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Ken Wilber stops his brain waves!
March 7, 2007 2:31 AM   Subscribe

Ken Wilber can stop his brain waves on demand. This (WMV) is the famous EEG machine recording where Ken Wilber enters various meditative states, one of which is a type of "thoughtless," "image-less," or "formless" state, whose correlate is that his brainwaves come to an almost complete stop, as clearly recorded on this portable electroencephalograph (EEG) machine. Seeing somebody's brainwaves flatline in about 4 seconds is a sight not easily forgotten! Also on YouTube.
posted by skepticX (68 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
The first time, he rests an electrode on his hand when he lies down which is shorting out the signal, so it goes flat. Then, the tape pauses while he narrates. When it unpauses, he lifts his head and the signal comes back. He sits up, and grabs an open lead that was sitting on his stomach and squeezes it in his hand, the signal goes flat again. Again the video pauses while he narrates. Jump cut to him resting the electrodes on his other hand, again the signal goes down, again the video pauses, more mumbo-jumbo. Jump cut to 'standard pattern', then a pause and more spewing.


Thus, this is a stupid hoax. Not the best of the web.
posted by Osmanthus at 3:18 AM on March 7, 2007


More seriously, as Ken often says, "If you want to know God, you've got to get your brain out of the way first.

I knew that.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 3:22 AM on March 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


Eponysterical!
posted by roboto at 3:24 AM on March 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


__________________________
posted by sgt.serenity at 3:29 AM on March 7, 2007


He stops his brain waves? And the only wave left is the command: "Don't think. Don't think. Don't think. Don't think. Don't think..." It is impossible to stop one's 'brain waves'. It is not even useful. The brain does a lot of other things than conscious thought. And the 'waves' one reads on an EEG are an amalgamation of local electrical activity, which always include a hefty amount of noise from the skin and from external, ambient sources. So this is like showing a flat seismograph reading and claiming that you've learned to stop earthquakes. Of course, seismographs don't only measure vibrations in the earth, as my friends and I learned when we found and jumped on the ground above the instrument at F&M (sorry, geologist dudes, we were just dumb kids).

Note to hoax scientists: Remember to include some noise in your data for verisimilitude. Oh, and use a real EEG next time.
posted by Eideteker at 3:30 AM on March 7, 2007


__________-____________
posted by sgt.serenity at 3:38 AM on March 7, 2007


And the only wave left is the command: "Don't think. Don't think. Don't think. Don't think. Don't think..."

This is a conundrum in meditation, but a solveable one. I doubt that a state of "mushin"/no-mind results in a flat EEG, but it doesn't require you to think about not-thinking.
posted by Drexen at 4:05 AM on March 7, 2007


I'm certain a link about turning off your brain is at least a double.
posted by srboisvert at 4:19 AM on March 7, 2007


There is a trick involved here. What he does is hypnotize himself into the Schroedinger's cat mixed quantum state of half dead and half alive and the mixed state of Ken that isn't on camera is having wild passionate loving sex with the girl on the cover of the Sports Illustrated bikini issue. If you have enough spare cash he can teach you too to perform this trick in one of his weekend workshops. It's so worth it.
posted by bukvich at 4:20 AM on March 7, 2007


The emperor has no brain waves.
posted by Elmore at 4:24 AM on March 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


It is impossible to stop one's 'brain waves'. It is not even useful.

That is not entirely true; about 3-5 grams of sodium thiopental in an adult will cause EEG silence; this is useful when induceing a coma after a brain injury or in protecting the brain during deep hypothermic circulatory arrest for certain types of surgery. It doesn't sound like that is what is going on here, though.
posted by TedW at 4:29 AM on March 7, 2007 [3 favorites]


Turn off your mind, relax and float downstream.

Thus, this is a stupid hoax. Not the best of the web.

It's a stupid hoax, but the guy has followers and he sells lots of books. It's worth letting those people know he's a scammer.
posted by pracowity at 4:40 AM on March 7, 2007


Ken Wilber can stop his brain waves on demand.

i have a friend who can do it after a case of bud and a fifth of jack daniels
posted by pyramid termite at 4:52 AM on March 7, 2007


I think perhaps stopping your brain isn't really "getting it out of the way", except in the mafia sense.

