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Notes on Mind Machines
by B. Statler
(Anonymous) asks:
** Has anybody ever tried those "Mind Machine" glasses with the blinking led's and headphones? They claim to introduce a hallucinagenic-like state?!?!?!

Answer:
Yes, my wife and I have one called "MasterMind" which we bought at an outrageous price from the Hammacher Schlemmer catalog. It definitely has an effect, but whether it's anything like chemical hallucinogens I can't say due to lack of experience. (Honest!)

The unit consists of a small black box containing the electronics, a set of earphones, and a set of opaque "sunglasses" with four red LED's (2 on a side) mounted so they will flash in your eyes. (Note: you use this device with your eyes _closed_.) The idea is that your brain waves will synchronize to the flashing lights, and you will be drawn into various medidative states associated with the different frequencies. The unit also provides pulsing sounds via the earphones to intensify the effect.

You can select any of a dozen "sessions" of 10 to 40 minutes duration (plus another dozen that are half-length versions of these). The different sessions follow different patterns of moving between high and low frequencies. There are also some user-unfriendly controls for volume, pitch, brightness, etc.

The device really does do more-or-less what it claims, in our experience. You would think that having bright rapidly-flashing lights next to your eyelids would be unpleasant, but it's not. As for "hallucinogenic", here's what you get: At high flash frequencies (10 to 30 Hz or so), the eyes and/or the visual center of the brain generate all sorts of lines and swirly things and plaids and geometric patterns in red and blue and yellow. The pattern varies with the frequency and with how the lights are synchronized (both eyes together, or alternately). I found the patterns to be overwhelmingly brilliant the first time I used the device, but less so after I got used to it. (The human mind seems to have an infinite capacity for getting bored!)

At lower frequencies there is very little "light show", and the effect is hypnotic. I assume this is the "alpha state" that people achieve with meditation. Yet lower frequencies (a few Hz) take the user into a light doze. A typical session with the machine starts at the high-frequency end, slowly wanders down into the lower range, and then comes back up again at the end to wake you up and give you a final light show.

Sometimes, when the frequency starts to increase from its minimum, I will notice what feels like a flood of warmth and general well-being spreading out through my body. There's some actual physical effect here: cold feet and hands become warm, for example. I suppose some hormone is being released. This doesn't happen every time (and I can ruin it by waiting for it to happen).

I use this device for a "controlled nap" -- I can set in advance exactly how long it will be and how deep, and ensure that I wake up gently. Five minutes is enough to relax computer-strained eyes, but 10 to 40 minutes is needed to really give my brain a reset.

I know someone who used one of these along with a moderate dose of dextromethorphan, and had a loss-of-ego experience ("I couldn't distinguish what was me, what was the light show, and what was the bed I was lying in"). If anyone has used one in conjunction with other psychoactive materials, I'd like to hear about it.

WARNING: THESE DEVICES CAN TRIGGER SOME FORMS OF EPILEPSY! Remember the epileptic researcher in "The Andromeda Strain" who got knocked out by a flashing computer display? That part wasn't fiction.

I suppose this really ought to be in alt.cyberpunk.tech. But it's not.

Bill Statler
Pasco, Washington, USA