies of the New Age.
>   International Journal of Mental Health, 19, 27-36.
>Stephen Black, Ph.D.                      tel: (819) 822-9600 ext 2470
>Department of Psychology                  fax: (819) 822-9661
>Bishop's University                    e-mail: sblack at ubishops.ca
>Lennoxville, Quebec               
>J1M 1Z7                    Bishop's Department of Psychology web page at:
>Canada                        http://www.ubishops.ca/ccc/div/soc/psy
>                        "I'm a scientist. Certainty is a big word for me."
>                                 -from the movie "Volcano"                

Curt Siffert
siffert at tangrams dot com
Magic is to science as metaphors are to literals.

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