April 8, 2017
[0:00] Introduction/ Matcha & Mushroom Coffee
[4:33] About Dr. Andrew Hill
[9:23] Ben's First QEEG Scan
[11:17] How Neurofeedback Fixes the Brain
[24:48] One Channel & Two Channel Designs
[31:48] Dr. Hill's Favorite Protocol
[39:25] Quick Commercial Break/Shock Wave Therapy & Marc Pro
[42:07] Resetting the Brain's Tolerance to Marijuana
[48:55] Ben's Second QEEG Scan
[54:50] Nootropics vs. Neurofeedback
[57:01] Home Training Program
[58:54] Peak Brain Institute Branches
[1:05:16] End of the Podcast
Ben: Hey, what's up you guys? It's me, Ben Greenfield, and this is a really interesting follow-up to an episode I did a few months ago where I went down to LA and got my brain treated to rewire my brain, and it reset my brain's tolerance to things like marijuana and alcohol. Not that I use either of those ever, and even to learn how to do things like fly spaceships with my mind. Not actual spaceships over your house, but spaceships on a TV screen or computer screen to allow me to do things like to increase my alpha brainwaves and decrease my beta brainwaves. We're going to jump into all of that in this show, fascinating stuff.
Now before we dive right in, let me tell you about matcha. I don't know if you heard about matcha before, but both matcha and green tea come from this plant native to China. It's called the Camellia plant. A matcha is grown a lot differently. They cover the bushes for 20 to 30 days before they harvest it which prevents direct sunlight, and that stimulates this enormous increase in chlorophyll levels in the actual green tea. To yeah, matcha, and it's like green tea on steroids. Well this company called Organifi Green Juice, they take this matcha green tea, and then they blend it with wheatgrass, ashwagandha, turmeric, lemon, coconut, beets, mint, spirulina, everything in the kitchen sink without you actually having to go through all that mess and hop on an airplane around the globe to hunt down all these crazy superfoods. They do it all for you. It's called Green Juice, gently dried superfood powder made by Organifi. You get a 20% discount on this stuff that you can add to just about anything, including your favorite smoothie. You go to bengreenfieldfitness.com/organifi. That's bengreenfieldfitness.com/organifi, and the discount code you want to use for 20% off is right there.
This podcast is also brought to you by something I'm travelling with right now. I'm in the backwoods of Idaho, fishing with my kids and there are two boxes that I brought along with me. One box, you'd think I'll be able to talk after drinking it this morning, is mushroom coffee mixed with nootropics that upregulate mental clarity. One called Lion's Mane and another one called Chaga. So they add these medicinal mushrooms to coffee and it's very low-acidity coffee. It tastes amazing. What I actually do is I dump extra Chaga into it because Chaga is also really good for inflammation and your immune system. It can reduce joint and arthritis pain, give anti-aging support for skin, hair and nails, so you look beautiful, and it boosts the immune system too. Really good for the immune system actually. So this company called Four Sigmatic makes all this stuff, and you get an instant 15% discount on any of it when you go to foursigmatic.com/greenfield. When you go to Four Sigmatic, FOURsigmatic.com/greenfield, you'll see all my favorite mushrooms all spelled out for you, and the coupon code you can use is “Ben Greenfield” to get 15% off of any of this stuff. So enjoy your mushroom coffees and your matcha. And now let's make your brain better.
In this episode of The Ben Greenfield Fitness Show:
“Over many days, weeks, months and years your brain becomes this regulatory master in handling all of the internal and external things that needs to do. Sensory, cognitive, emotional, deep, you know, body processes. The brain's doing millions and millions of things every day, and most of the vast majority of these are not things we're aware of.” “These secondary ripples of activity, I think about 0.9 Hertz in the Hippocampus which is one of the things causing memory consolidation or moving memories from the short term to the long term storage.”
Ben: Hey folks, it's Ben Greenfield and it was, I guess, almost 6 months ago now that I visited a place called the Peak Brain Institute in L.A. for this special kind of brain scan and brain mapping called a Quantified Electroencephalography, or QEEG. And I was pretty shocked at what they discovered in my brain. Now Dr. Andrew Hill was the guy that oversaw that test, and Dr. Hill, he's really one of the country's leading neurofeedback practitioners. He’s a brain performance coach. He's a UCLA trained cognitive neuroscientist, lecturer, biohacker and he analyzed my brain when I went down there, and actually wound up writing an article that I'll link to in the show notes for this episode. Just go to bengreenfieldfitness.com/andrewhill. That's bengreenfieldfitness.com/andrewhill, and in that article, he highlighted how there was a whole bunch of built up areas where there were deficits of attention and increased distractibility, and limited sleep potential and less than optimal cognitive performance going on in my brain based on this EEG. Probably from life, and travel, and toxins, and my history of concussions and traumatic brain injury and beyond, and so he wrote that article and then after that initial scan, I actually, a few weeks later, I hopped on a plane back to LA and I went backed to Andrew's Peak Brain Institute, and I did 3 days of pretty intensive training with Andrew to learn how to use his special neurofeedback equipment to fix my brain, and then I flew back to Spokane from LA with this little black suitcase full of every tiny little piece of neurofeedback technology that I needed to rewire my brain in the comfort of my own home, along with many text messages back and forth between Dr. Hill and I.
So I did over 4 months, over 60 sessions of basically flying spaceships with my mind and listening to special little tones and playing around with this neurofeedback software, and then finally I went back down to LA, and I got rescanned, and in today's episode, you're not only going to discover what we found on my follow-up brain scan after all this neurofeedback, but how this stuff actually works. How you can use some of these concepts yourself to do things like decrease distractibility or increase sleep or even, God forbid, reset your tolerance to marijuana and alcohol, and all sorts of things you can do with neurofeedback, so this is going to be a fun episode. Dr. Hill, welcome to the show, man.
Dr. Hill: Hey Ben, thanks for having me back.
Ben: Yeah. Yeah, no problem. You're turning into a frequent guest here 'cause I know you've also been, you were on my episode “Can We Really Shrink Your Brain”, and also we did an episode also on the difference between something called Smart Drugs and something called Nootropics, so this I guess will be your third appearance. I'll link to these appearances on the show notes, but I know you've been on the Joe Rogan Show. You've been on the Smart Drugs Smarts podcast, so all over in case those of you listening in want even more of Andrew, after listening to this.
