Friday, September 30, 2011

Brain Tuning and a bunch of other stuff you didn't know about Kidder Kaper

After suffering from writers block for nearly two weeks with deadlines lurking in the shadows I fell back on all the old tricks I’ve used in the past to knock down this wall that tied my fingers in knots whenever I attempted to key a meaningful paragraph. I eliminated distractions, including my Facebook account which is still currently offline. I wrote about having writers block (as we speak) and I meditated, visualizing the concepts I wished to translate into words. With little resulting script for my efforts, I opened the old wooden box that I keep in my closet on the same shelf that stores my Browning left-handed pump shotgun. 
Inside this box are a few interesting trinkets that have rarely been seen since my college days. After shuffling through a few old floppy diskettes with contents that I doubt I’ll ever go to the trouble to rediscover, I found a few tools that I used to expand my mind during one particularly challenging semester toward the end of my sophomore year. 
After nearly two years of taking as many lab sciences and psycho-sexual classes as my advisors would allow an undergrad, I decided to change my direction completely and declared business as my new major. Unfortunately, to secure my acceptance into the Carlson School of Management by the end of my junior year, I needed to burn the midnight oil and stack my workload with an enormous amount of prerequisites in a very short amount of time. 
So I signed up for Macroeconomics, Mircoeconomics, Industrial Decision Making Sciences, Business Calculus, and Accounting. Normally it is frowned upon to take so many math-related classes at the same time or and it is never acceptable to take both Economics classes at the same time. A little trick I learned about large universities like the one I attended is that advisors only stamp the first page of a class roster. There is literally NOTHING stopping a student from attaching as many additional class codes to the pages behind it and handing that over to one of the many data entry drones that mindlessly coded your information into the Gopher Usenet Terminal. 
I knew that I was going to need to plan the next three months around packing my brain with an excessive amount of information and understanding it very well. I’d made the dean’s list every quarter and I knew I’d never get accepted to the next level if didn’t keep my B+ average. So I prepped for the quarter by learning about learning. I researched everything I could find about the fastest and most effective ways to process information. 
I learned about Theta Meditation which allows the mind to enter a trancelike state that gives the conscious mind a break while allowing your memory to organize and store all that you’ve just read. The idea is to take some control over your brain waves and achieve a theta rhythm, a state of consciousness that feels a bit like daydreaming. Because I am a rather impatient person and because I’m not all spiritual and most of the information written about meditation are from a spirituality basis, I had to find another way to gain this form of control. I decided to cheat with technology.

Bring on the Brain Machine
Lucky for me there was a commercially available product known as a brainwave synchronization device.  It was essentially a little electronic gadget, about the size of a  Walkman, and it produced binaural beats that played through headphones and flashing lights that you wore over your eyes. With your eyes closed light is quite spectacular through your eyelids. The idea is that you could tell the machine what brainwave state you wish to be in and it would play the appropriate rhythm and flashing lights and your brain would become synchronized with that rhythm. So after reading a book or returning from a seminar, I simply turn the machine on and set it for theta mode. Within minutes, The binaural rhythm in my ears, and the pulsating lights on my eyelids ramped me down to a deep theta hypnotic state. 
I had also programed the device to wake me back up, by synchronizing my brain waves to a predominance of beta waves, restoring me to a fully awake and refreshed state of mind. The result gave me what a 15 minute nap, consisting of some alpha activity but largely dominated by a theta signature. The greatest bonus was that the device kept me from falling into a deeper sleep cycle, delta, which is not helpful when time is of the essence and mental acuity is the primary goal. Allowing yourself to drift off into deeper sleep states without the appropriate time to dedicate to a deep restful sleep does more harm than good, especially when your next class is in a few minutes.
These devices are commercially available and can be purchased with significantly more features and options than back when I was a measly college kid. A decent device is going to run you anywhere from $250-$270. The somewhat nicer devices include what is known as CES, or cranial-electro stimulation. Along with the headphones and the goggles, CES  devices also include the electrodes that provide a mild electric pulse that supposedly increases the device’s ability to synchronize brain waves to the desired state of consciousness. To move up to one of these models expect to shell out between $500 and $600 and know that because I have not yet tried them myself I cannot give them the Kidder stamp of approval.
Frankly, by now I had expected that these devices to be significantly less expensive and be operated from your home computer or even your iPhone. The technologies that drive sees machines is not significant and I assure you that the microprocessors inside are nothing compared to what is already in my iPhone. Someone really needs to get out there and make an application that can drive a light and sound processor to do all this stuff for you directly from your mobile device. I had also expected a significant increase in the capability of these machines. The one problem that some people run into using these is that they don’t understand where your brain waves are, they only run a predetermined program. So if something interrupts you or distracts you in the process it may be attempting to sink you to something that your brain is not responding to and with this simple list of biofeedback devices it would be very easy to monitor brainwave activity so that the computer could make decisions as to how to best synchronize your specific brain activity. With just a few minutes of online research I have discovered that there are units that have been designed to do specifically this, but they are  very expensive and most require an operator to control the device.

