A scan of my brain (it’s pretty normal!)

When I was in Los Angeles a week ago, I found myself hanging around some neuroscientists and neuropsychologists, and they persuaded me to have my brain scanned and analyzed: a “QEEG”. I had no idea what it involved, but it was completely painless. I simply donned this funny-looking hat that had 19 recording electrodes. The electrodes picked up electrical impulses from different parts of the brain, and those impulses can be combined and crunched to triangulate the activity of deeper parts of the brain.

I had no idea what I was getting into, but the 60-minute procedure, combined with a computer program that analyzed my brain waves, produced a lot of information.  I should add that this procedure is often done by therapists as well as physicians, and can cost from $500 to several thousand dollars depending on they type of QEEG done. My procedure would have cost $1,000, so I was pleased to get a freebie. But I was also scared that I would find out my brain was abnormal!

The spike is not part of the apparatus, nor does it connote that I’m a pointy-headed intellectual:
My brain scan
Dr. Orli Peter, who is both a clinical and a neuropsychologist with a practice in Beverly Hills, explained the analysis to me:
There are several types of QEEG analyses and we use SKIL – an advanced analysis program developed by UCLA professor Barry Sterman, a pioneer in research for clinical applications for neurofeedback and his then graduate student, David Kaiser.
She and David Kaiser are colleagues in her practice and he did my actual brain scan and analyzed my brain activity using the program he helped develop.
I did the scan four ways. Two traditional ways: with my eyes closed and then with my eyes open, looking at a fixed image (a chair). And then two new ways, called the “Peter Test,” to pick up any unresolved alteration in brain functioning due to exposure to psychological trauma. “Trauma neuromarkers” have been identified via various neuroimaging techniques.

The analysis of David and Orli, summarized by the latter; I’ve put the take-home message in bold:

Just so you know, Brodmann area theta unity is analyzed in SKIL brainmapping. It is a measure of corticolimbic connectivity, an indirect measure of myelination and distribution of sub-cortically driven theta associated with cerebral maturation.

Nearly all regions in your brain show mature integration of limbic and cortical functioning. Your sensory sampling speed is at the slightly faster end of the speed shared with the majority of people, and consistent across regions, which is an indicator of healthy sensorimotor development . However, your frontal lobe shows excessive theta similarity, an indicator of primal (unmodulated) functioning in bilateral BA9 and BA47, and there is less theta similarity of the ACC and Broca’s areas, an indicator of inefficiency in functions served by these areas.

Here is a list of the the type of functioning these regions are involved with.

BA 9 —hyperlimbic connectivity may impact cognitive flexibility and planning, being able to infer the intention of others, and empathy. Children who show poor attachment have poorer activation here. Recent studies have also shown this region is involved in social fairness, and excessive limbic functioning will result in a different sense of social justice than the dominant group.

BA 47 –more primal functioning in this region may reduce decision making and (again) being able to infer the intention of others, and to properly understand emotion (this hub has been shown to specifically relate to understanding emotion when communicated through prosody.)

Anterior Cingulate Cortex (ACC) — the ACC is a major hub that has connections to both the “emotional” limbic system and the “cognitive” prefrontal cortex. Poorer integration of the ACC is associated with poorer decision making because of increased difficulty in holding two conflicting ideas simultaneously and because of poorer error detection. Poorer connectivity is also associated with poorer emotional awareness and recognition of emotional cues.

Broca’s area is associated with sequencing and hierarchical categorization, a subset that influences language.

In sum, the overall view is that most regions of your brain are functioning very well, better than most, but your ability to make decisions, infer intention of others, understand emotion and share in perceptions of social justice is driven by more limbic processes, making behaviors that rely on these abilities more challenging or unique.

I take this to mean that I have the moral sense and the empathy of an early mammal!

The type of corticolimbic integration are converted into colors, and, I was told, the more green your brain areas are, the more “normal.”. I was largely green, which greatly relieved me:

Brodmann Overview - BA Exec jchec50

Re The Peter Test: I did not show any alteration in the functioning of my default-mode-network due to psychological trauma. In other words, there is no sign that I’ve been traumatized (this could either mean “never traumatized” or “traumatized and recovered from it”) which jibes pretty well with my own self-assessment.  

And here’s my list of sampling rates from the 19 electrodes. The explanation, from Orli, is below. Of course most of it is beyond me, but I’m sure some readers will understand:

Dominant Frequency1-jerry

Re the chart above:
Sampling rates are shown two ways: dominant frequency table at 1/8 hz sensitivity and as spectral entropy plots which are 1 hz sensitivity. The “overall” is peak from 1 to 45 hz and can be ignored. This range will show artifact and delta and pink noise peaks. The sensory information gating peak is typically between 7-14 hz which is the second column and one to pay attention to. This information is also represented in spectral entropy plots. Here we can see the organization of frequency activity for each brain region (see first figure above).
 The peak frequency around 10.75 hz in much of your regions is calculated by tallying up frequency bins across recording. In the “eyes closed” condition typically we will see sinusoidal activity, and this is the primary speed of these sinusoidal waveforms. These waveform are generated by the thalamocortical loop and are the rate of inhibition by the reticular thalamic nuclei which sheaths most of the thalamus and is this inhibition is activated mostly by thalamus on the thalamic relay to cortex of sensory information  when there is little or no sensory stimulation the thalamus goes into an idling speed and this is the relaxed rate of sensory volleying to cortex; i.e., our relaxed or default sensory sampling rate of environment. This is not our max rate- just our default; We can sample and gate information to the cortex faster or slower than this, depending on the situation.
I was grateful to get this analysis for free, and relieved that I’m not some kind of brain freak! If you’re in LA or traveling there, you can contact this email to get an appointment for your own SKIL EEG. Dr. Peter gives discounts to those who can verify financial need; and insurance can cover some of the cost as well.