Perhaps mind control involves something beyond inducing a coma.
posted by ewkpates at 5:06 AM on March 7, 2007


Osmanthus:

I think that if this were that simple of a hoax, you'd not see the readings fall as gradually as you see here. I've witnessed plenty of EEG/Polygraph type testing and when there's an electrical short, it usually spikes before it shows no reading on older machines, while newer ones usually incorporate a buzz or other 'dirty lead' warning.

I'm not sure this is real, but i'm not sure it's a hoax either. I do believe that changes in brainstate can be manipulated and measured today, and not just to sell books.
posted by phylum sinter at 5:44 AM on March 7, 2007


So, with all his brainwaves stopped, then how does he produce one with the "reboot" signal?
posted by sourwookie at 5:54 AM on March 7, 2007


"Hey Ken-- whatcha thinking about?"
"Nothing."
"No, really. Penny for your thoughts."
"Uh..."
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 6:11 AM on March 7, 2007


sgt.serenity: __________________________

Very funny.

Eideteker: Note to hoax scientists: Remember to include some noise in your data for verisimilitude.

sgt.serenity: __________-____________


Spitting milk through the nose funny.

Thanks sgt. serenity. Now I have to change my shirt.
posted by three blind mice at 6:31 AM on March 7, 2007


Well, I have had my own issues with Wilbur (because of a Wilbur-evangelizing brother-in-law, mostly), but I don't think "hoaxer" is a very good description of him. He's a pretty serious thinker attempting to construct a fairly comprehensive theory of consciousness.

Again, I'm not necessarily defending this theory (I just know enough about it to know it's complicated--not much beyond a Wikipedia level), I'm just saying that based on what I have read, he's not like the people who peddle more typical New Age (or for that matter "Christian") pamphlets. He doesn't strike me as some sort of svengali with "followers". I think he's too difficult to be that popular.

So, while I support skepticism and say, by all means, have at it, there are several things on this thread that strike me as wrong (I'm skeptical of y'alls' skepticism!)

First, the display has about, what, 4 bits of resolution? It's obvious that this is not a demonstration of literally setting all electromagnetic fields in the brain to zero, and saying so isn't skepticism as much as it is setting up a straw man: what is being shown is simply that the activity is substantially reduced, to below the level of resolution of the display. There is certainly still "noise" and other fluctuations present--he is, after all, still alive! So, yes, it would be nice to see him do this with a higher resolution display. By the way, it is also a misnomer to say that the display is showing the brain waves: it is really more like a display of the power spectrum of the brain waves, so the frequency resolution is also quite low.

Second, I don't see the fiddling with electrodes that some are claiming. He may very well be doing a hoax (how would I know otherwise?), but I just don't see the evidence.

Finally, to say it's "not even useful" makes no sense to me: not useful how? To you and me in everyday life? Or to people deep into meditation (which I am not)? Clearly, he does find it useful, and he can tell you why.

No doubt: I'd like to know if he has done this on other occasions, and under more controlled conditions. But what is being shown in this video does not strike me as implausible on its face. I'm not a super "spiritual" person, nor a meditor, but I have played with biofeedback, and it is possible to manipulate one's brain waves at will. So why is it so obvious that he's just not really good at it?
posted by mondo dentro at 6:38 AM on March 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


So what he doesn't do (and doesn't even claim to do) is "stop his brain waves". What he's actually claiming to do --- and showing in that video --- is transitioning from a state with lots of Alpha and Beta waves to one with few Alpha and Beta waves: a state with more synchrony of brain activity.

Normally, our neurons aren't very correlated in their electrical impulses, because they're all doing different and interesting things. Thus, when all of their voltages are averaged together (like in an EEG) you get small, jerky movements. But when they're doing boring things like sleeping, they end up firing at the same time, so the EEG waves end up having higher amplitude and lower frequency.

