Some thoughts for prospective AVS users…

Over the last little while I’ve been doing a lot of reading and have arrived at the conclusion that it’s very hard to know what to expect from AVS (audio visual stimulation) and how best to utilise it.

The information available through cursory searches provides a lot of indications of areas of potential usefulness, however it is in the nature of marketing that many of the claims and their scientific basis are overstated.

This does not, however, imply that the technology is not useful in any of the areas suggested, just that a little more thought needs to be applied to how it may best serve YOU.

Assuming you’re not wanting to make a hobby of neuroscience, and just want to enjoy the benefits of AVS in your life, I’d like to offer the following tips.

1. Form a clear idea of exactly what you’re wanting to achieve and how you will know if you’ve achieved it.

2. Look at all the other means of achieving the required outcomes. Have you tried any other methods? What has and hasn’t worked for you? For example, if you’re wanting to use AVS for ADHD, have you used stimulant medications and did they work? If they were effective, then there’s a good chance you’ll get good results with simple beta stimulation. If not, then diminished beta is probably not a significant factor in your particular case of ADHD. Likewise for depression – have you found SSRIs effective? If not then the seratonin enhancing characteristics of alpha probably won’t do you a lot of good, although the relaxation itself might.

3. Look at what actually has to happen in order for your requirements to be met. Partly covered in point 2 – is there a known mechanism by which your results can be achieved, and is there evidence that AVS can use or enhance these mechanisms?

4. Are you looking for a quick fix? If so, you’re quite likely to be disappointed. While some sessions and frequency bands do have some pretty immediate feel good effects, persistent results will require time and commitment.

5. Do you believe in magic? You’ll need to distinguish magical thinking from legitimate cause-and-effect. There’s a complex assortment of factors and mechanisms that govern the effectiveness of AVS. Not least is that AVS is extraordinarily effective in eliciting placebo effect. This is not a criticism. The placebo effect might be described as any instance of effectiveness where an explanation is not yet available. Quite a few of the things that AVS can achieve are achieved without satisfactory explanation, but that does not mean that the results are any less real.

6. Use standard preset sessions before worrying about creating your own. The sessions included with your chosen products are mostly based on reasonable interpretations of current data. Current data is patchy, but it is improving, and it’s the best we’ve got just now. It takes a ridiculous amount of time and effort to match the breadth of input companies like MindPlace and Transparent put into delivering sessions and tools that have a good likelihood of delivering meaningful results. (I would rate MP and Transparent among the most trustworthy sources, particularly as they make it clear when information they are providing is indicative, provisional or based on incomplete research – some other vendors are far less open about their excursions into conjecture, and yet others are plainly misleading).

7. Apply critical thinking when looking at vendor websites – there is not sufficient science at present to support some of the more specific claims. References to tenuously related fields, such as quantum physics, are invariably flawed. Likewise, claims of proprietary knowledge and specific frequencies or protocols are also unlikely to have robust foundation.

8. Don’t be lured by bling. The requirements for effective AVS are audible beats and flashing lights. Anything beyond this is embellishment, and most embellishments actually diminish effectiveness. That said, it is reasonable to make sessions sufficiently aesthetically pleasing to encourage use. There are some subtleties, such as the use of colour, which may be significant in ways that are not yet fully understood, but my feeling at present is that colour is more about personal preference and session interest than actual functionality. (The full colour Procyon is an absolute joy, but it’s probably no more functionally effective than the 2-colour Proteus).

9. Don’t expect too much from passive AVS use. You’ll gain the benefits of deep relaxation just by laying back and enjoying, but any of the more specific applications will require commitment on your part. A popular hope for AVS is to “achieve monk-like meditation” – you will achieve monk-like meditation when you meditate like a monk, AVS can help you recognise certain mental states and is a great tool for overcoming distraction and mind-chatter, but be assured, you will not experience enlightenment just by plugging into an AVS device. Some uses, like pain relief with low delta, can be achieved passively. Alpha is just plain good for anxiety. Anything much else will require a certain amount of additional understanding and effort.

