Sitting Still for a Brain Injury Assessment

qEEG is a safe and powerful—but neglected—way to measure brain activity.

Posted Jun 29, 2018

Last week, I began the serialization of chapters from Salvation, a section in my book Concussion Is Brain Injury: Treating the Neurons and Me where I recount the first inkling of real hope that my injured brain could be healed. This week, I continue the assessment saga.


Chapter 8: Brainwave (continued)

Shireen Jeejeebhoy
Source: Shireen Jeejeebhoy

Lynda came back in and asked me how I found it.

“Boring,” I confirmed. I didn’t speak my worries out loud.

We exited her office and entered a room with a modern computer. She said they would do a single-electrode EEG on me. As she used a flexible tape measure to measure my head, I felt familiarity creep in. My psychologist had done a similar test on me when I first saw him in 2000. Her capable fingers scrubbed my ears and top centre of my head firmly with granular gel to clean them so that the electrodes would pick up my brainwaves. The granulation dug into my skin like extra-hard pumice. I kept my face neutral, I hoped. It had to be done, so there was no point complaining.

She clipped my ears with round pieces of metal and pressed another tiny round piece of metal on the top centre of my head. Fine coloured wires snaked from them to a little plug she clipped to my top. More wires snaked to a small rectangular box on the desk.

I watched the black screen light up. She checked the connections; soon I was seeing my brainwaves. She told me to deep breathe. I settled right into the rhythmic motion of inhale slowly, exhale long. She said to focus on one thing and not move my eyes. I tried.

It was difficult.

My eyes were demanding to move. My mind instructed them to stay put.

“OK,” she said.

It was over. The program showed the results. I was fascinated deep inside me, yet I couldn’t absorb it. I understood what she was explaining, yet the information skipped right on out of me except for one piece: I had low power. I knew that because that was what my psychologist had found and had explained to me several times.

I was led into another room divided by glass display cases where their Chief Operating Officer would conduct and read my EEG. Sailing ships seemed to be everywhere.

“Hello,” a man seated on the far side of the room greeted me, his cheerful voice dragging my eyes away from the massive painting on the wall ahead of me and giving me a direction to walk toward. This was Michael, the one I had spoken to on the phone. I knew him! He explained that Lynda would not be present during this test. He did his test, she did hers, and they didn’t speak to each other until the assessment was over. That way they didn’t taint each other’s testing or results. It was the most objective way to conduct the assessment. My scholar mind liked that.

As we waited for the one who would put the nineteen-point electrode cap on me, Michael introduced me to a student who was there to learn from him. Time flitted, and I had a cloth cap with two ear clips and nineteen grommets in it fitted snugly over my head, electrogel squirted and swirled with painful intensity on my sensitive scalp into each grommet so that the grommet electrodes would pick up my brainwaves. I was glad to have no mirror to accidentally catch my reflection in.

Michael instructed, “Now sit back.” I leaned back in the black, high-backed leather office chair. “That’s it.” He concentrated on his screen for a moment. “Now I want you to relax your jaw, and I’m going to record your brainwaves.”

I suppressed my automatic nodding and tried to relax my jaw.

“Relax, just relax,” he said, pulling long on the words in low, somnolent-inducing tones. “Let your jaw fall. And I want you to focus on this,” he said pointing to a box. “Let your eyes relax. Don’t close them though. Now, your left jaw is tensing up. I want you to relax it, let it drop.”

I felt like an idiot with a snug cap on my head, my jaw hanging slack, my eyes half closing.

“That’s it,” he said absent-mindedly. “That’s it.” He said a little louder. “Now, don’t move your eyes. Keep them on this.”

I was never going to relax, never going to stop moving my eyes. Every muscle was jerking to move, to tense, to flinch. I stared at the box and struggled to keep still.

- To be continued next week.

Copyright ©2017-2018 Shireen Anne Jeejeebhoy. May not be reprinted or reposted without permission.