Monday, March 24, 2008

Brain Waves

Tonight I attended one of the BrainWave festival events at the CUNY Graduate Center. We got to watch musicians’ brain waves measured via EEG while they were playing music, pretending to play music, and thinking about playing music.


I found that the musicians were somewhat distracted by their own brains, and kept turning around to monitor their brain wave progress on the big screen behind them.


I think we’re all sort of intrigued with the way our inner workings...well...work. People to go therapy, psychics, naturopathic doctors and acupuncturists just to hear about themselves - the good, the bad, the diseased, the dysfunctional. Even worse, people go on dates just to talk about what the other person thinks of them.


If given the chance, people will buy wall art of their own DNA or thumbprint. And they’ll look at their reflection wherever they can find one: in a store window, a mirror, even a spoon.


I’ve actually had two EEGs in my life, so I know something about how my brain is firing. As a young kid, I suddenly began to have what appeared to be seizures, but it was more just passing out and then having convulsions. Of course my parents panicked that I was epileptic, though thankfully not having soiled myself.


After seeing Dr. Marasigan, a neurologist whose instructions to touch my nose I couldn’t understand through his thick accent, I went into the hospital twice and had electrodes glued to my scalp through my hair. I lied down on some gurney while they tried to instigate some brain reaction by flashing lights through my closed eyes.


Turns out I wasn’t epileptic, but after passing out in my living room, in the bathroom, and in church and having an out-of-body experience each time, I thought I was either dying or really in touch with the spirit world. Instead, they said I was only vasovagal, typically hyperventilating and passing out in response to stressful circumstances. Considering my childhood, I’m surprised I ever stayed awake.


I think the last time I passed out was in the chair at the oral surgeon’s office before getting my wisdom tooth pulled a few years ago here in NYC. I think that means my life is less stressful. I guess that’s a good thing.


Still, I kept wanting to volunteer myself as an EEG subject tonight. I’m curious what my brain has to tell me nowadays.