So when Mr. Wilber does his meditation, he enters an altered state in which he has no (or very few) alpha and beta waves. I do this all the time: it's called sleep. So all he's demonstrating is that he can fall asleep on demand.
posted by goingonit at 6:40 AM on March 7, 2007


I caught a "lecture" by David Lynch where he had some crackpot come out and essentially perform the same trick (portable EEG, using Transcendental Meditation to enter an entranced state, etc.). It was all very carnival sideshow.
posted by basicchannel at 7:01 AM on March 7, 2007


basicchannel, I've been to lectures where people came out and talked about chaos theory and quantum superposition as the keys to the universal transcendent Spirit Mother. It was all very carnival side show.

Does that mean chaos theory and quantum mechanics aren't real?

It is, as far as I understand, scientifically, demonstrably possible for people to train themselves to modify brain waves, heart rhythms, and maybe other low-level body functions.

So, why not Wilbur?
posted by mondo dentro at 7:08 AM on March 7, 2007


I can't speak for his brain waves, but some of Wilber's ideas are quite fascinating. A Brief History of Everything is well worth reading.
posted by muckster at 7:11 AM on March 7, 2007


Y'know, I was *just* thinking of writing a piece on Wilber - on how he's at the core of one of those energy-sucking cults that otherwise-intelligent folks sometimes get flypapered into. (My other examples were Gurdjieff/Ouspensky "thought," Ayn Rand and possibly Thelema.)

Maybe now I don't have to?
posted by adamgreenfield at 7:13 AM on March 7, 2007


I used to be a big Wilber fan. In college, I was impressed by some of his ideas, particularly those found in the above mentioned A Brief History of Everything. But, it seems that as the years wear on, I grow more skeptical and Wilber seems to get more and more out there and money involved. Its kinda sad really.
posted by khaibit at 7:16 AM on March 7, 2007


what i don't get is the rank hostility this subject sometimes elicits... the idea that the functioning of the mind can be disciplined and cultivated through practice really seems to get some people's knickers in a twist.

i don't know anything about this wilbur guy, tho. can't vouch for him not being some kind of energy-sucking culty guy, as adamgreenfield suggested.
posted by saulgoodman at 7:17 AM on March 7, 2007


Ken Wilber is paired in my mind with Marianne Williamson as "those people whose books are on the shelf where the Robert Anton Wilson ones should be".
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 7:17 AM on March 7, 2007


God gave you a machete so you could cut your own damn path through the jungle.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:29 AM on March 7, 2007 [2 favorites]


hey, the guy gave a great commentary on the Matrix films with Cornel West. That's gotta count for somethin'.

Robert Anton Wilson's books should be on all shelves.
posted by Dantien at 7:30 AM on March 7, 2007


saulgoodman, here's my take: Wilber is one of those folks whose output has a sufficient color of knowing-what-he's-talking-about that non-stupid people will spend years, sometimes, trying to wrap their heads around it.

Like, oh, Rupert Sheldrake, he deploys an impressive vocabulary, his characterizations of domains like complexity theory are not *obviously* false to the intelligent lay reader, and he at least sounds authoritative enough.

Nothing in my admittedly casual investigation of him, though, has ever persuaded me that he's somehow stumbled onto useful insights that have eluded more "mainstream" thinkers. He still seems like a self-promoter camouflaging a lack of profound insight with what appears to have become a substantial apparatus of increasingly hermetic and self-referential writing.

(In all fairness, the same might be said of Baudrillard or D&G to some degree, and I'd be hard-pressed to defend them except on purely subjective grounds.)
posted by adamgreenfield at 7:31 AM on March 7, 2007


...has a sufficient color of knowing-what-he's-talking-about that non-stupid people will spend years, sometimes, trying to wrap their heads around it.

That's a great description of my general intuition, and why I haven't really spent the time necessary to have an informed reaction. I mean, if I'm going to spend the time, I'd rather learn more about neuroscience and philosophy of mind, and integrate it with what I know about system theory.

