BrainAvatar Questions and Answers

BrainAvatar Q&A
 
What is BrainAvatar?
 
BrainAvatar is the next generation of BrainMaster software.  It is the successor to Atlantis 3.7i, and Discovery 1.5.9.  It includes all existing features, and can run all existing protocols, including peripheral biofeedback.  BrainAvatar 4.0 adds important new capabilities including:
 
Programmable tabbed screens.  8 tabs per screen.
Easier use of folders and settings files;  ability to run from a desktop shortcut
Special second screen for EEG review or Client.
16 frequency bands instead of the original 8
New contoured and 3-D look display panels.
A 24-channel EEG simulator for testing, research, and sham feedback.
Fast 2-D live topographic maps ("flat maps")  (raw or z-scores)
Fast 3-D live topographc maps on realistic head (raw or z-scores)
Instantaneous live sLORETA projector with real-time 3-D imaging.
Z-Builder (create your own z-score templates, build databases)
Use of Microsoft "recommended" directories for programs and data.
 
How does BrainAvatar do its sLORETA projection?

BrainAvatar uses the sLORETA ("standardized LORETA") mathematics and theory, but is an entirely original implementation by BrainMaster.  No software from the Key Institute is used in our system, although it is possible to use the Key Institute's LORETA and sLORETA software packages using BrainAvatar data, for research purposes.
 
We chose to use sLORETA as the basis for BrainAvatar, rather than LORETA.  There are important reasons for this.  Despite the fact that sLORETA requires more computations, it has higher resolution, and its guaranteed zero-error localization are critical for neurofeedback applications.  LORETA has a non-zero localization error, which compromises its accuracy and usefulness for neurofeedback.  For any applications, particularly for live imaging and neurofeedback, sLORETA is technically superior to LORETA.
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Does the Key Institute (inventor of LORETA) know about BrainAvatar?
 
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Yes, Dr. Roberto Pasqual-Marqui has seen this development, and there is no conflict with his work.
 
What are differences between LORETA and sLORETA?
 
sLORETA is the successor to LORETA, introduced several years later, by Dr. Pasqual-Marqui (2002). (the yet more advanced eLORETA is now available, as well)  For our purposes, sLORETA is more than sufficient, whereas LORETA would have been not quite adequate.
 
sLORETA has 6,239 voxels, compared to LORETA's 2,000+ voxels.
sLORETA uses 5 millimeter voxels, compared to LORETA's 7 millimeter voxel size.
sLORETA does not include the amygdala, while LORETA includes the amygdala, but it is not reliable.
sLORETA has a guaranteed zero localization error, while LORETA has a non-zero localization error.
sLORETA, like LORETA, contains ROI's and Broadmann Areas.
sLORETA has more voxels per Region of Interest, hence provides higher spatial resolution.
sLORETA is based on the same basic theory as LORETA, but introduces new considerations that reduce its sensitivity to noise.  It has been extensively validated against MRI and other direct imaging methods, particularly with regard to its zero-localization error.
 
How does BrainAvatar LLP use the sLORETA information?
 
In the BrainAvatar, each voxel is converted instantaneously into a current source density, and three spatial values (vectors) that describe the dipole.  These spatial components are also relevant to connectivity.  Thus, each voxel represents an "analog" number, the local level of activity.  This is done in 16 frequency bands simultaneously, in real time.  In BrainAvatar, all projected signals are time-domain signals.  This provides superior speed and accuracy, compared to FFT-based approaches, which introduce delays and possible distortion, due to the epoch size limitations.  FFT-based methods also show only averaged activity, not instantaneous values.  BrainAvatar computes the sLORETA projection instantaneously using high-speed time-domain methods, and accurately shows the momentary changes in EEG signals, in real time.  The combination of BrainMaster's high-speed digital filters with our unique projection technology provides the ability to compute hundreds of whole-brain sLORETA projections per second, and image and train on the data.  Trained data can be from voxels or Regions of Interest (ROI's).  All values are available though the flexible Event Wizard interface, so that an entire sLORETA training protocol can be inserted with a single, very simple event.
 
