The Guardian Unlimited - 12/29/2004 -

Why I Love Mind Machines

Alex Marsh
Wednesday December 29, 2004
The Guardian

My aunt first introduced me to them. Alternative therapy's biggest customer worldwide, she'd tracked down this box of electronics from a mail order firm in Germany. There she sat, approaching serenity in her favourite armchair, headphones nestling in her greying hair and enormous black goggles strapped across her eyes.

It has to be said that she looked ridiculous.

Years later, I was going through a stressful time. Insomnia was taking its toll, but I remembered the strange device. By then, the internet had been invented, and getting hold of one was simple.

A mind machine consists of an electronic box that generates a sequence of complicated pulses. These are converted into sound (wibbledy-wobbledy noises fed into your brain via the headphones) and light (the goggles contain flashing LED's that press against your eyelids). Select a programme, close your eyes and you're off.

They work by manipulating the alpha frequency of your brain waves, altering your mood and state of consciousness. Or something like that. To be honest, I've never really enquired. Like I've never used the "accelerated learning", "heightened alertness" or "sports training" programmes. No - for me it's "deep relaxation" or nothing.

I save it for those times when I really, really cannot sleep. When I've tried left side, right side, back and the sheep thing. I've become adroit at ferreting it out from the bedside cabinet and dealing with the wires in the dark. For a couple of minutes I still find it weird. Around seven minutes in, I'm in that dreamy half-way state. And at the end of the 15-minute programme I'm snoring for England.