By the way, adamgreenfield, your idea for a post sounds fascinating--but actually pretty tough to do right. Perhaps you would then finish up with Sam Harris, asking how these "energy sucking cults" are really that different from more acceptable "spiritual traditions".
posted by mondo dentro at 7:40 AM on March 7, 2007


God gave you a machete so you could cut your own damn path through the jungle.

nice way to put it.

thanks adamgreenfield: i was wondering if the reactions were more particularly directed at wilber or more generally directed at the idea that it's possible through practice to cultivate a much greater degree of mental discipline than is commonly understood. that last point i would think pretty much has to be granted by now.
posted by saulgoodman at 7:46 AM on March 7, 2007


that last point i would think pretty much has to be granted by now.

Agreed, but my question always has to be: so what?

I think we can take it as read that various yogic and Tantric practices do induce what (heh) Western medicine recognizes as altered states of consciousness. But once you've invested all the effort involved in learning, say, how to suck up water using your anus as a straw, what have you got but an icky parlor trick and icebreaker at parties?

I think mondo dentro's instincts are sound.
posted by adamgreenfield at 7:51 AM on March 7, 2007


But once you've invested all the effort involved in learning, say, how to suck up water using your anus as a straw, what have you got but an icky parlor trick and icebreaker at parties?

Heh...

Well, in this particular case, I think you're selling the benefits of mental discipline a little short. It seems likely to me that greater powers of concentration, mental clarity, etc., all can have potentially significant real-world benefits. If individuals can enhance or better control certain aspects of their own mental function through practice, then, yeah, that might be a useful thing to explore.
posted by saulgoodman at 7:59 AM on March 7, 2007


But I agree with Mondo Dentro. And you probably didn't mean to rule out such potential benefits, so I think we're on the same page.
posted by saulgoodman at 8:03 AM on March 7, 2007


I haven't read any Ken Wilbur, but I do practice Buddhist meditation pretty seriously. Yesterday, I decided to meditate while having my blood pressure and an electrocardiogram taken during a general check-up. It bothered the doctor slightly that my pulse rate and blood pressure were so low (I forget what the blood pressure was, but my pulse was 47 bpm) and despite my explanation and offer to repeat the tests without mucking around, he now wants to do a sonogram as well to check for further abnormalities. It's kind of annoying, as 47 bpm doesn't seem that low to me, anyway.

There's another guy in Wilbur's Integral Naked organization who's put some really hilarious videos on youtube. Well, hilarious to me, anyway.
once you've invested all the effort involved in learning, say, how to suck up water using your anus as a straw, what have you got but an icky parlor trick and icebreaker at parties?
I read about a yogi in India who did this cool party trick: He'd swallow cyanide, then flush it out with an intestinal cleansing. He pulled it off twice, but the third time it caught up with him.
posted by Coventry at 8:18 AM on March 7, 2007


I haven't really spent the time necessary...
...my admittedly casual investigation....


Everything you guys are saying about Wilber might well be correct, but I'm getting the idea you're "using your intuition" to dismiss his work without having giving it proper thought and attention. One of Wilber's central tenets is that "nobody is smart enough to be wrong all the time" and that you can learn something worthwhile from everybody. Thus the integral approach, which at least tries to engage an idea before considering it useless.
posted by muckster at 8:22 AM on March 7, 2007


Ken Wilber can stop his brain waves on demand.

That's nothing. George Bush does that whenever he opens his mouth.
posted by jet_silver at 8:35 AM on March 7, 2007 [2 favorites]


muckster, I've given Ken Wilber *precisely* the "proper thought and attention," which is "enough to know that there's nothing waiting for me at the far end of a sustained inquiry into his thought sufficiently impressive to justify the effort."

I already practice meditation on a daily basis. I'm reasonably conversant, on a lay level, with the interesting resonances between a Zen or Taoist understanding of reality and one derived from complexity theory. To the degree that I am able, I incorporate this insight into the way i make day-to-day choices, and it pretty much works for me.

I'm nobody's idea of a yogi, of course, but I feel like I've got at least a schematic appreciation for the way complex situations unfold. Now tell me what I'm gonna get from Ken Wilber that I haven't already gleaned from Lao Tzu, Sun Tzu, and Chuang Tzu on the one hand and Deleuze and De Landa on the other?