Dr. Hill: I appreciate that. Well it's been great working with you, and yes there have been a log back and forth, and just to, you know, clear your listeners in. You've not just been training from the comfort of your own home. I have this image of you like pausing in your bow, hunting in a mountain top somewhere. Pulling out gear and training.
Ben: Yeah, no I actually did. I mean, 'cause basically it's like a laptop and a little handheld piece of EEG or neurofeedback training equipment with a few little cables. Then I've got some Q-tips. I've got my conducting gel, and that's pretty much it. It all fits in my little book bag, so yeah. Like over the summer when I was hunting from my little tent when I was hunting. That was during neurofeedback sessions 'cause like my goal was, over the several months that we did it, based on your instructions to try to shoot for 30 minutes every other day approximately. So yeah, this stuff's been all over the world and back. It's like the little gnome in those travel commercials.
Dr. Hill: Well you know, we of course mapped your brain with QEEG back in like August, and then again in January, and there's been some change, and I think you've experienced some change subjectively, right? So did you have more questions about the process or what would you like me to start with?
Ben: Let's start here. On my initial brain scan, just to give people the basic overview, what did you discover when you hooked up my brain and did an EEG of what my brain was doing in the beginning?
Dr. Hill: Yeah, your brain looked pretty typical. No dramatic, you know, no seizures or any bizarre EEG, but there were a lot of excesses in different frequencies and a lot of those frequencies suggested that basic regulation in energy, and attention, and stress, were all kind of like wide open. So to break that down a little bit, you made a lot of delta waves. Delta is a regulatory frequency. It helps you sleep, it helps you keep the autonomic system working, but you don't think in delta typically. It's not a cognitive frequency, and you were making broad delta when you were wide awake with your eyes open across the cortex. You were also making a lot of theta in the same way. In eyes open, broad theta suggests basically lack of inhibitory tone, distractibility, impulsivity, lots of thoughts competing for your attention, so to speak. And no to the couple of the big, sort of, excess slow frequencies, and then we saw some excess fast frequencies, and betas that suggested your mind was getting stuck on things a lot, re-admitting a lot and probably having both a little sleep onset and sleep maintenance difficulty, meaning the architecture of your sleep, transitioning in and out of sleep, maintaining good deep sleep. Those two things didn't look like their optimal based on a couple of stress response patterns that I usually get reports from people that often represent both sleep and stress response kind of patterns. So we saw a nice more discord of things initially, a sort of major band in the brain that we look at typically.
Ben: And I'll link to both my pre-scan, for those of you smart cookies that know how to actually read EEG based visual maps, but I'll link to my pre-scan and also my post-scan in the show notes for those of you who want to actually delve in into what my brain actually looked like, but what's the idea behind how neurofeedback, I realize this is kind of an involved question, but what's the idea behind how neurofeedback is supposed to fix that?
Dr. Hill: Yeah so, neurofeedback is biofeedback on the brain, on the central nervous system, you know broadly. EEG based neurofeedback which is mostly what we did I believe, I don't think we did any HEG, so mostly all EEG. EEG is a chaotic phenomena, to put it mildly. So you've got millions, billions of cells in your brain, all produce electricity and there are groups of coherent assemblies. Essentially little CPUs in the brain, and they're about 30,000 neurons, and the ones that are pointing at right angles to the skull when they burst in these rhythmic patterns produce a signal of the brain's operation specifically of the cortex, and that's influenced by all kinds of things including connectivity between regions of the brain and interactions with parts of the brain that are below the cortex, that are deep inside the brain. And so you have EEG chaotically oscillating all over the head and those little generators that are right angles to the skull can be usually picked up with a passive electrode pasted to the outside of your head, to your scalp. And so, this gives us a lens to what is happening in this very informationally dense space in the brain, and we don't pretend to understand all of it, but we've identified using things like QEEGs in patterns that often show up when things are array in function. And so, we pick something to manipulate. In your case, let's say I think we almost always brought down theta. For most of your protocols, we included a theta inhibit. What I mean by that is we measure the amount of electricity your brain was pumping out in theta, under some location in your head. And theta's a frequency between about 4 and 7 cycles per second, or Hertz, 4 to 7 Hertz. And so as your brain's pumping out lots of theta, it's not some static amount of electricity. It's not some, you know, fixed amount. It's always fluctuating a little bit, trending up, trending down. And so, we take advantage of that and measure it, and whatever happens to trend or stay in the right direction, we sort of give the brain some applause, if you will, with an audio or visual stimulus, so we make music play or, you know, I think you had a spaceship game, so the spaceship flies faster and its music tracks.
Ben: Yeah, I had a spaceship game to where when I watched the screen, the spaceship will go down the tunnel a little bit more quickly. You know, the cool thing that you showed me is that I could actually take the software that was on this laptop that you sent me back with, and I can like watch Shark Tank on Hulu. And every time my brain strays out of the waves that you're trying to train it to be in, or every time it goes into the waves that it's not supposed to be in, like Barbara Corcoran's voice and face will start to fade a little bit, or I won't be able to see Mark Cuban making a comment, so it's almost like a little slap on the wrist, so to speak.
Dr. Hill: Very obvious feedback, and then I think you used some audio training, right? You could tune into work, and whenever your brains range, you hear some tones or chimes get generated. All of those things are essentially driven by operate conditioning or instrumental conditioning which is a flavor of operate conditioning. For the psychologists in your audience, things can or not have law. This is not a classical condition where you're associating new things. This is awkward conditioning where you're encouraging more or less of existing things. And so, you’ve got some behavior your brain is making the amount of theta. A moment when that goes down briefly, we would applaud your brain and the spaceship flies faster or you get clearer screen to watch Barbara and Mark fight it out, or you hear more tones.
