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Sunday 18 November 2018
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The mind readers

BitDepth#1170

THE INVITATION to Mind Art, an evening of creative brain scanning on Sunday, drew a solid group of participants, mostly young, professional and certainly curious.

Kheston Walkins and Yohance Ayodike demonstrated, with a few glitches, a headset that generates an electroencephalogram (EEG) signal and feeds it into a computer system, which charted the brain’s electrical activity into hypnotic visualisations.

Guests were asked to tell a personal story for two minutes while the pattern of brain activity changed on the screen. Samples of the readings, charted using different visualisation filters, were available as wall prints for anyone who wants their friends to see what they’re thinking.

“Oh and it’s better if you tell a real story,” Walkins said. “The read-outs are different when you make up a story.”

He paused a moment, then added with a broad smile, “So yes, I can totally tell when you’re lying.”

But this isn’t the only thing that Allegori, the company run by the two young cousins, does with the device.

Walkins, with a background in neuroscience and Ayodike, a professional counsellor, found a powerful link between their two disciplines through brain scanning.

“What we didn’t realise was the power of what we were doing,” Ayodike said. “I think it is a very powerful combination. Possibly greater than the sum of its parts, this fusing of the soft personal dynamics of talk therapy with the data-dependent part of bioinformatics.”

“This is done for fun,” Walkins admits of Mind Art, “and to bring people in to discuss their mental health, but I am very obsessed with the data.”

Allegori retains only a few EEG samples of the alpha, theta and gamma waves they record for the Mind Art project, but manages larger datasets for clients of their other learning and behaviour-adjustment projects.

Allegori’s clients have an opportunity, as Ayodike describes it, to “get hold of their lives again to overcome things like phobias and insomnia,” but many return to improve their cognitive capabilities.

The team does not prescribe, explained Walkins, nor do they suggest that patients stop using medication prescribed by professionals.

The data generated by the EEG, charted in a considerably less attractive form, allows them to identify triggers that their conversations with clients uncover.

“Think of it as a microphone for your brain that we use to help clients listen in and even change, for things they want to achieve, like better sleep, increased focus and even overcoming panic attacks without taking medicine.

“When clients relive incidents, sometimes several times, the more they explore, the better the conversation you can have and the more effectively you can resolve the problems.”

The pair point with particular pride to their work with three patients: a teacher with intense claustrophobia, a surgeon suffering panic attacks and an autistic student who was helped to focus better in a noisy classroom.

The student outreach is part of a parallel programme, Limitless Learning TT, which addresses the support needs of students with challenges in early academic life.

“Remember, when we were children, our parents would scold us to focus and do our work,” Ayodike said. “We learned how to do our work at school, but not how to focus. We are teaching children how to focus, how to put their brains in a state that is resistant to distraction and able to focus for longer periods.”

The Focus Clinic, as Allegori has dubbed the learning experience, formally opens to the public in January for 50 students, but is currently working with five students at different levels, including university, secondary school and certification programmes like the ACCA.

Mark Lyndersay is the editor of technewstt.com. An expanded version of this column can be found there

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