Future of Neurofeedback, Biofeedback and gaming?

I’ve been doing Neurofeedback sessions off and on for about six months to treat a disability. I’ve found the treatment to be very effective at helping me with a variety of issues, not to mention an incredible rush at times. (See this or this EEG Biofeedback site for info on what the heck I’m talking about).

As an avid gamer, the first time I donned the electrodes and start playing was a serious trip - probably the closest I’ve ever gotten to experiencing that Neuromancer thing I read about in the Eighties. Heck, I’d never even had the opportunity to use “donned” in a satisfactory way since HHG. The novelty wears off after a little while but the benefits linger sometimes for weeks, and each time I start a session the novelty is back. (EEG I mean, not using that word).

Unfortunately, it’s expensive and the games are primitive. My guy charges standard hourly counseling fees and med insurance has no interest in covering this or any other genuine need. The games are very arcadey - a Pacman clone, various vertical racing games, that kind of thing. But it’s not really supposed to be fun, it’s supposed to help you.

Recently when I finally realized that both my daughter and myself have similar issues requiring similar treatments, I finally decided I would have to get ahold of one of these getups for myself - screw this paid supervision stuff. They look to be very difficult for a non-professional to get so while I don’t have one yet, I am actively looking into my options.

What I have found however is Wild Divine. I decided to try this in part to train on meditation and relaxation, in part to teach my kid these things, and in part to get intimate with the kind of equipment and software I’m trying to track down for the EEG thing.

In terms of gaming, Wild Divine is way ahead of the EEG stuff I’ve seen. Think Myst. OK not Uru, but basic 3d with Quicktime stuff and good audio. I haven’t dived in yet but starting next week I’m taking some time off work and I plan to do it daily.

Apparently there is a substantial community for Wild Divine, and some of them are working with Second Life and discussing it all here. Oh and according to a WD tech guy I spoke with, they do have some kind of plan to incorporate EEG in the future.

Still kinda primitive for QT3 folks maybe, but I am nevertheless extremely optimistic about the potential for incorporating these technologies and thought I’d share my feelings here and ask you all your thoughts. What do you all think about the idea of merging this kind of technology into good, quality gaming? Or to look at it another way, to take the best gaming has to offer and build that into a therepeutic treatment system. In all seriousness, what gaming styles would or wouldn’t lend themselves to this stuff?

What sort of disability are you treating with biofeedback? I recall reading somewhere that they’ve had some success treating ADD with it recently, and I wonder what this sort of training would do to even a non-add individual.

My impression so far is that it’s widely applicable and not strictly for people with specific issues. My guy, who sort of characterizes this as being like physical excercize, has been treating me for Asperger\NVLD and I believe the majority of his patients see him for help with ADHD, depression and anxiety. It’s exactly like listening to your music without realizing there were EQ controls and then seeing them for the first time and learning what they do. And from an ‘aesthetic’ perspective it just feels pleasantly intense, like taking a megadose of vitamin supplements after a lifetime of unbalanced diets or, say, the Holiday season. In actuality though, just like with everything, you would want to target specific areas you want to work on, even if they are not issues per se.

I’d never heard of neurotherapy, and it just seems dubious. How much therapy could one really do by manipulating and reinforcing specific brain wave frequencies? But it looks like papers are being published in real journals about it, so what do I know.

As for the future of gaming, I think EEG and the like may start to be useful when you can get multi-dimensional, real time control. Which is a fancy way of saying, you need to be able to control a mouse all over a screen, or issue one of a variety of commands. And you need to be able to do it NOW, instead of waiting for your brain waves to change.

Here’s an article about a guy named Wolpaw who uses EEG to control a mouse http://www.nicolelislab.net/NLNet/Load/Papers/TappingtheMind.pdf. The article also describes some other cool advances in the field, like controlling a moving robot. I’m not sure how much more can be done with EEG due to its limited spatial resolution.