I have owned several models though the one that is simplest use and currently commercially available at a reasonable price is the Proteus Light and Sound Machine by Mindplace. For $169 at Amazon you too can discover the amazing world of mind expansion through Psycho-Walkman, and if you buy this model, allow me to suggest placing it in Energized Mode and engage in a little self pleasure. Wow!
Word of caution! Due to the blinking lights people with epilepsy or any form of seizure disorder should not even attempt to be in the same room as one of these while they’re in use.
 Bring on the Smart Drugs:
  I had already been prescribed dextroamphetamine to treat my struggle with concentration deficit and by this time I’d had a few years of experience with the drug to maximize its use specifically for paying attention in class and maintaining attention while reading.  Dexedrine, as it is most  commonly known, is a pharmaceutical grade, time released  amphetamine. It was greatly abused in the 50s, 60s, and 70s, and prescribed for everything from narcolepsy to an extremely potent diet drug. In normal brain chemistry it causes most people to talk very quickly, ceaselessly, and about nothing of any consequence whatsoever. Users often think they’re writing incredibly intelligent and well thought papers, but in the morning often find that they have no idea what the hell they were talking about while they were writing.
In contrast, someone suffering from a attention deficit disorder will achieve a laser-guided ability to concentrate and be interested in nearly any topic presented to them. On Dexedrine, everything is interesting, and for me, it gave the ability to finally understand what all the other kids were getting from class time while my imagination was off solving the world’s problems that had little to do with the course work at hand. Also, it seems as though people with attention deficit disorder are strangely unaffected by the addictive properties that are commonly associated to such a powerful amphetamine. The only withdrawal symptom I’ve ever noticed is that reading and paying attention require significantly more energy and effort when I stopped using the drug, much like what it felt like before I began taking it in the first place.
The strange thing about ADD, is that it is not something that you can will yourself to not have. No matter how hard I tried to force myself to pay attention in class I was completely unaware of my mind wondering, oftentimes only awaking to the voice of an angry teacher telling me once again that I was not paying attention. I find myself wondering what my true potential could have been if I had been diagnosed and treated well before my 1st grade teacher could have destroyed my confidence in my ability to learn.  Unfortunately I would not realize that was a smart kid trapped inside the brain of a dumb kid until my junior year of high school, and at that point education had become a race, and my desire to make up for lost time was overwhelming. By the time I was in college this race had become a marathon, and this semester was to be my decathlon and the ultimate test of my mental agility. 
Above and beyond treating my ADD, I had also grown very interested in a new class of non-approved pharmaceuticals called “smart drugs.” What I mean by “non-approved” is that even though the FDA had determined that these drugs were safe, they had not yet determined whether or not these drugs were actually effective for the purpose in which they were created. This means that while they are not available for sale with in the US it is legal to acquire them from foreign countries in small quantities.
One particular category of smart drugs caught my attention due to the significance of the published studies and the extremely low occurrence of side effects or toxicity. Known as Piracetam and sold under many brand names, this nootropic drug was showing significant results in him proved brain function, chemistry and even the speed of neuron transmission and the health of of myelin sheathing. Even though many of you reading this, especially those who work in traditional medicine and pharmacology have just become convinced that Kidder has gone over to the side of, “woo-woo,”  the true science of this drug is very difficult to dispute.
Carrying out the experiment with myself, I acquired the largest legal quantity possible from a lab in the United Kingdom, and initiated a ritual of 400mg 3 times per day. The 1st effect that I recall experiencing was a strange intuitiveness that had not existed prior. I began noticing connections between topics that previously seemed unrelated. According to what I have learned about mental processing, this may be largely to do with the fact that Piracetam is known to increase neuronal activity and communication via the corpus callosum (the bridge between the left and right hemisphere of the brain). Sometimes it actually felt as though I would see a problem on paper and I could feel a conversation happening between the 2 very different ways that the left and the right side of my brain processed information.