And so typically the way that I train, I often [15:41] ______ three frequencies at once. This is a pretty classic way of doing your feedback, sort of the core approach in the field I would say for most people at this point, and it usually involves training down or inhibiting or consensually allowing stimuli, visual-audio stimuli, whenever a slow band like theta drops, whenever a very, very fast band like high frequency beta which can be influenced by things like muscle tension, it's a catch on that, whenever that drops, we allow the rewards to happen and then when the middle frequency, typically a beta, a lower beta or an alpha Frequency, when those go up briefly, when all three things happen, we reward or provide the stimuli. So your experiences sitting there watching or playing or even kind of doing something else, and there are trains of stimuli. You hear a bunch of beeps and then they stop, or the spaceship flies well for a few moments and then it heaters out. And then it resumes. So it's this changing signal of the feedback of the stimulus coming back to the brain, and the brain's trying to pars the information in the signal about what's going on, and very quickly the brain realizes that, “hey wait, that's actually something I'm, in some way controlling.” Now I say brain specifically because mentally the mind, the cognitive aspect of the brain, is actually not really involved here. This is not training a voluntary behavior training involuntary fluctuation of the brain. But usually we’re…
Ben: Which I think confuses a lot of people because like for me, when I first started doing the spaceship game, I would scrunch my eyebrows and purse my lips, and try to like look at the screen and make it change, and all that really does is that it messes up the brainwave patterns and makes your forehead muscles contract. And adds, yeah, like what you call noise to the frequency when in fact, and this kind of shocked me actually, I can be like replying to an e-mail, you know, assuming that I was staying relatively relaxed, not tensing up, or I could be looking at something on my phone and my brain would still be, kind of like passively doing the neurofeedback in the background. Like picking up the tones or picking up the sounds all on its own without me even doing anything.
Dr. Hill: Yeah largely. You know, the brain doing all kinds of things all the time, and its, sort of, core job of the cortex is to change and tune and remap these connections, the strength of connections, which waves are dominant, under which conditions, and just like any other form of learning, it takes some time to occur, and over many days, weeks, months, and years, your brain becomes this regulatory master in handling all of the internal and external things that needs to do. Sensory, cognitive, emotional, deep. You know, body processes. The brain's doing millions and millions of things every day, and most of the vast majority of these are not things we're aware of. We're aware of a fraction of what's going on physiologically, and I sort of have begun defining the mind as the part of the brain that we're sort of aware of, or the function of the brain we're aware of.
Dr. Hill: You're training the brain though, in neurofeedbacks. You're measuring these bursting patterns that do shift and fluctuate and trend up and trend down in a short time course, in minutes, and so you simply set a point that you want this brainwave to be at, and when it fluctuates down towards that range, drop towards that range, we applaud the brain and this is basic learning, you know. When you were a baby flopping around and you just happen to line up some muscle fibers properly and suddenly you were, you know, pushed up on your little baby arms and you could see twice as far, the brain went oh, yeah, remember this unique connection of muscles, and turn this on 'cause it means we get more input. We see more of the environment, it's a cool thing. That's all we're doing is we're applauding, you know, when you're brain gets a subtle, ominous or random shift, but this not some special feature. The brain does this just by doing this. I mean if anything you do, it tries to improve and it make more efficient.
Ben: What you're doing is giving it little doggy biscuits along the way?
Dr. Hill: Exactly, yeah exactly, and so we can do this involuntary, if you will, frequencies, and the whole process was discovered essentially in the late 60s because Barry Sterman found the cat can be easily conditioned to have these meta-stable brains. Cats are notoriously bad instruction followers right, so this is not a placebo response. This is not cats willing up their brainwaves in any specific way. The process also works on kids who are non-verbal. Margaret Ayers who passed away a few years, one of the greats in the field. She, at the end of her career, was almost exclusively going around working with people in coma, trying to change, contrast the states. This tends to happen in a field that individuals become a little specialized about certain types of neurofeedback. It's severely deep and broad field unfortunately, in terms of the knowledge. You really need to do a good job at anything beyond the basics.
The basics aren't that difficult, and to be honest, the basics work really well for many things. A lot of what we did with your brain was pretty basic stuff, in terms of how approached which frequencies to train up or train down and what things to approach. We also went after your brain broadly, so I sort of had two things I think about when designing a training plan for somebody, and one is what in terms of goals, both clinical and peak performance that I have. You know, where on that spectrum are they and how much of what they want to work on is supra-awesome physiology or like limitless potential kind of stuff, and how much of it is, oh, here's a bottleneck in performance, a deficit, something that's getting away. And you know, you had a little bit of both, but I consider you a peak performance client more than I do a premediate-a-specific-problem client even though there were some pretty broad frequency excesses in some of these things in your brain. I didn't get the sense that you had this deep deficit. You're a very incredibly prolific athlete, media creator, thought leader. That takes an awful lot of cognitive resources and organization and putting things together, so instantly you coming in as somebody like that meant I was going after a certain class of approaches, tailored to your brain maps of course.
Ben: Basically what you're saying is that I wasn't a drooling, psychopathic murderer when I came in.
Dr. Hill: You were, yeah, and it's just that when people commit the specific goals, sometimes those goals are really obvious. Like somebody's got, you know, stuttering or migraines or profound ADHD or seizures. I mean, you know, they have a very specific goal. The only thing about working with anything now is no matter what it is we're doing, at least the way that I tend to work which is using one of these frequencies called SMR, it's one of the core frequencies in the field and in the brain. Using SMR training and variants of that training, you end up getting broad regulatory benefits no matter what you go after, so yes you can reduce seizures but you also get better sleep for instance. And yes you can work on anxiety and then, you know, work on creativity.
So the way that I approach the brain is very much like a personal trainer, and that's really actually different than most people in the field. Of the 5 plus thousand people in the US, I don't know more than a couple people like me who are more on the science side, less on the clinical side. A consequence of me being more data driven and a little bit on the science side and also not being a licensed clinician, I'm not a psychologist or a psychiatrist or anything, I'm a neuroscientist, is that I approach this stuff in the regulatory lands. So I'm not so much thinking about ADHD as I'm thinking about sustained attention, or impulsivity. I'm not thinking about anxiety so much as I am is this person's stress response where it could be. I'm not thinking about sleep disorders as much as I am thinking about the architecture of their sleep and what it looks like. So, you know, because of that, I often approach people from a broad brain training perspective as well as a focal tune these protocols from their perspective. I mean, starting broad on the whole brain, seeing how that person responds as they respond, dialing in different things to work on secondary features, secondary goals, things that took longer to work on. And also there's often an iterative approach to neurofeedback where you're trying a few different protocols, and based on the response you're getting, you're adjusting the frequencies.