10. Make sure you’re attempting to solve the right problem. If you’re wanting to increase your focus and concentration, beta might help, but not if you’re only getting 4 hours sleep. If you’re wanting to deal with depression, you’ll need to know if you’re particular depression is a slow wave disorder that responds well to SMR/beta, or whether it is more cognitively based, in which case alpha/theta introspection may well be more useful. ADHD has captured the headlines, and I strongly suspect there’s a lot of people trying to treat themselves for ADHD who should actually be looking at non-pathological laziness and procrastination – AVS can be helpful for either, but the strategies are very different.

11. Consider the other tools that are related to AVS – biofeedback and neurofeedback are much more precise tools and provide objective indications of need and progress. Open-loop AVS is an extremely non-specific tool which gains a great deal from application where the the body’s needs and responses can be assessed. Biofeedback is relatively inexpensive and simple with device like the Thoughtstream. Neurofeedback is orders of magnitude more complex and expensive, but for therapeutic applications has a very sound pedigree.

12. Whatever you read, the ‘truth’ is more complicated. While AVS has been around since we first sat around a fire drumming, and the technology has been deliberately applied for decades, the science is struggling to keep up with practical results. You are privileged to be part of a field in its infancy – everything you do has the potential to uncover new understandings and applications. Don’t expect to find detailed hows and whys – learn to interpret theories, hypotheses and small-scale trial results.

13. Make adequate allowance for individual variability. What works for one person may not work for you and what works for you may not work for anyone else. All the preset sessions are based on broad generalisations. For example, many alpha sessions are based on the 10Hz frequency, which is approximately the natural dominant closed-eyes relaxed frequency of most people. In practice, individuals will have a natural dominant alpha frequency between 9.5Hz and 10.5Hz and tuning sessions to the individual does enhance their effectiveness. Units like the Proteus have a User Mode which very conveniently allows you to ‘scan’ through frequencies to find ‘sweet spots’. A good indication of your dominant alpha frequency can be found by using User Mode with the lights set bright and sweeping through 9-11Hz and noticing when your eyes start quivering and wanting to blink (even though they’re closed) – my experiments suggest that the most powerful blink impulse corresponds to the individual’s dominant alpha.

14. Have fun. With very few exceptions (as detailed in vendor disclaimers) AVS is completely safe. There is virtually no possibility of doing anything that will result in long term damage – achieving such damage would require persisting when minor symptoms or discomforts have already made it clear that what you’re doing is not right for you.

15. Share your successes and failures on the user forums. We’re mostly ‘just users’ of the technology and there’s very few people out there who can claim any real authority. There’s a few ‘names’ in the industry, and it’s well worth reading their publications, but you’ll find that there are significant areas of debate even amongst the old-timers of the field. Join in, participate, question.

16. If you do want to study the subject, start with the foundations first before delving into the specifics of AVS. The fields of science from which AVS draws it’s fundamentals are far better documented than AVS itself. Neuroscience, Psychology, Psychiatry, Electronics and Physics are all rich fields, and a good lay understanding of any or all will definitely make for a more rewarding experience with AVS.

I hope you’ve found something of value in this rambling piece and I welcome any discussion it might provoke.

Cheers,
Craig

Comments

  • jc  On July 19, 2009 at 3:12 pm

    Craig,
    As already stated elsewhere in another link, this article is now a complementary primer to “Is entrainment the whole story?” More of the same honest, direct common sense approach… a must read for all new or prospective users of AVS, and a great refresher for the rest of us.
    Thank you.