How can the BrainAvatar Live sLORETA Projector (LLP) be used?
 
There are many ways to use this data, as this is a toolkit, integrated with all of our existing software, including the Event Wlzard.
You can acccess the individual source density for any voxel or voxels.
You have 16 frequency bands providing data for voxels or Regions of Interest.
You can measure the combined source density amplitude for all voxels in an ROI.
You will be able to measure and image the dipole moments of individual voxels or ROI's
You will be able to count and train the number of voxels in an ROI that meet a z-score criterion.
You will be able to count and train on the number of voxels in an ROI that meet any other criterion.
You do not have to depend on a single representative voxel for an ROI.
You do not have to depend on a simple on/off response for a voxel.
Many types of on/off features can be defined for voxels or for ROI's.
 
You will be able to do PZOK on Regions of Interest.  That means that you can look at theta in the posterior cingulate, for example, and get a training variable that represents the percent of voxels in that Regions of Interest that meet a criterion.   You can also evaluate and train the total activity, or the average activity, of the entire ROI.  Rather than depending on one voxel, you can assess the entire ROI on a representative basis.  If you want to select a single voxel, you can do that, as well, all using the Event Wizard.  What you train, how you train it, where, when, and why is up to you.
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You do not have to depend on z-scores to image with BrainAvatar.  The LLP provides raw brain activation data, showing "what is happening," not "what is not happening."  As noted by Leslie Sherlin (2009, p. 94), when one understands EEG and brain processes, it is not necessary to use normative z-scores in order to view and assess LORETA data.  Raw data are an important dimension of visualizing brain activity when imaged in this way.  BrainAvatar provides raw EEG-based brain electrical imaging, as well as the ability to visualize changes or differences when compared to other references.  Those references could be "normal" but do not have to be "normal."  They could even be "better than normal."
 
 
Does LLP require all 19 channels?
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Generally, yes, you will require a cap or 19 free electrodes for LLP projections.  However, it is possible to image and train a portion of the brain with as few as 12 or 14 channels, if only a specific region is of interest.  BrainAvatar will include the ability to train on subsets of the full 19 channels, as well as the superset that adds Oz and/or FPz, for improved accuracy at the anterior and posterior midline areas.  We anticipate that a 13-channel hookup leaving off Fp1, Fp2, F3, F4, F7, and F8, for example, may facilitate posterior training, without being affected by eyeblinks. 
 
What can I do with Z-Builder?
 
With Z-Builder, you can construct and train norms for any of the following:  scalp EEG parameters, sLORETA ROI parameters, or individual voxel parameters.  You will also be able to define your own ROI's using Telaraich co-ordinates, and train them.  You will be able to gather your own normative parameters for any ROI's, including those you define, to construct your own databases and test hypotheses.  You could store a person's EEG parameters, and use them later.  For example, in aging, you could record a 40-year-old EEG, and then see the changes as that person ages.  You could attempt to reverse deficits or degradations you see, using neurofeedback.  This can thus be used as an EEG "time machine."  The reality of this approach has been shown in controlled studies at Brown University (Festa et al., 2009), in which cognitive decline was effectively arrested by using z-score neurofeedback.  You could also record a client when they are relaxed, and then compare that to different interventions.  A counselor could see changes in their clients' brain activity immediately, during interventions or guided visualizations, for example.  All of this can be done with either surface EEG parameters, or with voxels or Regions of Interest using the LLP.  You could record little Johnny sitting still, then watch how his brain activation changes when he reads or speaks.  This provides live imaging of his brain as it reacts to tasks or other interventions.
 
The data regarding voxel dipole moments and vector components is an important new dimension in neurofeedback.  These parameters are relevant to the pattern of pyramidal cell dipolarization in each voxel, as well as connectivity factors.  Different vector components reflect different connectivities, hence provide a new way to assess and train brain connectivity, using sLORETA voxel data.
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What can I do with LLP and the Event Wizard?
 