Ben: And that's actually what I wanted to talk to you about. What was that adjustment of the frequencies, and I of course in the show notes will link to a few previous episodes that we've done where we talked about some of the neurofeedback one-on-one stuff, and again for those of you listening in, just go to bengreenfieldfitness.com/andrewhill for any of those podcasts which will be a perfect accompaniment to this one. But there's almost like this special language associated with neurofeedback that I had to learn. Not only the brain map of the head that you sent me that showed me where I needed placed the specific electrodes, but also phrases like C4A1, and CZA2, all these different acronyms that are used when deciding how you're going to set up what you call the channels. So I want to kind of delve into a few of the things you gave me. So for example, the very first thing that we started doing was what're called One Channel Designs instead of what we progressed to later on which was Two Channel Designs. What's the difference between a One Channel and a Two Channel Design?
Dr. Hill: Yeah, the short answer is a fewer asps of your brain, fewer things we're asking it to do to meet the criteria and therefore, it's a little more discreet. It's a little more focused, and so we started doing, I believe, a class of SMR and beta protocols on your brain using One Channel. One Channel meaning one location on your scalp or these One Channeled EEG to create a channel or a signal of EEG. You have to subtract electricity measurements at two places, you know a positive and negative. So we were using initially a spot on the right, sort of middle of your head called C4, even numbers in these cortices in the right side of your head. C is the central motor strip that runs from ear to ear, so this right middle part of your head, and electricity's a little broad, you know. It's not this discreet well-behaved thing that hangs out where it's generated. It spreads throughout the blobby, jelly bit of the brain, and you pick up electricity that's generated in one place from other places on the scalp. Quite a lot often, and so there's lots of different schemes involved to subtract certain regions and certain electroplacements to get the signal you're trying to get, and we initially started with an electrode on the right scalp minus the electrode on the left ear, C4 minus A1, A is auricular. So this produced to some extent a broad signal across your head.
Ben: A is auricular, meaning it was on my ear, and then C stands for what?
Dr. Hill: Central motor strip, or central cortex. And that's the cortex strip that runs ear to ear to the sensory motor cortex. These two strips of cortex. One is where you sense that's behind the central sulcus, and one is where you control motor output that's anterior sulcus.
Ben: So for something like that for like a C4A1, I take the little electrodes and I did it in the paste and I put one over the locational scalp map that you sent me that says C4, and the other one over the little one that says A1, and then you have to ground yourself too, right? What's the reason behind that?
Dr. Hill: Well the amps don't know, the amplifiers in that sort of EEG system is, the amplifier, it's taking these incredibly tiny little signals that are being generated from inside the head, and anyway rheumatically as they pass through layers of meninges and skull and scalp. It's happen to magnify them so they can be read by a computer. The ground wire on an EEG essentially sets where your body is. It tells the amp where you're zero, where you're resting. Potentially it's essentially in your body so that the other two electrodes when they're subtracted from each other are doing so in the range that your body's in. Now some EEG [28:58] ______ is what's called a driven right leg. An old fashioned term from like the 60s in electrical engineering where there's a tiny, tiny, tiny little current sent down the ground to essentially zero out where that actually is to force a specific reference point. I don't believe the amp you had actually does that, but most of them at this point do. Actually, did you have the little box or the little stick, the Q-Wiz or the U-Wiz, I forget?
Ben: I have the little red box.
Dr. Hill: Okay, so that probably does have a slight driven right leg then, so there's this incredibly tiny little loading of the amp essentially with the ground wire. Depending on how amps work, you either set a resistance point, electrically, or they measure the zero point of your own body. And that just gives us literally the ground, the zero point, and then you have two other wires in your head that are subtracted from each other to produce a signal. And that's one channel, and sometimes we had you measure the difference between one pair of wires, you know C4 minus A1, and sometimes we had you measure the difference between two sets of wires, for instance C3 minus A1 and C4 minus A2 which is a very different montage. We call it a set of electrodes set in a certain arrangement.
Ben: What it comes down to is you're choosing each of these, whether it's a One Channel design where you're asking a little bit less of my brain or a Two Channel design where I'm using more electrodes and you're asking more of my brain. What you choose are specific programs, so to speak, that address the areas of deficiency or excess that you noted on my initial brain map.
Dr. Hill: Yeah, I designed with a channel set up what part I want to measure and try to train, and a lot of the way that I set the channels up on your head gives me an emphasis in certain physical regions or certain frequencies so I can capture them in the software, capture them changing moment to moment. And once I have the variable signal on the software that may sort of parameterize it, the software that you were using, BioExplorer, is really quite flexible, and you can get really creative and tie lots of interesting stimuli and lots of cool things to the back.
Ben: Right, that's the one where I could listen to a podcast and the podcast will start to fade when my brain goes out of the zone. I want it to be in or watch Shark Tank or fly the spaceship with my mind. I could kind of pick my poison as long as I'm running the specific frequencies that you send over to me. I can use any different kind of modality to run those frequencies.
Dr. Hill: Exactly, and as far as I know there's not a lot of difference between audio-only feedback and visual-and-audio feedback. I think you asked me that at one point, and I think of the unimodal, if you will, just auditory or things like that, are a little bit weaker but not appreciably so.
Ben: But that's what I found. What was, for example, you don't realize how much glucose that your brain uses, and so I would do the spaceship one which is vision plus auditory, and I would find myself a little bit more hungry after I'd done a session like that, and also frankly a little bit, depending on the session that we ran, like a little bit sleepy or a little more tired because I was asking so much of my brain. And I'd noticed that, to a greater extent when I do those type of 30-minute sessions versus just like the more passive like listen to audios, the audio fades in and out type of sessions, so I noticed a little bit of a difference and one that we ran quite a bit, Andrew, that I wanted to ask you about why you're such a fan of, was you sent me this C3A1 and that was like Channel One and then you also had me at the same time doing Channel Two with was C4A2. So C3A1, C4A2 which means I had an electrode on the C3 part of my head, the C4 part of my head and then the A1 which is the left ear and the A2 which is the right ear. So I had myself all hooked up like that, and you had me running that protocol many, many times, over the course of the training. Why are you such a fan of that particular protocol? Like let's use that as an example. What's that protocol do?