  • Bill Bartmann  On September 19, 2009 at 6:34 pm

    Excellent site, keep up the good work. I read a lot of blogs on a daily basis and for the most part, people lack substance but, I just wanted to make a quick comment to say I’m glad I found your blog. Thanks,

    A definite great read.. 🙂

    -Bill-Bartmann

    • craigtavs  On September 20, 2009 at 11:21 am

      Hi Bill,
      Thanks for stopping by and taking time to comment. Glad you’re enjoying my ramblings 🙂
      Cheers,
      Craig

  • Dryer Vent Cleaning  On September 19, 2009 at 9:45 pm

    Excellent site, keep up the good work

    • craigtavs  On September 20, 2009 at 11:21 am

      Thanks for the feedback!
      Cheers,
      Craig

  • Akien  On February 8, 2011 at 9:20 am

    For what it’s worth, I’ve just started using AVS for ADHD, and the beta program has had immediate and positive effects. I haven’t tried it without the meds yet, but that is on my list of things to try after my current project is complete.

  • Chris  On March 21, 2011 at 11:49 am

    Hi why doesnt the forum for the laxman work craig? Im looking for information before i purchase is this the best of the best?. Thankyou

  • Chris  On March 21, 2011 at 11:49 am

    Hi why doesnt the forum for the laxman work craig? Im looking for information before i purchase is this the best of the best?. Thankyou My fiend

  • brainwave entrainment  On October 5, 2011 at 6:15 pm

    My brother recommended I might like this web site. He was once entirely right. This publish truly made my day. You cann’t believe just how a lot time I had spent for this information! Thanks!

  • Lionheart  On August 7, 2012 at 4:11 pm

    Excellent article as usual Craig. I have had the Laxman for over 4 months now and really enjoy it. I use it for daily Brain Entrainment towards my goal of Astral Projection and I recommend it to all my friends and members of a website known as the AstralPulse.com. I give all the credit there to you, for your excellent information in helping me choose which unit was best for me. I just recently put a link to this article to help other members there learn more about AVS.

    • CraigT  On August 8, 2012 at 8:25 am

      Hi,

      Thanks for your support. I’ve noticed a few people arriving here from your site and I’ve had a nosey – you’ve got some good discussion going.

      Cheers,
      Craig

  • Britteny Lecroy  On August 11, 2012 at 3:22 pm

    Really helped me a lot. Thanx

  • Lionheart  On August 13, 2012 at 6:28 pm

    Hello again Craig. What headphones do you find give you the best experience with the Laxman? I use Binaural Beats and Isochronic Tones quite a bit as well. Price is not a problem, I want the best quality sound I can get. The headphones that came with the Laxman aren’t a good quality at all. Currently I use my Skullcandy earbuds, but they aren’t the best sound either.
    Thank you!

  • Javi  On September 14, 2012 at 11:38 am

    Hi Craig – thanks so much for sharing.

    I find sound-induced consciousness modulation and its related fields fascinating, all sharing great potential but still little agreement amongst researchers/practitioners/companies/enthusiasts.

    Lots of products are “popping out” from this fertile crop of promising “sonic mind-apps” but many of their claims are biased, lacking transparency and possibly rigor: while some talk about “the rules of entrainment” (David Siever, Morry Zelcovitch…) others seem to be expanding its possibilities (Brainev, transparent corp and Dr. Huang… ) and there are even sounds to dis-entrain the brain !

    Here are some questions that might ignite more questions:

    – – Neurofeedback focuses on specific brainwave ratios/locations while avs tries to entrain to “global” predominant frequencies, can avs be counterproductive depending on the baseline state of each user and what they might want to accomplish ?)

    – – Are there any other ways of establishing a working baseline other than with brain-mapping techniques ?

    – – Is there a reliable frequencies´ effects compilation/bible/list ?

    – – What is Emotiv really capable of ? Can it be successfully used beyond entertainment ?

    – – How can I otherwise reliably teach myself the different frequencies´ “flavours”, record sessions to compare EEG readings vs subjective experience vs manufacturer´s claims or try some neurofeedback training protocols without spending a fortune ?

