The Evolution of Morphology Feedback

“Clouds are not spheres, mountains are not cones, coastlines are not circles, and bark is not smooth, nor does lightning travel in a straight line.”
-B. Mandelbrot,
Introduction to The Fractal Geometry of Nature

This last quote best illustrates Bill Scott’s motivation to find a medium that could be used to deliver feedback on the complexity of a person’s EEG. Up until BrainPaint®, most neurofeedback systems used linear games such as those reminiscent of the 1980s. These games only provide feedback on the linear components of the EEG — frequency (pitch} and amplitude (volume). This is akin to using a cone to illustrate a mountain. Bill wanted to provide his clients with feedback on all the textures and information from their brainwaves.

There was another observation that had been gnawing at Bill. When he analyzed data from his colleagues and his own research on amplitude and frequency data, he found insignificant changes in these variables, even after there were noteworthy and predictable improvements in brain function as measured by fMRis, response time to light or sound, and improvements in continuous performance tests. On the occasions when the slower frequencies of delta, theta and alpha were abnormally high or low they did appear to regress to the mean, however, it bore no direct relationship to training direction. Bill postulates that when the brain is given feedback about its states using amplitude and frequency the brain in turn extracts information about the complex shapes of these waveforms in order to develop improved control. It was as if when the brain is fed information using only consonants it figures out the meaning by interpolating the missing vowels. What if we gave feedback to the brain using consonants and vowels along with punctuation?

The nature of complex systems is that they are infinitely sensitive to influence, and this is what Bill needed to capture. Since games are linear in nature, Bill could not use these traditional methods for providing information on the complex nature of the brain. Therefore, he chose fractals – mathematical graphs or visual representations of chaos theory. After all, the brain is a complex system. Bill needed to couple fractal images with our neurophysiology in order to provide non-linear feedback on the non-linear aspects of our brainwaves. We call this feedback morphology feedback since it is derived from the three dimensional shapes of brainwaves.

BrainPaint® has stayed true to traditional forms of neurofeedback incorporating a game derived from the linear variables of amplitude and frequency. Layered upon this already proven delivery system, BrainPaint® has added the morphology feedback.

For a real-time visual example of how fractals respond, morph and paint brainwaves, please click the musical icon to the left. This is a video of a person hooked up to BrainPaint® while listening to Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. Notice how the fractals react to the notes and crescendo through the listener’s brainwaves, in essence becoming a music visualizer.

“I wonder whether fractal images are not touching the very structure of our brains. Is there a clue in the infinitely regressing character of such images that illuminates our perception of art? Could it be that a fractal image is of such extraordinary richness, it is bound to resonate with our neuronal circuits and stimulate the pleasure I infer we all feel.”

—Professor Peter W. Atkins, Lincoln College, Oxford University,
“Art as Science,” The Daily Telegraph

Gallery of Brain Paintings
Study: Fractal Feedback
Watch Nova on Fractals