My memory did improve and the speed at which I was capable of interpreting and understanding information did maximize. My dreams also became extremely logical and problems that often plague me in dream state had become manageable. It was as if the benefits of each part of my mind were finally able to work in conjunction with each other without fighting for preference. Unless you fully understand brain function I doubt you’ll be able to understand exactly what it is I’m talking about. If you’re truly interested I highly suggest that you read some of the studies that have been done on patients with corpus callostomy who have physically split brains. These experiments will truly freak you out when you realize how differently the 2 halves of your brain understand the world. They truly are to different consciousnesses and they only speak over the narrowest neural network and only when they must.
Change in Lifestyle:
The most challenging part of this workload was time management. I was averaging 10 hours a day in lecture and labs and when combined with enormous requirement of time spent studying, this dramatically changed my social life, as well as my sleep schedule. To keep my mind from turning into tapioca within the 1st month I was sure to schedule a reasonable amount of time socializing with other human beings. Whether or not I had time, I always forced myself to eat dinner in the dining hall with my friends. I secured a close friendship with everyone who worked in the dining hall so that I was able to forgo lines and reduce all unnecessary minutes waiting for anything that wasn’t specifically beneficial both socially and nutritionally.
I had also worked out a deal with a close friend who was quite happy to entertain all of my sexual whims without the need for much in the way of romantic involvement or time spent dating. I know it sounds crazy but in much the way that an artist has a muse, I had a very generous friend who was up for fulfilling my my needs without asking for much in return. I don’t know that I would have remained mentally healthy without her help and willingness to be there for me when I needed her and to give me absolute space and silence when I needed to resume my studies.
All of my exercise was limited to rollerblading to and from class. I had already learned that rollerblading was significantly faster than waiting for and riding the bus. So this allowed me to kill 3 birds with one stone as it was a form of exercise, entertainment, and it was also the best way to reduce time spent in transit.  But to be honest, my life consisted of class, study, food, sleep, and NSA, pump-and-dump style sex for a solid 3 months.
The end result, for the few of you still reading this, is that I did perform exceptionally well in all the classes I took. After my last final, while all of my friends were partying, I threw myself upon my bed, closed my eyes and slept, the deepest, most deliciously restful sleep I’ve ever experienced before, or since. When I awoke I found myself on an island in the middle of Lake Vermillion, at my best friend’s mother’s honeymoon.  But that is another story, and while it sounds a lot like a hallucination, it is entirely true. 
I believe that with this article I have successfully defeated my writers block and will now check-in on all you fine people who know me on Facebook. There’s a lot more interesting stuff inside that box I found in my closet. Someday soon, I hope to share with you everything from my plans and study carried out involving a sensory deprivation floatation tank, as well as my ultimate guide to lucid dreaming.
AVS System I currently own:
Proteus Review:
I can tell you that this system is "okay." It works and does what it is supposed to do but it is far from flawless. The headphones that ship with it should be destroyed but that is the case with almost all that I've ever used. It is worth investing in a really nice pair of noise blocking headphones if you want the best results. There seems to be a missing depth to the tones that I remember from my past experiences with other machines. Also the 2-3 character LED on this thing is technology from the stone age and requires you to keep the manual close by so that you can look up the program you want to run and then push the "UP" button until the number appears. Can we not have a LCD screen with words on these units by now, especially for this price?

AVS Systems I want to review:
Mindspa: by A/V Stim, LLC • $349 @ Amazon


  1. Whoa, I'd forgotten about the brain machine! I'd love to give it a whirl again. Interesting to hear more about some of your coping methods in college.

    I'm glad you've kicked your writer's block!

  2. Yes, we should get together, drink some absinth, and give each other hand-jobs while taking on a tranquility mode. Oh, and they have now upgraded it so that it works with their Thoughtstream BioFeedback Device. I'll have to peep that soon.