    – – Did you engineer the first brain salon sessions ? (they have just been upgraded)

    – – Can you recommend essential books, websites, products and forums ? – I have checked your links section 🙂

    – – Do you know why it is not advised to mix various long-term sound entrainment programs ?

    – – I suspect that we are “made of” transient combinations of innumerable factors (our psychological makeup, “problems” (either imagined or real), belief systems, subjective experience of our body-mind systems, habits (especially thought patterns, how we choose to describe and give meaning to our different experiences…) and that our “mind-body” states cannot just be shrunk to a few categories based on cycles per second, neural oscillations and related physiological markers:
    are there any attempts at considering/recording/analysing other types of biological data in order to achieve self-regulation ?

    all the best and many thanks !!

    • CraigT  On September 14, 2012 at 1:11 pm

      Hi Javi,

      Thanks for your interest.

      There is little agreement because there are very few independent facts. Trials have been on small groups often by or financed by the manufactures. Trials have also mainly been with simple stimulus – a plain beat and/or flash. The one AVS application that has been well trialed in both simple and complex sessions is Relaxation.

      With a few basic “facts” supporting AVS, we have a rich feeding ground for snake-oil salesmen. AVS can induce changes to brain activity and these changes may be beneficial. All of the hardware and software products I’m aware out there have what’s required to support, encourage or at least not hinder. Session content (CDs, etc.) might be okay too, but effectiveness and specificity of effect is usually overstated.

      There is only one “rule of entrainment” – if it flashes and/or beeps then it can lead to entrainment.

      Lunarsight.com is the most comprehensive list of “special” frequencies. There is also now a bibliography. Keep in mind when using such lists that the tested mode of operation could be anything – radio, magnetism, light, sound or touch and there is no reason to expect a magnetically stimulated frequency to be useful as audio, for example.

      The only EEG I have used is the Pendant. Brewmasher on the Transparent forum seems to be pretty familiar with the Emotiv. Mind Workstation has all manner of tools to help set up EEG and make its output meaningful. Apart from EEG there are other neuro-feedback devices, such as HEG (HemoEncephaloGraphy) which measures blood flow through the skull and bio-feedback HRV (HeartRateVariability) which is particularly good for measuring “relaxation” and GSR (Galvanic Skin Resistance) which is also a good indicator of relaxation.

      Only Brainev Level 7.

      There isn’t much in the way of books or magazines dedicated to AVS. My suggestion is to work out what you want to know and then search using those terms. There’s enough literature on the Transparent website to gain a sufficient grounding in the technology and practice to get you well into self-guided search/learning.

      AVS is a frontier still – everyone has the chance to discover something. The best way forward is to get into it yourself. If you mix up sessions too much or overdo it for a while you might feel a bit fuzzy, maybe a bit of a headache and maybe a restlessness night or two. Any adverse effects will quickly clear. Bio- or neurofeedback can help familiarise yourself with the states you’re seeking to develop.

      I hope this helps.

      Cheers,
      Craig

      • Javi  On September 15, 2012 at 2:44 am

        Thanks ever so much for your answer – I´ll look up the Transparent website and contact Brewmasher.

        Where can I find about those few independent facts ?

        Clearing/confronting emotional content seems to go hand by hand with entering meditative states and many products state that it´s not uncommon for repressed material to surface – Does this match your personal experience ?

      • CraigT  On September 15, 2012 at 8:57 am

        The basic facts are that sound/light pulses can alter brain rhythms and that such changes can be beneficial.

        The best source I know for well implemented sessions and source reference for most of the known AVS applications is NeuroProgrammer.

        Any time you take time out alone with your mind there is the risk(?) that something long forgotten, repressed or barely known might surface. When using AVS in a psychotherapeutic manner I suggest having a trusted other who knows what you are doing, to talk it out with and to keep an eye on any changes in behaviour, etc. That said, I am not a believer in recovered memory techniques and consider “fishing trips”, trying to find particular types of things in the mind, to be unwise. Personally I have had a few surprises but mostly I have been able to develop further along lines I had already been pursuing prior to AVS.