Horses for courses, and properly so - but I, at least, just don't feel like I need what he's selling.
posted by adamgreenfield at 9:13 AM on March 7, 2007


I tend to agree with some of the sentiments here also. What this gentleman has written might better be kept to himself in the form of some sort of study journal or personal transformation diary. Often we make the mistake that if we've found a little nugget during our digging, that we need to tell everyone else about it. Usually, telling others ruins everything.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:23 AM on March 7, 2007


If you want to read more about Zen meditation and its effect on brainwaves and neurochemistry I recommend James Austin's Zen and the Brain: Toward an Understanding of Meditation and Consciousness
posted by daHIFI at 9:28 AM on March 7, 2007


...dismiss his work without having giving it proper thought and attention...

I thought that was precisely what I wasn't doing! (Dismissing anything, that is.)

However, I from what I've read, I'm a bit lower on the dismiss-o-meter than, say, adamgreenfield, but in the end this is sort of a semantic game: every committed thinking person has to use intuition to dismiss things simply because there is only so much time and we all have only so much processing power. Hell, if I had the time, I'd read some of Wilbur's work in more detail, because some of the ideas sound intriguing. While I may be suspicious of his grandiose claims, the flip side is that I admire his hutzpah in attempting something so huge.

But compared to the debates raging in the scientific study of consciousness about, say, whether or not subjective experience is "merely" an emergent property of a sufficiently complex system, I am not that interested.

But I don't just bash Wilbur--in fact, my dismiss-o-meter gives him a much more favorable rating than more "scientific" people, like say the whole "the singularity is near" crowd. I think the latter is just utter horseshit. (And I might be wrong about that, too! I mean, clearly Kurzweil is a pretty brilliant guy...)
posted by mondo dentro at 9:33 AM on March 7, 2007


mondo dentro, I am sputtering laughter into my coffee, because Ray Kurzweil is *precisely* who I think of when I imagine someone capable of sucking reasonably intelligent folks into wasting huge amounts of time on piffle. You're spot on.
posted by adamgreenfield at 9:49 AM on March 7, 2007


If you're interested in the "science" behind this, check out John Horgan's Rational Mysticism. From my very rough recollection of his chapter on Wilbur, he doesn't seem to doubt that Wilbur can do what he's doing here. Although Horgan's just a journalist, he is a member of the Edge, and a bit of a meditation reactionary--he wrote a Slate article saying that meditation could ruin your health. However, Horgan did make Wilbur seem like a meatheaded, self-deluded but very intelligent amateur who's always talking about his universal system of human knowledge and how much he can bench press. My favorite part is where he says something like, "I can achieve nondualistic consciousness [presumably what he's demonstrating here] on demand--not even the Dalai Lama can do that!"

I told this to a Buddhist friend of mine and he said that if the Dalai Lama heard that, he'd kick Ken Wilbur's ask. I didn't ask about all that pacificism stuff.

Ditto on Kurzweil
posted by kensanway at 10:02 AM on March 7, 2007


Obviously, it's fine not to be interested in anything for any reason. What I was trying to say was simply this: don't judge books you haven't read. Some of the posts here--even when they don't misspell Wilber's name--betray some pretty off-the-mark ideas of what his work is about. He's written a lot; in fact, he's written so much he classifies his own development in discreet stages. I share some of khaibit's skepticism (see also), and in fact haven't read anything by Wilber in a while, but there are a number of interesting avenues of thought in his work that I haven't found anywhere else. See also: book/cover, baby/bathwater. Here's a little more at Wikipedia on Wilber and Integral Philosophy.
posted by muckster at 10:42 AM on March 7, 2007


Bald Ambition
posted by psyche7 at 10:45 AM on March 7, 2007


Snark: I think this tells us everything we'll ever need to know about Ken Wilber and his "thought." (Love the 1999-ular blocks of microtype strewn around the page.)