Dr. Hill: Yeah, I quite love that protocol when people tolerate it and when it makes sense for their brain. So I like that one, I call it my fully asymmetric essentially. Let me break down what's happening, so C3 minus A1 is the first channel. C3 is left motor strip, A1 is left ear, and by subtracting the two of them, the closer to electrodes are to each other in the head, the more shared information there is in the signal under each electrode because electricity mixes together. And so when you have a set of electrodes that are closer together, two things happen. One is the resulting signals, a little bit smaller in amplitude, you're kind of measuring less of the cortex, and two it's more spatially precise. So, initially we were doing the C4 minus A1 broad, if you will, and then we switched to C3 minus A1 and C4 minus A2 so we actually sort of got this lateralized, going through the middle out kind of measurement of your brain, and that allows me to some extent, measure the differences of the two hemispheres. It's not perfect but it does emphasize the separateness, if you will, left side versus right side of your brain. About a half of the signal comes from right under the electrode when you measure a spot on the scalp. About a half comes from everywhere else mixed together, so it's not perfect but again it's pretty good especially in contrast by having the references A1 and A2 being split apart. You've got this sort of really nice parsing of the gross amount of electricity the brain is throwing off.
So with these two protocols, the next question is, you know, why these frequencies? The first inhibit, the first slow training, if you were to say, make fewer bursts of these slow activity waves on the left side we inhibited or trained down 4 to 10. Now 4 to 10 is two different frequency ranges essentially. It's 4 to 7 which is theta, and it's 7 to 10 which is actually a slow variant of alpha. Eyes open, alpha sometimes is related to inattention essentially. It can also be left side alpha, can also be related to poor mood, so by inhibiting alpha on the left and the center part of the brain, it often boosts both mood and sustained attention. It's your ability to be attending without browning out, without just getting distracted. On the right side, I was inhibiting 4 to 7. I left 7 to 10 alone on the right, and that's because high right front alpha is usually a positive mood thing. It's a window in your signal, I didn't touch anything above 7, and then for the fast frequency inhibits, it was kind of the opposite. On the left, we inhibited 24 to 36 which is very, very fast beta which can be anxiety or it can be muscle tension, so we usually inhibit a very fast beta. On the right we inhibited 18 to 32 I think or 34, and that gets us some of the 18 to 24. That's actually more cognitive frequencies, and where there's a lot of beta right front that can also be stress response stuff or mood stuff, so when I use this fully symmetric protocol, I inhibit more alpha on the left front and I inhibit more fast beta on the right. Sort of vises the brain towards positive mood and positive sustained attention, and then in terms of the reward frequency, those are also, so to speak, asymmetric.
On the left, we rewarded a faster beta at 15 to 18, and the right we rewarded a slower beta called 12 to 15. The 12 to 15 beta is this SMR frequency that we think of sort of magical in neurofeedback. It makes you less seizure prone. It improves sleep, improves attention. It's pretty amazing for lots of things, so we did this core regulatory attention, good self-control, good inhibitory tone on the right, SMR frequency 12 to 15, and the left we did 15 to 18 and when you trade up beta 15 to 18 on the left, you tend to get really good alerting responses. Essentially you don't miss anything. When you train SMR up on the right, you tend to be better at inhibiting impulsive behavior, acting before you want to or reacting. So by training alpha on the left up and beta on the right down, it gives us this really strong broad shift of a couple of poor frequencies, and it allows your brain to shift its laterality towards left inactivity which is more approach behavior, less avoid behavior. It's more positive attention, and then by focusing the left beta versus SMR, it gives you this crisp, laser-like attention and then both those 15 to 18, and 12 to 15 beta in SMR, both of those are pro-sleep protocols or frequencies in different ways. That in the 18 tends to improve depth of sleep and the 12 to 15 tends to improve onset of sleep, so it's, to some extent, this beautiful “kitchen sink” protocol that works for all sorts of things it wants.
Ben: Yeah, the “kitchen sink” neurofeedback protocol, and that's one because, you know now I have all of this software and hardware from my training that's kind of like, and I've reduced my frequency, you know, since our final brain map which we'll go into here in a sec. I reduced my frequency of training to just once or twice a week, but that's still one of my go-to 'cause I feel so freaking good after I do it, and I sleep really well, and it's a really cool kind of “kitchen sink” protocol that I realized if you were just listening. Sounded like a slightly different language that Andrew is speaking, but it really is pretty easy. It took me a few weeks before I was able to literally set up my head within about 3 minutes and simply open up the computer, run the protocol. It's just like anything else once you learn how to do it. It's pretty simple.
Hey, what's up? I want to interrupt this show about the brain to move farther down your body. To the center of your legs where your crotch resides to tell you how to make your crotch better. There's this company called GainsWave, and what they do is they blast you men or women, depending on who you are, with this acoustic soundwave therapy that causes new vessels to grow in those areas and stimulates blood flow to those areas so that you get better feeling down there. Takes away ED, also known as erectile Dysfunction but it sound like you're way more hip when you say ED, plus you don't have to offend people sitting next to you or make them blush. It's this ground-breaking, non-invasive medical treatment, and it works for a ton of issues down there including just making you go from good to great, which is what it did for me. I went down to train it down in Miami, and you can go to gainswave.com, and click “Find a doctor” to find a GainsWave provider near you. If you mention my name, you go into that Miami clinic, they'll give you a fat discount, but you can also get a fat discount by texting the word “Greenfield” to 313131. That gives you a hundred and fifty bucks off your first GainsWave treatment any of their 60 different places nationwide. So just text the word “Greenfield” to 313131, and go in and get your crotch blasted with sound waves. It’s fun kids, trust me. No, it actually is pretty cool.
This podcast is also brought to you by something called the MarcPro. I mean you probably heard me talk about electrical muscle stimulation before, but there's this e-stim unit that uses a special waveform, different that any of the other electrical muscle stimulation units out there, and it's actually designed specifically for recovery and for pain and for soreness, and it just blasts this stuff away. You put it on, I actually put it on and I cover it with ice so I can turn up the electrode stimulation even higher 'cause I'm a masochist, and it works like gang busters on any sore spots or any injuries. You get, not 15, I wish, sorry. You get 5% off, but it's still a significant discount. When you go to marcpro.com, that's MARCpro.com, and the promo code you want to use is promo code “Ben” to get 5% off the MarcPro or the MarcPro Plus. Remember to spell it with a C. I've no clue what'll happen if you go to Mark-with-a Kpro.com. Marc, MARCpro.com, use promo code “Ben”. Enjoy.
