Archive | October, 2013

Towards an Operational Model of Human Emotion

30 Oct

As neuroscience becomes increasingly prominent in mental health practice, practitioners look for approaches and tools that can facilitate clinical progress, based upon new insights.  Progress in brain research has provided a wealth of research data that provides an understanding of brain mechanisms and processes.  Some of this knowledge relates to cognitive processing, and provides a basis for understanding a wide range of cognitive issues related to attention, reasoning, and decision-making.  However, a key element in clinical mental health is that of emotion, and the valence, or quality, that clients assign to their experiences.  Often, emotion can outweigh reason or knowledge, in determining how and when decisions will be made, and how clients interact with their internal as well as external worlds.

At a certain level, all decisions are emotional.  As much as we may pride ourselves on making objective decisions based upon rational input, there is no denying the sense of satisfaction and security that accompanies a decision that is made in the face of a complete and thorough assessment.  Similarly, it is hard to imagine one feeling confortable in securing a plan that is accompanied by any strong sense of trepidation or fear.  In all, any path that we pursue is accompanied by a sense of our individual judgment of whether it is safe to proceed, or whether there are possible considerations that have not been fully evaluated.

Counselors and other mental health professionals are in need of an operational model that can guide assessment, as well as treatment and evaluation of client responses.

As Allen Ivey (2012) stated, mental health counseling is neuroscience.  Counselors have the tools to alter brain physiology and function by virtue of interventions that change clients.  They are able to influence the reward patterns and reasoning processes, as well as the emotional responses, that define client needs and capabilities.

We currently work under a medical paradigm that assumes that if we are able to identify a client deficiency or excess of some key agent, then we can intervene by changing that parameter using pharmaceuticals, electricity, or other physical means.  However, this begs the issue of the underlying internal factors, as well as the external factors, that have lead to the presenting problem.  We may face a situation akin to pouring water into a leaking bucket, or bailing water out of a bucket in the rain, both of which are temporary solutions, at best.

Corvette Biometric Reverse Test Drive

30 Oct
General Motors has always been a leader in innovation, and no machine or symbol is more iconic than the Corvette Stingray.  So when GM decided to create a revolutionary “reverse test drive,” there was only one choice for state-of-the-art live brain monitoring technology to show drivers’ mental states and reactions to the unique experience of driving a Stingray on a profession track.

A team of over 100 professionals converged on the Spring Mountain track in Western Nevada, to record and chronicle this first-time reverse test drive, in which the drivers do not test the cars, but the cars test the drivers.  Six drivers were put into the latest prototype of the 2014 Corvette, and monitored with biometric and brainwave data, while they put the cars through their paces, or rather, the cars put the drivers through their paces.

The enormous effort, which was masterminded by General Motors’ executive team, took the collaboration of advertising agencies McCann in New York and Commonwealth in Detroit, plus B-Reel productions of California, and a host of specialists in photography, lighting, guidance systems, and remote control, not to mention driving and track management.  A fleet of over 100 prototype 2014 Corvette Stingrays was on hand for this project, managed by a team of expert mechanics and engineers.  This project required the best of the best, and nothing less was acceptable.

The drivers, who came from a wide range of backgrounds, were first trained in how to drive the innovative vehicle, and how to approach serious track  driving.  After the initial training, they were fitted with biometric monitoring devices and a full clinical-grade EEG cap, to prepare for the “real” experience.

Drs. Ken and Landon Steele of Axion Mobile Imaging conducted the physical examinations and supervised the biometric monitoring.  Dr. Thomas Collura,. along with Terri Mrklas and Bill Mrklas, of BrainMaster Technologies, Inc ., attended to the needs of the whole-head EEG recording and monitoring, which provided an essential key to the experience.

Given that this was a first-ever test experience, no one knew what to expect.  Without exception, each driver exhibited his or her unique physiological and brainwave profile before, during, and after the driving experience.   It was possible to confirm, using objective scientific data, that, as GM claims, “Car and driver become one.”

The individual results showed unique profiles such as the following:

A professional “precision” driver (Craig) whose EEG showed that he remained an a relaxed and focused state, while leaving the work to those parts of the brain that serve vision, and motor control.  The driver was able to drive precisely and automatically, without a mental burden.

A design and style blogger (Evan), whose brainwave showed him continually “scanning” and interpreting his environment, in response to the unique circumstances and experiences.  As he drove, he settled into a state of experiencing confidence and a sense of control.

A female fitness blogger (Kelly) who showed signs that her brain was processing a lot of information, and maintaining extreme alertness and awareness.  As she drove, she became more comfortable, and became one with the experience.  At the end of the drive, her brain showed that she felt safe, and wanted to continue.  Brainwaves that are associated with the desire to remain still were notably absent.

An entrepreneur (Philip) who was inexperienced, his first time on the track, and went out excited and aggressive.  He had a couple of close calls, but over time, became more comfortable and was able to push himself even more.

A design and style blogger (Terry) who approached the experience with caution and an eye for detail.  As he drove, his anxiousness
settled down as he experienced confidence and a union with the machine, that showed clearly in how his body and brain were performing.

A software genius and semi-professional “endurance” driver (Kaz) whose EEG also showed a relaxed, contained state, and relatively little “high-level” processing or thinking.  This explains how he is able to drive for hours, without fatigue.

When the last day was over, everyone knew they had participated in something that had never been done.  Science, journalism, and automotive innovation came together for the first time, showing that a car is more than a car, and a driver is more than a driver.   When the two are put together, what happens is more than just a driver driving a car.  The driver and car became one, and there was no doubt that it had been proven.

Brain Monitoring in the 21st Century

27 Oct

Brain monitoring science, technology, and applications are finding new dimensions in this century.  In the past, a brainwave scan (electroencephalogram) was used when something was “wrong.”  EEG’s were the domain of doctors in general, and neurologists in particular.  EEG’s were for seizures, sleep disorders, head injuries, and other serious problems.  Today, EEG can be used when something goes “right.”   We are starting to use EEG’s to map and understand everything from meditation to healing, sports performance, dance, and music.


BrainAvatar Corvette Stingray “Biometric Test Drive”

27 Oct

BrainAvatar Corvette Stingray “Biometric Test Drive”

Here is what happens when you wire people up to biometric monitoring, and then put them in a state-of-the-art Corvette, and watch how their bodies and brain react.  Car and driver become one.