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Alpha waves

Stephen Black sblack at UBISHOPS.CA
Thu May 8 09:10:32 EST 1997


I've been continuing my discussion with Curt Siffert concerning his alpha
wave therapy, which he has told me is called EEG-Driven Stimulation (EDS; 
there's _always_ an acronymn). It was invented by Dr. Len Ochs at website
www.flexyx.com. Because I have way, way too much time on my hands, I
checked it out. It's quackery, all right. Just the run-of-the-mill
ordinary brand, tarted up with impressive-sounding babble and claims
designed to impress someone with limited training in science. 

It's not worth spending time going through it all but it has the essential
ingredients: grandiose and extensive claims which are unsupported coupled
with some vague pseudo-scientific babble about brain function which passes
for theory. For example, it claims to treat depression, autism and
Asperger's syndrome, tuberous sclerosis, head-injured patients, motor
paralysis, and "cognitive and emotional impairment after mechanical and
psychological trauma" (about covers it, doesn't it?). It also improves
speech, energy, stamina, sleeping, mood problems such as depression,
anger, irritability and impatience, and explosiveness, anxiety, cognitive
problems such as memory, attention, concentration, ability to find meaning
in conversation (gee, I have that problem) and through reading.
Regrettably, it doesn't do a thing for dandruff, but I understand they're
working on it. Dr. Ochs claims improvement in a mere 97% of his patients. 

The "discovery" is said to be an insight comparable to that which led to 
the splitting of the atom and to an understanding that the earth revolves 
around the sun. Modest fellow, Dr. Ochs. Here's the theory:

"He believes that when the brain is traumatized, either physically or 
psychologically, it secretes certain chemicals that help protect it from 
further injury...It is theorized that these chemicals...prevent normal 
functioning...impairments to function may be..related to the brain's own 
ineffective chemical protection". Of course, EDS handily reverses these 
effects and happily "rapidly return(s) functions that were thought to be 
permanently lost".

OK, would a bit of evidence be too much to ask? Certainly not. The web 
page provides a heading "Introduction to EDS: A comprehensive historical 
review and overview of the current research across the country."

When you click on it, you get three anecdotes about how it was amazingly
successful with three unfortunates, and two unpublished "studies" by Dr. 
Ochs without controls (who needs them, eh?), both of which are based on 
self-report data from the patients. However, the inevitable testimonials 
are there. They say "you have given me my [son, daughter, husband] back", 
and all those who encounter the therapy are "stunned" by its success. I 
imagine their pocketbooks or those of their insurers are equally stunned.

Fortunately for those who have the bad taste to inquire about
peer-reviewed studies, the website lists two. Both, it turns out are
actually conference presentations (and we know the careful scrutiny which
is carried out under those circumstances).  An explanation for those
unfamiliar with conference presentations: peer review for conferences is a
joke and not worthy of the name. One of these presentations is titled
"EEG-Driven Stimulation and Mild Head Injured Patients: Preliminary
Observations". The observations as reported in the abstract (all there is)
were "self-described" by the patients. The second abstract is more of the
same:  "Extended observations". Once again, it lists vague self-described
results such as that the patients had "more energy during the day, better
sleeping..." Not a control group in sight. The need for these was earlier
dismissed because "the body of traditional treatment serves as a control
for these observations in that it omits only the EEG-drive photic
stimulation". This sure makes research a lot easier.

I must emphasize that this web site lists not a single study of this
"therapy" in a reputable peer-reviewed journal. I wonder why. Of course,
"controlled studies are to be conducted over the next few years"  and I
guess we'll have to wait for them, secure in the knowledge that we already
know of its "stunning" success. 

The bottom line is that despite my attempt at humour, this attempt to prey
upon desperate people is not really funny. It's sad. 

-Stephen

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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"                
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