Now, there are a few other protocols that we ran. Before we delve in to what happened to my brain and what you found out on that second scan, there are a few other protocols that we ran, for example, I texted you at one point and asked you about resetting marijuana tolerance. Like if I wanted to kind of like reset my brain's tolerance to weed, not that I endorse heavy utilization of marijuana, but I have been known to enjoy it, every now and again, and I'm curious how that works. Like you gave me a specific protocol, you actually texted me right back and you said, and I have it written down right here. You said do CZA1 and C4A2 at the same time with the frequencies 4 to 7, 12 to 15 and 22 to 34, and so I did that, and it worked. I mean, I literally took, I've got this little like magic flight box that I can use to take a few puffs, you know.
Dr. Hill: Yeah, he's a buddy of mine.
Ben: Yeah, super safe infrared method of vaporizing, and it went straight to my head after sucking out of it like one time. Now, how does that work exactly? What's going on in my brain to be able to do something like that?
Dr. Hill: It's a great question, and I have some ideas, but no hard science to back them up. There's a few things we know are happening in neurofeedback, and one great thing about neurofeedback is at least for this class of SMR and beta frequencies, is there's really good evidence that we upregulate plasticity very quickly after training. Even after a single session of training, there's a measurable plasticity increase in the brain. There's some good experiments using motor evoked potentials and transcranial magnetic stimulation where they do TMS motor evoked potentials and see how much juice it takes to cause a muscle to jump in the hand by stimulating the hand area in the brain, and after session of neurofeedback, it takes much less of a stimulation to cause a muscle to jump. So the brain's much more flexible, wants to react a little more, wants to change a little faster. So there's lots of interesting, intriguing things about plasticity that are happening, and that's probably one of the big things.
Now you'd already been training regularly by that point. This wasn't just giving you the training effect period, 'cause that does happen when everyone starts to train, the vast majority of people experience sensitization if they are cannabis users, if they have stimulants in their system. So you've been training for a while by the time we gave you this protocol, so it wasn't simply giving you the training effect, you know. Most people experience in the beginning of training, a sensitization to things like cannabis or even stimulants, adderall, ritalin. With this, unwinding ups in tolerance that shows up, just in general of neurofeedback. But over the past few years, working a lot in neurofeedback and I worked for a while in a Dickson Centre. I helped fam-called alternative in Beverly Hills. We found throughout working there and Peak Brain and even in other settings that SMR seems to be something a little more deep than simply causing plasticity change. And so when I had you do CZA1, C4A2, again I was bracketing left and right hemisphere. CZ is the vertex essentially. For reasons that are a little complicated, the left hemisphere often runs a little faster. In frequencies in the right hemisphere, so that asymmetric one, 15 on the left and 12 on the right isn't all that asymmetric, but having into the vertex, CZ at 12 to 15 gives you a strong SMR effect on the left side.
I had you do at the same time C4A2, on the right side, so essentially I was bathing your brain in an increased production of SMR was the idea. And as your brain produces this frequency, there's all kind of learning things that are associated with SMR, including A, this plasticity thing that we've seen in motor evoked potentials getting upregulated after a single session of neurofeedback including SMR, seems to trigger, just let me back up for one second. I probably said this in a different podcast of yours, but SMR is not some mysterious thing in the human brain. It shows up as sleep spindles, and a few other, sort of deep regulatory processes show, this SMR signal. So when running 12 to 15 rewards, we're not saying to the brain, hey, do this weird thing. We're saying, oh yeah, this thing you already do. Do a little more of it, and then when we sleep, SMR in its natural function causes these secondary ripples of activity, I think about 0.9 Hertz in the Hippocampus which is one of the things causing memory consolidation or moving memories from the short term to the long term storage. So SMR has a few of these deep regulatory qualities that also seems to affect the cortical thalamic communication, so we have neurons that run from the cortex, the outer bark of the brain if you will, down to the thalamus, the deep switchboard of sensory processes. We also have neurons run from the thalamus back up to the cortex, so these are cortical thalamic and thalamic cortical neurons, and they pass through a sheet of tissue called the NRT, the reticular nucleus of the thalamus, and the reticular nucleus of the thalamus is related to all kinds of interesting things, but among other things it inhibits, this communication is traffic in both directions.
And so you can almost think of it like tuning the game of a system. So there's something going on with SMR training. As you enhance SMR briefly, it probably allows the cortex and the thalamus to reset their relative game which is a pretty basic function in terms of how the brain regulates its stability. So you talk about disrupting stability through things like cannabis 'cause it does make you, you know, it makes you high. Then one of the things that I started to emphasize in trying to reset tolerance is going after that game, going after that deep intra and inter hemispheric communication as mediated by the thalamus to some extent which I have a hunch, dramatically increases the plasticity that we see show up in neurofeedback period. This is a type of plasticity enhancement that I think is probably where most of the tolerance effect is coming from, so I want him to go after that more directly.
Ben: That's interesting, and that area between the thalamus and the cerebral cortex I know that's, like for example, like what they'll affect when they do something like a pre-frontal or a frontal lobotomy to vastly change your personality, you know, and I know that they do that in some cases or uses to do that, I should say, in mental institutions etcetera, so it's really interesting. You can kind of like hit the same area to a little bit more therapeutic effect for something like neurofeedback. Super interesting and I just thought it was crazy, how it worked right off the bat, after I did it and how you had just the reply to me and showed me the exact protocol to do.
Now, we did a second scan like I mentioned, so we found all these things in the first scan. If you go to the show notes of bengreenfieldfitness.com/andrewhill, I will link to the first scan, so you can see what that one looked like, and Andrew already kind of went over some of the things that he found there like the increased distractibility and the reduced sleep onset and some of the areas of excessive delta production, excessive theta production and some areas like in the back where there was high stressful beta brainwaves. So I did all the training, based off the protocols that you sent to me, and then we did a second scan. Can you go over what we found on the second scan which I'll also link to in the show notes?
Dr. Hill: Yeah sure, so the second scan looks a lot like the first one which is reassuring when some of the same patterns obtain in both data. Usually QEEGs are very robust phenomena where it's stable unless you do something like neurofeedback to your brain or when you change meds. And so we see some of the same rough shapes, but what's kind of nice is all of this, sort of, outliers in high amplitudes have dropped. And they really shrunk down to, you know, it's often a half or even less of the coverage. So starting with some slow frequencies, the delta and the theta, which I was guessing were related to poor energy regulation, poor sleep, some issues with concentration, some issues with cognitive fatigue and impulsivity. Those have dropped really dramatically, in fact the delta which was probably related to poor sleep and getting worked out a little bit, is dropped significantly. The theta which is impulsivity is also dropped quite as significantly, and there were some high beta.
