Feeling Like A Chicken With its Head (Brain) Cut Off?

10 Fri 2008
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This is a “reprint” of an entertaining and educational article from Dr. Jeff Carmen, who created the pirHEG system I write about on my website and in other blog posts. With his permission I'm re-posting it here for those of you interested in:
- HEG
- the frontal lobes

- learning to put the brakes on yourself
;-)

He talks primarily about the prefrontal cortex – for those of you who read my blog (and thanks for that! ), that will be roughly what I talk about more loosely as the “frontal lobes” or the “executive system” — that area of the brain sitting behind your forehead.

He also refers to the frontal lobes/prefrontal cortex as being primarily “inhibitory”, meaning that instead of the activity of the executive system being dedicated to Getting Stuff Done (e.g., movements, sensory activity) it tends to be more actively Stopping Unnecessary Stuff (e.g., distractions, impulsive actions, attention-wandering, anger outbursts, emotional extremes…). So I'm hoping you can see how important it is to have those frontal lobes in gear to get you where you need to be!

Anyway, enough from me. Here he is….  (Remember, he's not only an excellent psychologist and the creator of the pirHEG system, he's a farmer, so don't be offended — just work with us here ) …

Many of you have heard my description of chopping the head off a chicken. It runs around, hops, flaps wings, makes noises and finally keels over dead.

This is because the chicken's brain mostly inhibits actions that otherwise will function on their own.

We can make an analogy to the human prefrontal cortex. The relationship of a chicken's brain to its body is similar to the relationship of the human prefrontal cortex to the rest of the brain. Both are largely inhibiting structures — they “put the brakes on” other areas of the brain.

So there is a continual balancing act between the inhibiting/management activities of the prefrontal cortex and the more pure (limbic) emotional response. When stressed or in distress or sensing danger, the prefrontal cortex is supposed to shut down, allowing our emergency response systems to kick in rapidly.

But if this stress or “alarm system on” becomes chronic, the prefrontal cortex goes into “sleep mode”. Under these conditions global brain management is handed over to the emergency systems which only do a good job during emergencies.

What this leaves is a brain that responds too quickly and too strongly to stimuli that are not very important. That covers about 50% of the kinds of problems people typically want to change.

Even for those of us without “symptoms”, to a lesser extent the same may apply.

We live in a stimulus intensive, highly reactive world, don't get enough sleep, etc. We react to environmental demands more than we initiate. We tend to run around with a minimally functional prefrontal cortex all the time.

Enter HEG.

HEG is just an easy way to turn the prefrontal cortex back on. Most folks like this “on” feeling better than when it is turned off, and it gives them a smoother management system over the other brain modules. It also quiets anxiety better than relaxation training because the anxiety is more or less forced to quiet down, rather than just reduced. It allows it to stay quiet in the presence of intense stimulation whereas relaxation training does not.

People report “being in the zone” for competitive sports. A psychologist in Oklahoma who is also a competitive tennis player has reported to me that doing a pir session before an event will put him in the zone.

There are no reasons to avoid using pirHEG that I have been able to determine.

The only caution is to go slowly. People who are not used to an active prefrontal cortex tend to tire it out easily. Once fatigued, their worst symptoms tend to express themselves until rest and sleep fix the problem. The next day is usually fine, actually better than usual.

The way to avoid this is to keep track of what happens during the session. Emotional discomfort, physical discomfort, or just a steadily dropping signal are good reasons to stop the session until the next session. I ask: “How are you feeling? How does your head feel?” Somewhat ambiguous questions but if the answer starts changing in the direction of reporting psychological discomfort or a throbbing sensation in the head (referred to as a painless headache) it is a good time to stop.

At this point there is a growing literature on HEG, but the above really sums up the use and effect of pIR HEG. The above information really is most of what you need to know to understand the dynamics. If you have any other questions though, I would be glad to answer them.

And you can reach Dr. Carmen to ask those questions at his website:www.stopmymigraine.com Or, of course, feel free to contact me through my website contact form at BrainandHealth.com.

2 Responses to Feeling Like A Chicken With its Head (Brain) Cut Off?

  1. adam on 19 Thu 2012 at 11:33

    I was delighted to recently discover your blog. Although you appear to be focus on pirHEG which targets the whole prefrontal area, do you have any comments on the possible psychological effects of differentially training the left and right pfc using nirHEG. If, as some maintain, the right pfc tends to be emotionally inhibitory i.e. acting as something of a ‘downer’ in psychological terms, and the left pfc has the opposite effect, I wonder if this would have an implication for the training of persons prone to depression – both from the perspective of alleviating the condition, and avoiding precipitating it?

    • admin on 30 Fri 2012 at 21:31

      Yes, it would have an implication for training — and for people training only one side, sometimes the best thing to do is always train both sides at least a bit. This is more or less what happens with pirHEG where the signal is broader and influences both sides if the sensor is placed in the middle of the forehead.

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