An “E-Interview” in the Summer of 2001 with Tom Budzynski, Ph.D.
Q: Please begin by sharing with our readers a little bit about yourself…
A: “I graduated from the University of Detroit with an EE degree and spent 7 years as an aerospace engineer. The most intriguing project was as field support supervisor of the inertial navigation system on the SR71 Blackbird at Area 51, otherwise known as Groom Lake, Nevada.
Testing went on around the clock for 3 shifts but supervisors could be called out of bed if problems arose – and they sure did. After 4 years of this I got out of engineering in 1964 and began to catch up on psychology courses at UCLA. I eventually got a master’s and doctorate in psychology at the University of Colorado. While there I learned of the beginning work of Joe Kamiya with alpha EEG feedback. I, with the help from my buddy John Picchiottino (we had met at Hughes Aircraft in California several years before) I built a Kamiya-like unit which fedback a 400Hz tone whenever alpha bursts occurred. I then used it to desensitize a friend with a severe thanatophobia (fear of death and death related stimuli). I guess it was the first incident of a clinical application of what later would be called neurotherapy.
Together John and I developed the first surface EMG (muscle tension) biofeedback systems. They featured digital quantification and may have been the first such instruments for muscle EMG and later EEG. The late ‘60’s and ‘70’s were magical years for biofeedback of all kinds.
We were invited all over the world to present workshops, lectures and papers. In those years John and I started a small company, Bio-Feedback Systems, Inc., the first biofeedback company.
I also started the first commercial biofeedback clinic called the Applied Biofeedback Institute. With Johann Stoyva, Kirk Peffer, Charles Adler, and, of course, John Picchiottino, we gave the first workshops in biofeedback at Snowmass at Aspen.
The ‘90’s showed a resurgence of interest in EEG feedback with the advent of computerized systems called QEEG (quantified EEG systems). I now teach workshops in neurotherapy and the excitement in this area is almost the pitch of that in the early ‘70’s in biofeedback. With my wife Helen, a Professor Emeritus at the University of Washington, I have been conducting research in applications of AVS to school performance and cognitive improvement in the elderly.
Q: How did you initially get involved with this technology? What equipment did you first use? When was that?
A: “About the mid-70’s we used the Whole Brainwave Synchroenergizer with some of the clients seen in my Denver clinic. Denis Gorges, the inventor, had done a 3 day workshop at our place and generated a lot of interest. We found that this powerful device helped some clients off prescription tranquilizers. A group of 6 psychic healers who tried it claimed (independently) that it opened all the Chakras at 6 Hz and only the ones from the chest up at 10 Hz. Each of the healers reported very creative visual imagery, e.g., strange faces, people, vistas, etc. A bit later our clinic was visited by 20 managers of a large supermarket chain. Nineteen of them simply reported the retinal effects. One, a women, re-experienced a traumatic surgery from 2 years before.
With the advent of modern AVS devices we began to integrate their usage into our neurotherapy practice. In the last 2 years we have engaged in some serious research with AVS.”
Q: How often do you personally experience a light / sound session? Any favorite? Do you simultaneously utilize other modalities such as biofeedback or tactile stimulation and motion during sessions?
A: “I use the AVS units in bursts when I seem to need it. Then I may use it twice a day. I’ll usually try a new unit when it comes my way. I am most experienced with Robert Austin’s Synetic’s gear because I did work as a research director for Synetics at one point. I also like David Siever’s units and we have used both Synetic System’s and Siever’s units in our research. I’ll often use my own self-help CDs or audio cassettes along with the visual part of the AVS program. I do use the AVS during certain neurotherapy sessions, e.g., boosting 14 Hz with AVS when doing an ADD protocol.”
Q: What’s your definition of the perfect light / sound instrument? What would the light glasses be like?
A: “The question of what would be the perfect AVS is difficult. I guess I would like one that is computer programmable as some now are. It would be nice if some of the LEDs would be at the very corner of each eyefield so that a single hemisphere could be stimulated by each. I would like more binaural tone capability such that multiple frequencies could be computer selected. I personally like the new deep blue LEDs, and units that can blend combinations of primary color LEDs so as to make any color are fascinating. Of course, a more expensive unit might be driven by the dominant EEG, i.e., the frequency of the AVS would be linked to this EEG frequency. Such units have already been developed by a number of individuals and I consider these extremely powerful devices for brain change.
In 1990 I had Todd Stone, now a technician for Synetics, build me a device that I called the “Hemifield,” because it contained an eyeframe with red LEDs in the very corners of the left and right visual fields. They could be individually controlled in frequency and intensity. I did some research that proved one could independently effect contalateral frequency-following EEG responses with the device. I reported on some later research with the Hemifield about 1991 at the Futurehealth Brain Research Conference in Key West, Florida. Eyeframes that claim to selectively influence one or the other hemifield can be checked out if you have EEG printout capability.
Remember, the LEDs must be placed such that they only stimulate the outer corners of each eye.”
Q: What considerations should someone new to AVS take into account when purchasing their first instrument?
A: “Advice to someone new to the AVS area should take into account how experienced they are with computers. Real “techies,” computer programmers, and engineering types would enjoy the computer-programmable units. Many of my private neurotherapy clients however, want easy-to- use units with no complicated instruction requirements.”
Q: You have participated in many research studies utilizing light / sound. Is there one study in particular that left an indelible impression on you?
A: “Along with George Rozelle I carried out a single case study with a stroke client who was written off by the medical establishment. We used the EEG-driven AVS designed by Len Ochs, Harold Russell and Bob Austin’s group. The client made an amazing recovery and we sent him back to some of his original MDs and therapists for more testing. Needless to say they were quite surprised. We got that published in the 1995 Biofeedback & Self-Regulation journal.
However, the most satisfying AVS research study was the one in which we improved school performance at Western Washington University and which was published in the 1999 Journal of Neurotherapy. We had heard about the large numbers of Korean students using AVS units and decided to do a careful study to see if the claims were true. We got our subjects from the Counseling Center where they had sought help because they were having academic problems. There were 2 groups, one that got the AVS training of 30 sessions of 14 and 22 Hz alternating and the other was a waiting control that would get the training after the pre-post testing if they desired.
We used Synetic Systems units and expected some change in the EEG but we also got statistically significant changes between the groups in GPA when this was compared in the quarter before training with the quarter after training. At present we are engaged in a study with elderly individuals and we are using pre-post Microcogs (computer scored cognitive tests) with David Siever units. Preliminary findings look good so far.”
Q: What do you believe are the most important issues facing the light / sound industry today?
A: “Important issues facing the AVS industry are the question of whether AVS can be made to selectively stimulate certain areas of the brain and my own personal quest – can AVS produce a “one-with-the-spirit” state, i.e., an unforgettable, ineffable, wonderfully fulfilling experience.
We have some pilot work that looks promising.”
“In Memory of Tom Budzynski, Ph.D.”
Copyright AVS Journal, Summer, 2001. All rights reserved.