Let me spend a moment unpacking the difference in beta and high beta. So beta frequencies and high beta frequencies are cognitive. You think in them generally, and you often see in stress response problems that certain regions of the brain involved that are switching attention or maintaining attention are a little overactive. And so we found a little hot spot initially in your brain on the anterior cingulate. We did some source analysis on where it was coming from, but on these 2-D maps, it's the sort of front mid line spot of the brain we call FZ, F for frontal, Z for svzina, the midline that runs front to back. So this front and midline spot in your head was really kind of pumping out a lot of theta initially, and high beta as well, faster beta, and this usually means like a ruminative, getting stuck on things and being a little bit hyper focused and worrying a little bit. And that dropped down beautifully. The patterns are still there, but they're only about half as much coverage, they really shrunk. More importantly, the back of your head which is beta and high beta excessive as well initially. The back of the head is more sensory, and so this look a little bit like your visual system, your attention system was scanning the environment a little bit hyper vigilantly, if you will. I mean, to some extent this is because you're a fitness warrior I'm sure, and you're somebody who scans the environment and uses that, but it was also a pattern that was a little bit stuck.
Ben: Yeah, very, very worthy environment like as in like at a cocktail party, I would be having a hard time trying to listen to 10 conversations at once rather than just focusing on the person right in front of me.
Dr. Hill: And that's fine if you're out in the forest listening for the crack of a twig as a deer, you know, tries them not to be noticed by you or something. Not so useful in a busy business meeting or a cocktail bar, right? And so I saw a big, sort of blob of beta and high beta well over 3 standard deviations above average in the back of the head. This sort of said to me, okay, Ben's sensory system is wide open. He's scanning the environment, he's evaluating the environment, some hyper vigilance. There's some kind of like almost ruminative, again, scanning going on where it didn't seem to be a comfortable, if you will, pattern. It looked like it was a little bit pushy in your brain, and so that came down profoundly well. That's almost gone now. Still a little hint of it, but that's not that unusual that things remain, to some extent, but it was spread out over most of the back half of your brain and now, it's just a little tiny spot. The same thing, delta that was broad over the back half of your brain also shrunk down, and those two things may be related because when you make tons of delta, you might be sleep deprived, resources might get to their limit, and that allows other frequencies to become dysregulated. Sometimes when you clean up delta, you also clean up other frequencies along the way because they're related, they're sort of the same cortices dysregulated in a couple different ways. So from my perspective, it looks like you are better rested, more alert and also much more able to screen and filter in your attention and probably more flexible, able to put things down, able to pick things back up mentally with a lot more ease, a fix in flexibility.
Ben: Yeah, well the interesting thing too, and I've noted this when I've taken different nootropics, and even, you know, something as simple as coffee or coffee mixed with theanine, for example, or green tea. I've noticed increased waking lucidity and increased ability to be able to engage in conversation with less distractions or even with more focus on what it is I'm talking about or who I'm talking to, but in the absence of nootropic compounds, which is important especially for me because in many cases I would do my training sessions, my neurofeedback training sessions at 6 or 7 p.m. in the evening when frankly taking in coffee and other nootropic compounds can like interfere with my sleep later on at night. What I would find is that I could do something like one of these neurofeedback sessions, go out to dinner or engage in conversation, be very lucid with decreased distractibility, come back home and be able to actually still fall asleep because I wasn't relying upon chemicals for the enhanced cognitive ability, but rather simply the neurofeedback.
Dr. Hill: You know, the other thing to point out is that's a wonderful difference in terms of how nootropics versus neurofeedback can be used. The other big difference is that with this training, I mean, you've trained 16, 6 sessions and you'll probably do some more training. There's change. Your brain map now is different, and your brain map now would not have been different if we just done a 6 month wait period instead of measuring it again. With this grave intervention on your brain, there's all kinds of big statistical change showing that you have moved away from sort of the edge of the bell curve and some of these dysregulations, much more towards the middle in many of these frequencies. The subjective experience that we really care about, from a data point of view, this is rather compelling that yeah, your brain is now different. QEEG's generally an unchanging measurement as long as you have a relatively clean brain in terms of drugs and alcohol, and stimulants, and things when you get recorded.
Ben: Yeah, now in terms of what I did, going down, going for all the training with you, coming back with all the equipment, etcetera, am I special snowflake or is this something that other people are able to, like can other people go and do what I did?
Dr. Hill: Yeah, well A, yes you're a special snowflake and people can do what you did. Yeah, we probably at this point have 20 or 30 people doing this home training program since we started Peak Brain.
Ben: Is that what it's called, the Home Training Program?
Dr. Hill: Yeah, Home Training or Self-Training Program. Internally we call it the Three plus Three 'cause we have 3 half-days in the office and then three months of supervision typically, but yeah, we have some people doing it. It's not the right way to train neurofeedback for everyone, but it can work for a lot of people. Now if you have severe stuff going on that could be made worse and get in the way of performance or safety, then it's not ideal. Meaning, let's say if you’re dramatically bipolar or have some suicidal depression or something, probably not, self-training isn't the best idea because it could exacerbate things before you figure out what's working for your brain. And also if you're profoundly ADHD or something, you might have a hard time getting out of your own way enough to get the training done, enough to get the results to start getting out of your own way. So it's sort of a catch-22 for some people, and I would say clinical management in the processes. Tight clinical management is much better, but for many people with peak performance goals or simple stress, sleep, ADHD and stuff, or people that really want to work on their own peak performance goals long term, who aren't just looking to fix a couple of small problems in a few months, but who want this tool set to use over many, many months or years. Then it makes a lot of sense, and we have some centers. We have some Peak Brain centers in St. Louis and in Los Angeles, we're now in Downtown, Los Angeles as well as Culver City where our big flagship is. We have these centers you can come and train.
Ben: So it's not just in LA anymore, people can go to different spots?
Dr. Hill: They can yeah, we have some concierge, trainers too and home-based travelling trainers who will come in and hook you up in a few studies as well, but the big offices are St. Louis and Los Angeles, and then we have some concierge text in like broadly Orange County, San Diego, Portland, Oregon, a couple of other places. So we're gradually learning how to manage the process of multiple people training and train themselves as well as running physical training centers, so we're truly, as I mentioned earlier, we treat the process more like personal training and less like therapy, so we're really trying to deliver on that by instantiating neurofeedback in more of a gym, sort of setting where you come in and you help hooking up and we monitor your training program.
