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alpha waves

Kevin Spencer kspencer at s.psych.uiuc.edu
Wed May 7 19:20:26 EST 1997

siffert at shell. (Curt Siffert) writes:

>    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 strongly doubt that it's related to your anxiety, since alpha is
related to "resting".  Also, this device is supposed to "induce" alpha
with the flashing lights, right?  And the lights are flashing somewhere
in the alpha frequency range.  So, they will elicit steady-state visual
evoked potentials with a dominant frequency at the same frequency as
the stimulation.  That is an "artificial" means of increasing alpha
activity, and is apparently not at all related to your attempts at

And as Stephen Black pointed out in his followup to your post, it's likely
that your device isn't a very reliable piece of equipment.

>    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.

I don't think your clinician knows what he/she is talking about.  Go find
a therapist who doesn't rely upon such quackery.

>    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.

No way, this type of crap has been out there for a long time.  My HO, of

Kevin Spencer
Cognitive Psychophysiology Laboratory and Beckman Institute
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
kspencer at s.psych.uiuc.edu

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