Nonsnark: In following psyche7's link, I learn that Wilber suffered a devastating series of grand mal seizures this past December.

Obviously, one's first concern as a feeling human being has to be for him and his loved ones. Given the extraordinary claims that are often made for his yogic abilities (not necessarily by Wilber himself), though, one has to ask what good comes of developing a putatively fine degree of neurophysical control if you're not thereafter capable of modulating such an event?

I don't think I have anything else to say about him, other than to wish him a full and speedy recovery.
posted by adamgreenfield at 10:59 AM on March 7, 2007


I'm not understanding the hate - but I'm not familiar with Ken's work, so perhaps he's really a prize pillock.

This demo, on the other hand, is totally underwhelming. He's not stopping this brain, he's reducing the frequency of his brainwaves. Anyone can do this. You can even do it with video games. I've done it with video games - about a decade ago. It's fun, I saw the depths of my subconscious. There were frogs.
posted by Sparx at 1:45 PM on March 7, 2007


I've read a few of Wilber's books, and I'd have to say the primary value I got out of them was a refinement in my ability to analyze somebody else's argument. He puts out interesting theories that are complex enough to give you something to hash out in your brain for a while. Yeah, a lot of it gave me a vague sense of newagey-yuck, but the fun was in figuring out why it struck me that way. For instance, his book Boomeritis actually led me to change some pretty closely-held beliefs - not because I agreed with what he said, but because my disagreement led me to re-examine (and subsequently alter) my own position.

I also had dinner at Perkins once with Stuart Davis, the guy Coventry mentions. He's both buddy and follower of Wilber, and gave me that same newagey-yuck feeling. The closest I can come to describing it is that he seemed more interested in coming up with theories that sounded intelligent, complicated, and impressive than in actually examining those theories to see whether they were sound. I think I probably would have taken more time to explore Wilber's work if I hadn't met Stuart, now that I think about it. That air of credulous arrogance really put me off.
posted by vytae at 3:15 PM on March 7, 2007


"might be said of Baudrillard or D&G to some degree"

Dolce & Gabbana??
posted by vronsky at 3:28 PM on March 7, 2007


Hey, it's all good, man!
It seems likely to me that greater powers of concentration, mental clarity, etc., all can have potentially significant real-world benefits.

Just like working out increases muscle strength, speed, balance and agility. But I'm not impressed with Roger Federer's work outs, I want to see him play tennis. And Wilber's tennis sucks, in my opinion.
posted by Mental Wimp at 3:48 PM on March 7, 2007


Screw it. I'm running out of ephemerol anyway. It's time to put this guy to the test - Scammer vs. Scanner. We'll do this the scanner way; I'm gonna suck your brain dry!
posted by adipocere at 4:06 PM on March 7, 2007


the idea that the functioning of the mind can be disciplined and cultivated through practice really seems to get some people's knickers in a twist.

i think it's the idea that mental discipline's goal is to change a bunch of squiggly lines on a screen ... i think it's rather silly
posted by pyramid termite at 4:36 PM on March 7, 2007


Maybe he'll be reincarnated as a sea squirt.
posted by homunculus at 5:18 PM on March 7, 2007


Coventry: You're kidding when you say that 47 BPM heart rate shouldn't concern your doctor, right?
posted by nonreflectiveobject at 6:22 PM on March 7, 2007


Enlightenment Blues: My Years with an American Guru by Andre Van Der Braak.

On Ken Wilber's website: "Ken was recently hospitalized, due to a series of grand mal seizures caused by his well-known struggle with CFIDS/REDD/ME, which nearly killed him", the story of the experience on his blog in which he says, " I used to joke that the only major reason for having kids was for organ donors; since I don't have any kids, I really would have gotten stuck on four hours of dialysis several times a week, not to mention all the peripheral damage."
posted by nickyskye at 6:28 PM on March 7, 2007


Just looked around at his website. People can do what they want, but I think that anyone who professes to be a consciousness researcher and is famed for putting himself in a "non-dualistic" state probably shouldn't have so many stylized pictures of his face. Especially ones that are obviously trying to depict penetrating insight. The true ones make efforts to conceal themselves.
posted by Burhanistan at 6:34 PM on March 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


Grand mal seizures from CFIDS? That's a new one on me and my wife is a long time sufferer.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 7:21 PM on March 7, 2007


A decade or two ago I was very impressed with the quality of Western spiritual teachers, those who had done serious work with the Eastern traditions for decades and could now put it in terms we could understand.