        Cheers,
        Craig

  • Javi  On September 15, 2012 at 9:08 am

    I personally feel that anything that was once repressed and “bubbles up” to be reviewed is an opportunity to learn/grow – I was anyway quite curious to know what your thoughts were… – I´m grateful for having found your site, your answers are appreciated.

    • CraigT  On September 16, 2012 at 8:44 am

      I agree completely. It is by searching for things that are not there that time is wasted and harm maybe done.
      Cheers,
      Craig

  • Zandkristal  On April 22, 2013 at 1:54 am

    Hi Craig,
    What an amazing lot of information!
    I just purchased a Procyon. I hope it can help me, alongside other therapies, to help me with some childhood issues. They probably took place at a very young age, therefore it is very hard to remember.
    My guess is, those are responsible for the trauma in later life.
    My question is, what kind of session would you recommend? And do I use it everyday, or should i try different sessions with different ranges of Hz.
    Last night I had a deep meditation session of 60 minutes. I had some visions which I could not interpret but hopefully they will make sense later. I do not know much about the different waves like alpha, theta etc. I was lying down while doing this session and dozed off a couple of times. Is that okay, or should I sit up and try to stay awake?
    I hope you will find time to answer me.

    • CraigT  On April 22, 2013 at 9:08 am

      Hi,

      I have found AVS very useful for making sense of parts of the past. The strategy I settled on was to use theta sessions to encourage associations and recollections, followed by alpha to dispassionately consider the facts and options surrounding any new information.

      Alpha is good for mild anxiety. Beta is good for mild depression. Too much beta can make an anxious person feel more anxious, too much theta can make a depressed person feel more depressed.

      Use as frequently as you have need for new material to work through. Use for mood, sleep, attention and other applications as desired.

      Dozing off is fine – it usually means you need sleep more than you need whatever the session is for.

      I trust that you have support available. Poking around in buried memories can be quite unsettling.

      All the best.
      Craig

  • Zandkristal  On April 22, 2013 at 6:26 pm

    Thank you so much Craig, this is very helpful.
    Yes I’m aware that support can be needed. I’m prepared of stuck garbage in my sewage system. The sooner it gets unclogged the better. Thanx again!

  • Josh  On September 1, 2013 at 1:25 am

    Hi Craig,

    Thanks for your honest and straightforward accounts.

    Could you elaborate more on(item 10 from your list) about the differing treatment strategies of ADHD vs non-pathological laziness and procrastination.

    Also would you recommend the Procyon full color for a beginner.

    Thanks,

    Josh

    • CraigT  On September 1, 2013 at 10:55 am

      Hi Josh,

      The main thing with AVS for therapeutic application is to determine that there is a disorder to correct. It is reasonable to assume that those with ADHD will show the characteristic slow wave patterns while one who does not have the disorder will show ordinary brainwave patterns. If treating ADHD there are simple protocols available with Neuroprogrammer and also, not necessarily by name, on most mind machines.

      For personal and performance issues the hypnosis/motivation strategies can be useful.

      A lot of useful information can be found on the Transparentcorp web site.

      The Procyon is an excellent device.

      Cheers,
      Craig

  • Anonymous  On October 11, 2013 at 10:59 am

    Hi Craig,

    Just a quick “thanks for the info”. I see you sometimes in the Transparent forums (I’m “BubblesMcGee”). I’ve finished reading the Help Files in NP3 and it looks like I’ve found my next source of reading material. So, thanks again!

    Larry

    • CraigT  On October 11, 2013 at 1:52 pm

      Hi Larry,

      Thanks for stopping by 🙂

      I see that you’re getting well and truly into it all.

      Have fun!

      Cheers,
      Craig

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