Using the Event Wizard and the BrainAvatar LLP interface, you can design protocols immediately, with almost limitless possibilities.
 
You can combine live sLORETA training with any existing protocols.  These include all of our z-score protocols, including PZOK, ZPlus, etc.  You can do SMR, alpha, Infra-Slow, Slow-cortical potential, synchrony, or any other training along with the live sLORETA projector and analysis.  You can use peripherals such as Heart Rate Variability, skin conductance, EMG, respiration, or others along with the sLORETA, as well.  BrainAvatar pushes the mind-brain connection, to provide a mind-brain-body connection for research or biofeedback.  You can evaluate a client sitting still, then visualize the changes as they read or do other tasks.  Task-based EEG information is instantly available.
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Possible protocols could be:
 

You could train the cingulate gyrus to increase its beta activity.
Train down theta and uptrain beta in the anterior cingulate.
You could do "C3 beta / C4 SMR" using the sensorimotor cortex, not just the EEG sites.
Train down theta in the anterior cingulate and train up beta in the posterior cingulate.
You could train the dorsolateral frontal lobes to have more beta than the ventromedial frontal lobes.
You could reward alpha activity from the frontal area, if it occurs after a posterior alpha burst.
You could implement a "Rosenfeld" type asymmetry protocol between any two ROI's, that is, train (ROI1 - ROI2) / (ROI1 + ROI2).   Rather than depending on F3-Cz and F4-Cz as leads, you could use the relevant dorsolateral frontal lobe regions and train them directly.
 
 
 
etc, etc, etc,
 
What about new displays with BrainAvatar?
 
BrainAvatar contains all existing displays, games, etc. from our previous software.  In addition, the LLP display provides a powerful, new feedback display.  Rather than a graphic, sound, movie, or other display, the client watches their own brain activity, instantaneously.  When the Region of Interest or single voxel change, the client sees it instantly, within 30 milliseconds.  This provides unprecedented resolution and acuity in the feedback display.  All voxels in a Region of Interest are rendered instantaneously, so the client could see, which voxels are active, their precise location, and when they activate.  This provides a mind-brain connection of a type that has never existed before.  Similar to an fMRI in its imaging ability, this method is more than 1000 times faster.  It reflects true brain electrical activity, scientifically localized in real time, and instantly visible to the client or practitioner.
 
Lest we forget, BrainAvatar also includes a complete set of live "flat" brain maps, as well as surface maps rendered on a 3-D head.  These can be raw or z-scored maps, and can be "change" maps, so that a client could see what is changing in time, or what has changed since a last session.
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Where can I see a BrainAvatar Video?
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What do I get with BrainAvatar on Atlantis?
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Atlantis users get all the new screens and control features, the EEG simulator, the tabbed, programmable screens, and Z-Builder.  You basically get everything new, except for the maps, Live Loreta, and other features that require 19 channels.  We plan to include a special "Low Low Resolution" localization program in the near future, so that localization estimation, but not imaging, can be done with 4 channels.
 
 
 
 
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References:

Festa, E.K., Heindel, W.C., Connors, N.C., Hirshberg, L., Ott, B.R. (2009) Neurofeedback training enhances the efficiency of cortical processing in normal aging. Cognitive Neuroscience Society Meeting, San Francisco, CA.

Pascual-Marqui, R.D. (2002).  Standardized low resolution brain electromagnetic tomography (sLORETA): technical details. Methods & Findings in Experimental & Clinical Pharmacology. 24D:5-12

Sherlin, L.H.  (2009) Diagnosing and treating brain function through the use of low resolution brain electromagnetic tomography (LORETA).  In: T. Budzynski, H. Budzynsky, J. Evans, and A. Abarbanal (Eds.), Quantitative EEG and Neurofeedback. pp. 83-104.

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