19 Comments

  1. ladyatheist
    Posted June 26, 2016 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

    I wish they’d read your brain while petting a cat.

  2. Posted June 26, 2016 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

    Marty Feldon as Igor. A B Normal.

  3. Posted June 26, 2016 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

    The walking limbic system motif gives you a sense of danger. You can always fine tune things later with optogenetics.

  4. Torbjörn Larsson
    Posted June 26, 2016 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

    I have never heard of EEG used for psychology. Its poor spatial and electrical resolution (would preferentially pick up aligned dendrites) doesn’t seem like a good match. It feels like having a hammer attempting to thread a needle. Isn’t it mainly used to diagnose stuff like brain death and epilepsy? But what do I know.

    For Beverly Hills psychologists it could work like a dream, however. =D

  5. rickflick
    Posted June 26, 2016 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

    Brains are fascinating. I’ve always wanted to have a map of my own brain to see if those self doubts I have are justified.

    “Broca’s areas are associated with sequencing and hierarchical categorization.”

    I always thought Broca’s was associated with speech production, rather than hierarchical reasoning. Wikipedia seems to think so. Trauma to this region reduce or destroy the ability to speak. Maybe the various functions mentioned are related in some way.

    • Gregory Kusnick
      Posted June 26, 2016 at 6:44 pm | Permalink

      I’m no expert, but speech production involves covering a hierarchical grammatical structure into a sequential stream of phonemes, so maybe that’s the connection.

      • Gregory Kusnick
        Posted June 26, 2016 at 6:46 pm | Permalink

        “converting”, not “covering”.

      • rickflick
        Posted June 26, 2016 at 7:04 pm | Permalink

        Yes, possibly. That was the kind of relation I was thinking of.

  6. Heather Hastie
    Posted June 26, 2016 at 8:22 pm | Permalink

    Fascinating. I’d love to get this done.

  7. Hempenstein
    Posted June 26, 2016 at 9:38 pm | Permalink

    Hmm, theta unity?

    • Diane G.
      Posted June 27, 2016 at 9:27 pm | Permalink

      + 1

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted June 28, 2016 at 1:04 am | Permalink

      The fraternity for those short on their Greek?

  8. Dominic
    Posted June 27, 2016 at 4:55 am | Permalink

    I have done that a couple of times for our students. Sadly my brain was missing! 😦

  9. Posted June 27, 2016 at 9:46 pm | Permalink

    I don’t know much about this, but I’m pretty skeptical about the validity of all the conclusions they’ve drawn. I would need to see some very rigorous studies, with large numbers of subjects, to believe this is more than a very fancy, high tech, horoscope. I’m not saying it’s impossible, but this seems to me to be an extraordinary claim. And extraordinary claims, of course, require extraordinary evidence.

    (I am not, by the way, saying the extraordinary claim is that your brain is fairly normal;)

  10. gravelinspector-Aidan
    Posted June 28, 2016 at 1:07 am | Permalink

    And then two new ways, called the “Peter Test,” to pick up any unresolved alteration in brain functioning due to exposure to psychological trauma.

    Since I just finished watching an episode of “Family Guy”, I assume the traumatic Peter in the name is Mr Griffin?
    And QEEG – the Harpooner out of Moby Dick? But why?

    • Diane G.
      Posted June 28, 2016 at 2:14 am | Permalink

      No. Qeeg–the harpooner out of Moby Dick, but U.

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted June 28, 2016 at 5:48 pm | Permalink

        Qeeg graduated in Harpooning from U.Qeeg? I bet he got honours!
        [Point got!]

  11. W.Benson
    Posted June 28, 2016 at 10:15 am | Permalink

    Jerry, no one believes for a minute that you were being tested. The headpiece is obviously some kind of zucchetto and you a high-priest of the Church of Science.

  12. Ben
    Posted June 29, 2016 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

    “Anterior Cingulate Cortex (ACC) — the ACC is a major hub that has connections to both the “emotional” limbic system and the “cognitive” prefrontal cortex. Poorer integration of the ACC is associated with poorer decision making because of increased difficulty in holding two conflicting ideas simultaneously and because of poorer error detection. Poorer connectivity is also associated with poorer emotional awareness and recognition of emotional cues.”

    How is it that we know all this about the brain, and yet there are still people squawking about “Free Will”…

    Go figure… (I guess they just “can’t help it”!)


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