Here’s a link to a discussion thread on the Wild Divine forums about gaming. Kind of amusing to read as a gamer, but there are a couple of interesting application possibilities there.

We manipulate our own brain wave frequencies all the time without knowing it. Same principle of body biofeedback - you manage your own breathing rates subconsciously, and can override that whenever you choose to think about it. When you alter your own brain wave frequencies, you alter emotional and stress level states, for one thing.

Just like with other areas of our bodies, everybody has a little too much of one thing or too little of another. I think we are probably seeing an expansion of sorts of how we define mind-body maintenance and exercise. Some of us are just fine as is, and some of us might want to take a closer look and possibly make changes. Just as some people are more or less naturally in shape without having to put a lot of effort into maintaining it.

In my mind, I was kind of envisioning the whole schebang including both what you mentioned (robust EEG-UI control) as well as today’s EEG biofeedback technology. Heck, if we’re talking multi-dimensional, throw in subvocal nerve commands (see this and this). But simple EEG Biofeedback could be fun as well while also offering therapeutic advantages. Imagine fighting a lightsaber battle in KOTR while focusing your mental energy (use the force!), or even your breathing if using the skin conductance level (SCL) and heart rate variability measurements.

I played around with Wild Divine two or so years ago in New York when they were demonstrating the “game” at DV Dojo. It was pretty neat and actually very difficult, but wasn’t interesting enough to justify paying the $100+ for the required hardware. But I am interested in the field. Second Life has a rather large community of people who use the game as therapy for a variety of mental problems, anything from Asperger’s to Schizophrenia. They construct simulations that they can play through to sort of figure out how to best deal with certain real life situations, and they use it as an overlap for their already existing IRC/Web based forum communities.

Interesting … and a good deal more advanced that the other biofeedback stuff I’ve seen which is, as you say, pretty basic. Biofeedback gaming technology has been around for 20 years, and many of the games (Wild Divine excepted) haven’t changed in fundamental ways in that time.

Somewhere around here, I have one of first. In '84, right at the end of its tether, Synapse Software released a hardware/software bundle called Relax, incorporating a biofeedback controlled game (by Bill Williams of Necromancer, Alley Cat, Mind Walker, Sinbad the Throne of the Falcon, et al., no less) called, I think, Balloon. You had to stay cool-headed to beat it, which was tricky, because at just these critical points, the game was encouraging you to get excited. :)


I must say that I’m looking forward to these new games with a certain degree of excitement.

These games may act as behavioural modifiers on a level which we may not be able to appreciate. Imagine children who grow up playing games where they are taught how to control their heart rate, and their thought patterns! It would pave the way for thought control devices if the next or later generation grew up with thought control as a real life skill. Together with the eventual practical direct neural input, the possibilities may be boundless.

I can imagine fully embracing the concept of plugging myself into my console/PC when I play a game. The only problem is whether such a thing would be only accessible to hardcore gamers, and remain forever a niche market.

Props to the Atari Mindlink controllers, which were originally going to be part of an Atari “medical system.”

Also to the episode of “The Powers of Matthew Starr” in which he’s getting his ass kicked at Zaxxon in front of the girl he likes and then uses the eponymous Powers to cheat, and to the biofeedback guy on “The Bionic Woman,” who would intone, “Om shaka peace!” over footage of blood cells flowing around whenever he biofedback.

Virtual world teaches real-world skills
Game helps people with Asperger’s practice socializing


I have doubts about how “educational” it could be without facial expressions or body language, but I’d have to try it to be sure.

Anyone have a hankering to review this?


This is exactly the kind of innovation I was hoping to see with this technology - stop trying to design games and game systems from scratch. Teach the technology to utilize existing games instead.

I can’t wait for the day when I will be able to plug in my fleshlight to the usb port of my computer while I watch porn.


Then what are you waiting for?

edit: oh, you said porn. Well, you may still have to wait.