Ben: Yeah, you're LA facility is kind of freaky like that 'cause you walk in there, and there's just like random people like CEOs and even like there's kids hooked up to it too who are just in there, you know. You walk in, and it's just like bleep, bleep, bloop, bloop, bloop, and people training everywhere. It's kind of cool, yeah, with these kind of cubicles where folks are doing neurofeedback.
Dr. Hill: Totally. When I designed that office, I sort of decided to make it, to try to go for an Apple store meets the gym kind of vibe.
Ben: Yeah, it's really cool. Apple store meets like a brain train gym, so if you're listening in and you haven't visited one of these facilities, I'd highly recommend it again. I went to the one in LA down in, it's Culver City right, Andrew?
Dr. Hill: Yeah, yeah, Culver City is our main office. We also are now in the financial district in the Gas Tower building in downtown. You know, we're trying to spread out, we're trying to lean to do this process in the most efficient and in the most replicable way. There's an immense amount of skilled clinicians out there, you know. Thousands of them who have incredibly deep skills, who have incredibly good domain expertise for the certain populations, who know neurofeedback really well, but the field has been stagnated a little bit because it's hard to scale that deep domain expertise that is required in every person's head to do this job really well. And so this remote training program is an attempt to, I actually taught you how to be a technician in a few days. It took you a few weeks ‘til it had become comfortable setting up, but you left knowing roughly what to do, just not why you're doing it or how to do it perfectly. And so then you relied on us to scaffold you the rest of the way until you were comfortable. That's one way we can make this more accessible, and it's not any cheaper, at least in the short term if you're doing like a three month ADHD training program. You don't save any money doing it on your own because we have to get you equipment, but if you're someone like Ben Greenfield who's got lofty peak performance goals, who's continually improving, then yeah, getting your own system was absolutely the right call.
Ben: Yeah, or if you just like to constantly have things hooked up to your head or your gonads. Yeah, there's that. I know that you've got a 10% discount for people who mention this podcast, and so if you're listening in and you go to the Peak Brain Institute website or you just check out my link on the show notes over at bengreenfieldfitness.com/andrewhill, you can hop on the phone with Andrew and figure out what's going to work for you. You can also get a 10% discount on any of the protocols that they offer at as Andrew has alluded to their Apple store for your brain. Hopefully we don't get sued by Apple.
Dr. Hill: I know, I know, I know.
Ben: And check it out because honestly it is, I was recently at a master mount with a whole bunch of other guys who are in like a business mastermind within. One of the questions that one of the guys asked was what is one of the most, I think the way he phrased it was one of the biggest game changers that you've done for your business this year and my reply was neurofeedback, just because it's helped me so much with my sleep, with my attention, with my ability to just sit down and write, with my ability to do my big hairy audacious goal each morning without getting distracted by e-mails and Facebook and Twitter and everything else, and so this is cool stuff and I highly, highly recommend it to you if you a) want a better brain, b) want to sleep better or c) just want to be able to smoke less marijuana and save a little bit of money on your weed habit. All sorts of different reasons to use it. So Andrew, thanks for coming on the show and sharing all this stuff with us, man. This is super fascinating.
Dr. Hill: Hey, my pleasure man. It's great to hear about your experience in the past few months, so I'm glad that we have another satisfied brain.
Ben: Awesome, a satisfied brain. So again, bengreenfield.com/andrewhill is where all the show notes are as well as all the previous episodes that I did with Dr. Hill, and until next time, I'm Ben Greenfield, along with Dr. Andrew Hill from the Peak Brain Institute, signing out from bengreenfieldfitness.com. Have a healthy week.
Six months ago, I visited the Peak Brain Institute in Los Angeles, California for a special type of advanced brain scan and brain mapping system called a quantified electroencephalography, or “QEEG”…
…and I was shocked at what they discovered in my brain.
Dr. Andrew Hill, who oversaw the test and who you may remember from my podcasts “Can Weed Really Shrink Your Brain” and “The Little Known Truth About Smart Drugs And Nootropics” (and who you also may have seen on The Joe Rogan Experience, the Smart Drug Smarts show and beyond) discovered some pretty severe patterns of excess stressful beta waves, excess theta waves, and excess delta waves in my brain.
What's that mean?
Basically, this suggests that I have had some history of concussions and traumatic brain injury (which I indeed have had, in everything from football to mountain biking to kickboxing), as well as built-up deficits of attention, increased distractibility, limited sleep potential and less-than-optimal cognitive performance from life, travel, toxins, head injuries and beyond. Dr. Hill actually explored much of this in a follow-up article he wrote after my scan, entitled “How To Increase Your IQ, Decrease Your Distractibility, Create Better Sleep, Enhance Cognitive Performance & Maximize Your Ability To Enter The Zone.”
After that initial scan, I hopped on a plane to LA, and went back to the Peak Brain Institute for three days of intensive training to fix my brain, and then I returned from LA with a tiny suitcase full of every piece of neurofeedback technology necessary to transform and rewire my brain.
In today's episode with Dr. Andrew Hill, who is one the leading neurofeedback practitioners and peak brain performance coaches in the country, a UCLA trained cognitive neuroscientist, lecturer, entrepreneur, avid biohacker, and host of the soon-to-be released podcast – Head First With Dr. Hill (stay tuned as one of the first episodes is with yours truly)…
….you're going to discover exactly what happened to my brain over my 4 months of over 60 sessions of neurofeedback training, how this method of brain fixing blows any other form of electrical brain stimulation out of the water, and how I felt while going through what is essentially like “meditation on steroids”.
During our discussion, you'll discover:
-What Andrew discovered on my initial brain scan…[9:25]
-How I was able to engage in neurofeedback while simultaneously watching Shark Tank…[14:10]
-The difference between a “one channel” design and “two channel” design when it comes to how much you're asking of your brain…[25:50]
-How you can be “doing other things”, like typing, and still also at the same time doing neurofeedback and training your brain…[31:00]
-One of Andrew's favorite “kitchen sink” neurofeedback protocols for sleeping like a baby, improving mood, and increasing focus…[33:00]
-How to use neurofeedback to reset alcohol and marijuana tolerance with just one single session…[42:20]
-The shocking results of the second scan that Andrew and I did…[50:15]
-And much more!
Resources from this episode: