[esnr] Correction re Lithuania in Baltic States Forum Feedback Report

  • From: "Gruzelier, John H" <j.gruzelier@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <esnr@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Wed, 21 Jul 2004 15:27:22 +0100

Baltic Forum, Riga, Latvia, 2-3 July, 2004. 

Society Prototype?

Professor Paulis Butlers hosted the first neurofeedback meeting in the Baltic 
States at the Riga Stradins University, where he is Assistant Professor of 
Medical Physics.  It is to his credit and considerable entrepreneurial skills 
and dedication to the field (he part funded the meeting himself) that he 
assembled participants from Estonia, Lithuania, Poland, and Russia, while I 
presented on behalf of the society. Around 60 people attended for the two day 
meeting.

The meeting represented to me a prototype of how the Society could develop, to 
embrace applied neuroscience and encourage cross fertilisation between clinical 
therapeutic and optimal performance approaches on the one hand, and basic 
science on the other.

The meeting began with the current perspective on the brain mechanisms 
underpinning operant conditioning by Professor Liga Aberberga-Augskalne, who 
heads the Department of Neurophysiology.  This was an insightful introduction.  
This was followed by presentations by medical students from the Department of 
General Medicine who under the supervision of Paulis Butlers have examined how 
SMR training and suppressing theta in healthy volunteers also elevated alpha2, 
which is implicated in working memory, and shifted the alpha peak upwards.. 
These were mature presentations and I have encouraged them to submit the SMR 
paper for publication.  Further analysis may also shed light on learners versus 
nonlearners. The results contribute to the debate on specificity of bandwidth 
training.   

After morning tea I presented our work with alpha/theta training, to include 
our latest findings in enhancing ballroom and Latin dance performance in 
competitive university dancers, and in elevating mood and well being in 
withdrawn students.  Professor Klonowski from the Polish Academy of Sciences, 
Warsaw then presented his advanced methods of EEG nonlinear complexity 
analysis, which incidentally could provide a new metric for neurofeedback 
training.  In identifying sleep stages in the EEG the procedures were superior 
to trained experts. To conclude the morning session Dr Helena Ciavko introduced 
stabilography methods from St Petersburg.  The participant steps on a bathroom 
scales type stand and a spectrum of movements is recorded.  There are clinical 
applications such as tremor and applications with dancers and sportsmen.  Again 
there are implications for biofeedback developments which Professor Butlers 
will consider.

In the afternoon we were treated to a fascinating, inspiring and very moving 
introduction to the pathfinding 'coordination dynamics therapy' for spinal cord 
injury of Professor Giselher Schalow, formerly of Switzerland, but now based in 
Tatin, Estonia.  He outlined his highly creative theory and then proceeded to 
introduce us to two patients, one in a wheel chair and another a Norwegian 
youth who hit his head on the bottom of a river when diving in, and is a 
paraplegic as a result, but following very arduous training is now able to walk 
and even run with assistance.  We were given demonstrations of the approach, 
and alas time quickly ran out.  There is not space to go into this now, but the 
aim is to create new neurological connections, and it was clear to this 
psychophysiologist, how important topdown influences  were in forging these 
neuronal changes.  Clearly much potential can be derived from combining our 
techniques to achieve these goals.  It is food for thought that his highly 
innovative methods, which fly in the face of contemporary neurophysiological 
thinking, were not acceptable in Switzerland, and have found a receptive home 
in Estonia.  

Perhaps our society could provide an important political role in science to 
counteract conservative constraints.

The next day was mainly devoted to the work of  Professor Giedrius Varoneckas 
and colleagues.  Professor Giedrius heads an Institute for Psychophysiology and 
Rehabilitation in Lithuania.  Apparently we first rubbed shoulders in Montreal 
at the founding meeting of the International Organisation of Psychophysiology 
in the early 1980s.  11 papers were presented  focussing on one aspect of their 
work, consisting of the manifold clinical implications of heart rate 
variability for diagnosis and rehabilitation.  Highly sophisticated methods of 
analysis were demonstrated with a clinical yield not available in conventional 
HRV analyses. This very expert clinical team would provide an ideal setting for 
a RCT of heart rate coherence training for cardiovascular disorders.  

The forum ended with Professor Olegs Timms work in instating Swiss methods of 
neurostimulation and neural prosthesis with cochlear implants in Latvian 
children.

There was throughout the Forum a splendid spirit of openmindedness, and 
opportunities for neurofeedback and biofeedback were widely discussed.  
Professor Butlers is to be congratulated for his initiative in planning the 
meeting.  There is to be a followup via internet later in the year - see our 
website.

Offers from all the Baltic States to host a society meeting were received with 
enthusiasm, and I have received again a request today from Professor Schalow to 
host the next meeting in Tatin.  I would very much like us to go there.  

We also took in the jazz festival, which just happened to on at the time, and 
we missed the opera festival by only a few days!  These are very beautiful 
cities, and I believe Tatin is an absolute jewel.  In Riga there is unspoiled 
architecture going back to the middle ages, art noveau turn of the century 
buildings, and a river with handsome bridges.  It is very green everywhere.  
Prices are affordable before the EU takes hold, as are flights booked in 
advance. The food is particularly excellent and cheap.

How about the Baltic States for our next meeting!

John Gruzelier


Professor John Gruzelier
Division of Neuroscience & Psychological Medicine
Imperial College London
Charing Cross Campus
St Dunstan's Road
London W6 8RP
UK

Phone 44 020 8 846 7386:  Fax 44 020 8 846 1670: 
e-mail j.gruzelier@xxxxxxxx
Secretary: Mrs Ann Ebberson: Phone 44 020 8 846 7246

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