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TECHNOLOGY The Feel-Good Machine

A mind vacation? Sounds bizarre, but I liked it.
By

LIKE, WOW, RED LIGHTS ARE FLASH-ing inside my eyeballs and there’s a loud thudding in my head, and no, man, I’m not strung out on Elmer’s and I’m not hung over.

Via some earphones and some supercharged sunglasses plugged into a little black box on loan from an Addison company called Inner Quest, I am, even as we speak, taking a Brain Vacatioon.

And though acquaintances will snort, “He took Early Brain Retirement years ago,” this is differen.

But as Space Cadet-y as it might sound, the thing does seem to work. Twenty minutes ago I was sitting here in the spot writers dread most: frozen at the controls, vaporlocked, and brain-cramped. And I’d been that way for two days. Then, bingo. Plug in the old Inner Quest IQ III. Put it on Program 10, the “36 minute High Creativity program. Ail in left/right expansive mode for greater hemispheric ’crosstalk.’ Good for problem solving and creative thinking.”

Strap on the glasses with the four red diodes firing bright pulses into my closed eyes at a rate that is supposed to harmonize with the rate at which my brain vibrates. Over the headphones come both the tape I’ve put into the cassette player, and the brain-harmonious pulses of white noise from the black box’s on-board minicomputer.

And twenty minutes later, Hemispheres R Us. We be cross talking now. My corpus callosum’s fried up hotter than crickets licking lightbulbs. I can almost smell the cables burning.

To spare you the technological terminology, the growing field of “neurotechnology” is absolutely rampant with, let me try to make it simple: these machines are not “bio-feedback” devices but “bio-feed-IN” devices. They generate pulses of light and sound at rates matching those known to be produced by human brains in the various “brain states,” Beta, Alpha, Theta, and Delta (if you aren’t in at least one or a combination of these right now, you can stop reading because you’re legally dead).

Wanna catch some Zs? Punch in the sleep program, slap in some Andreas Vollen-weider, and just rock back. The machine starts rolling in those drowsy, daydreamy ol’ Theta waves at four to seven cycles a second. It’s a good time to play your subliminal “Get Rich by Stopping Smoking to Lose Weight and Influence People” tape.

After the old Inner Quest has given your brain time to take its seat in the Theta ballpark, it then takes you down even lower to Delta waves at a half-cycle to four cycles a second. This is semi-comatose, somewhere down around Big Tex and Jerry Jones:

Howdy.. .folks.. .How.. .’bout.. .them.. .Cowboys?!

According to theory and the experience of other users, when the final stupid-front blows in, you’ll go down like you’d been drinking Robitussin in a hot bath. Being a lifelong insomniac, I tried that program myself a couple of times, and yeah, it leaves you feeling pretty well deboned.

Over at the Quest Peak Performance Center, 4447 N. Central Expressway. you can find a pretty broad sampling of what’s out there. They’ll jack your brain up on the rack and have it tuned up in a jiffy.

The device that will probably cave your head in for sure is the Star Chamber ($30 an hour). It’s an egotist’s idea of heaven-a four-by-four-foot wooden box, completely lined with high-quality mirrors and equipped with lighting and sound controls that are supposed to help you achieve a meditative state with your eyes open, thus mastering Theta in the “real” world as well as (he one behind your eyeballs.

Next stop was the Somatron, a firm little bed that massages you via music, the bass amplified until, as a salesman explained, you are getting a cellular massage.

Heavier still: according to the salesman, the piece on (he tape was written with a strong F-major underpinning, and, as all us Neurotech Hipsters know, F-major is a chord “that you can direct toward parts of your body that you may be having problems with.” The beer gut’s still there, but the Somatron was kind of groovy anyway, and it felt good on my back.

At $15 and $20 for a half-hour session, plus an additional $5 if you want to use the Inner Quest or Alpha-Slim equipment, it’s obviously cheaper to just go home, put on the Walkman, and lie down on the kitchen counter while the dishwasher’s on.

And it’s even more expensive to buy these gizmos. The “Starr III Light Duty Home Model” will set you back $7,800, while the “Starr VI Experimenter Model” runs $14,400.

Rut prices will inevitably come down.

The magic beds and the mirrored boxes may go the way of “Pyramid Power” to keep your razor blades sharp, but the light-and-sound devices, the IQ IIIs and the Alpha-Slims, will probably stick around.

Right now, they, too, are a mite on the “dear” side: Inner Quest wants $595 for the one I’ve got currently clapped on my head. They make cheaper models, like the IQ II and the IQ Jr., the lowest of the line. The IQ Jr. goes for $299.

I plan to hang onto the loaner until they actually demand it back. And when these puppies get down around $150 or so-hey, sit me down, plug me in, turn me on, beam me up, and Ommmmmmm.. .OITTA here.

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