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|Alice in Neuroland - Page 11|
Siegfried Othmer, who had a Ph.D. in physics and worked in the defense and aerospace industries, recalls bringing Brian to Ayers's office, watching her patients go in and out, and thinking he was looking at the equivalent of a wall of crutches at Lourdes. He and his wife, Susan, who'd done graduate work toward a Ph.D. in neuroscience at Cornell, decided to bring this neurological Lourdes further into the mainstream, first in collaboration with Ayers, and then despite her.
Over the next two decades, the couple ran up credit-card debt, spent a family inheritance, found small investors, and hired computer-software designers to create sophisticated EEG-feedback programs that looked like video games. The Ayers-Othmer collaboration quickly broke down, and much to Ayers's disgust, Sue Othmer began treating acquaintances on a new prototype, charging $40 for the sessions she held in her guest room in the San Fernando Valley. Ayers, who'd quietly patented the new equipment and software, sued for patent infringement.
Susan Othmer, like Ayers before her, soon developed a reputation as an excellent, intuitive, outsider clinician. Unshackled by the conventions of university-based research, she tackled just about anything--PMS, depression, insomnia, migraines, phobias, autism, manic depression, and panic disorder. At the time, many researchers assumed that semiautonomous neural circuits separately regulated emotions, thinking, and physiological functions. Sue Othmer assumed no such firewalls.
Instead of pigeonholing problems via the DSM grid, Othmer first sorted out whether her client was overaroused, underaroused, or unstably aroused--neurophysiological categories that make a hash of 20th-century distinctions between the physical, emotional, cognitive, and neurological. Asperger's, autism, panic disorder, and trouble falling asleep were lumped together as expressions of overarousal. Depression, perfectionism, and trouble staying asleep were characterized as signs of underarousal. Bipolar disorder, migraines, and epilepsy were slotted as manifestations of unstable arousal. This was a new form of clinical categorization.
At first, Susan Othmer's treatments followed in the conservative footprints of Sterman, Lubar, and Ayers. Like them, she placed her electrodes at the midline of the head or else along the sensorimotor strip, which runs above the top of the forehead. She revved up the underaroused with left-brain training in the beta brain-wave frequency range and soothed the overaroused with right-brain training in slower Sensory Motor Rhythm.