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|Alice in Neuroland - Page 12|
But soon, she struck out for unmapped territory. Cautiously, she began moving electrodes to other spots on the scalp, playing with frequency-reward bands, and asking clients how they felt. One day, she placed an electrode on the left side of a migraine sufferer's head. The migraine "jumped" to the right side. She moved the electrode to the right, and the migraine jumped back again. She tried putting an electrode on each side of the head and configuring her computer so that it integrated data from both hemispheres. The migraine stopped. The closer she moved her electrodes down toward the ears--closer to the primitive, emotional, limbic system, packed in deep in the center of the skull--the more powerful, stabilizing, and physiological the effect became.
By then, the Othmers' business--named EEG Spectrum--had mushroomed and moved into rented offices. Margaret Ayers's lawsuit against them was settled through arbitration in 1991, the same year the Othmers' son Brian, having apparently suffered a seizure in his sleep, died in his bed in his college dorm.
The Othmers forged on. By 1995, their clinic occupied a suite of offices, employed two technicians working under Susan, and delivered some 4,500 neurofeedback sessions a year to more than 100 clients. More important, they'd become the Johnny Appleseeds of neurofeedback. They talked up neurofeedback on TV shows, trained others, spoke at support groups for parents of learning-disabled children, and presented papers at the Winter Brain Conference in Palm Springs and other professional gatherings.
By the mid-1990s, when the affordable personal computer and the video game met the Decade of the Brain, the Othmers had helped catalyze a nationwide community of sometimes groundbreaking, sometimes chaotic and haphazard, clinical experimentation. They'd trained therapists by the hundreds--even though, as Siegfried Othmer later put it, for most therapists, learning about neurofeedback is "something like eating for the first time with chopsticks."
Some of the Othmers' trainees were psychologists and psychiatrists with teaching positions at major universities. Others were clinicians with little background in neuroscience, who emerged from four-day trainings with their electrodes and expensive new EEG software programs in hand, eager but bewildered. Among the bewildered was John Demos, a masters-level counselor in Brattleboro, Vermont, with a specialty in integrated medicine, post-traumatic stress, and biofeedback. Trained in 2000, he had a few inexplicably miraculous successes, including several with clients with PTSD. But his overall success rate hovered around 30 percent--little better than that of placebo.