(The downfalls of most of the Indian gurus who made the jump to teaching Westerners is the backdrop to this post.)

Now I see more and more of these Western gurus elevating themselves to guru status...and with that comes a lot of troubling spiritual implications, in my mind.

Wilber is just one of many.
posted by kozad at 7:27 PM on March 7, 2007


Thanks for the info, NRO. I guess that's what he was worried about.
posted by Coventry at 8:18 PM on March 7, 2007


Burhanistan: On review, what you said. Gurus schmurus. Who needs 'em anyway? An-Atman, that's who.
posted by saulgoodman at 9:37 PM on March 7, 2007


I spent about 5 hours today looking at EEGs, just as I've done every work day for the last two years. I don't know what that thing is, but it's not displaying raw electroencephalogram. It's probably displaying some kind of a frequency-power spectrum (often derived from FFT on the raw signal), if his half-assed explanation means anything at all.

Most people can easily and quickly learn to attenuate their occipital alpha, their dominant rhythm, by opening their eyes and concentrating on the visual world. About 5 percent of normal people have what we call very low amplitude electroencephalogram - that is, the predominant waves are less than 5 μV. (The other 95% generate rhythms in the 20-50 μV range with transients up to 150 μV and slow waves of sleep up to 300 μV.) When those low amplitude folks attenuate their alpha their EEG can look quite featureless. So that's one explanation.

I saw a patient some time ago who had odd seizures. These would begin as classic temporal lobe seizures, but then the patient would turn white, go limp, crumple to the ground without convulsion, and regain consciousness in 10-20 seconds. She had fractured bones and seriously lacerated her scalp with these.

When we brought her in to record them we found that these began as left temporal lobe seizures. However, 15 or so seconds into the seizure, the patient's heart rate would slow and then suddenly stop for 20 seconds. After 5 seconds of flat electrocardiogram, the EEG would also go flat and remain so for the next 30 seconds. The electrocardiogram resumed first. Normal brain waves reappeared after the heart had been beating for about 10 seconds. MRI revealed a craniopharyngioma adjacent to the left insular/hypothalamic area, which has been implicated in other patients with bradycardia and asystole.

Unless you're this patient, you can't flatline your EEG in the course of your normal life. Dunno what this guy is doing, but it's not what he explains it to be.
posted by ikkyu2 at 10:18 PM on March 7, 2007 [2 favorites]


hell, I know a lot of guys who have flatline EEGs. Oddly enough, most of them are guitarists.
posted by metasonix at 11:10 PM on March 7, 2007


Metasonix, you involved with your eponym?
posted by nonreflectiveobject at 12:12 AM on March 8, 2007


metasonix, that reminds me of a joke ... a bass player got upset because he'd locked his keys in the car and had to get the guitarist with the spares, so he could unlock the car and get his keys and the drummer out of the car ...
posted by pyramid termite at 6:08 AM on March 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


Q: What do you when there's a drummer on your doorstep?

A: Pay him for the pizza.
posted by Mental Wimp at 10:28 AM on March 8, 2007


Knowing how Ken Wilber makes his living, I'm personally amazed his EEG isn't a flatline 24/7.
posted by Target Practice at 2:50 PM on March 8, 2007


Some commentary about Ken Wilbur and Roshi Genpo's Big Mind system from an American Zen priest.

The one video link someone posted of Ken Wilber wired up to what looks like an Etch-a-Sketch with blinking Christmas tree lights Scotch-taped to it to prove he can go into the most macho deep Samadhi the world has ever known is classic, by the way. Honestly, I cannot even comprehend why anyone would fall for something like that.
posted by sneebler at 9:56 AM on March 10, 2007


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