It's been a bit more than two months since I started using the Mendi neurofeedback device that I ordered via a Kickstarter campaign.
I started off enthusiastic about my Mendi, as discussed in my July 26 blog post, "I'm enjoying my Mendi neurofeedback device."
I've only been using the Mendi for a short time and need to do more exploring with it. This is my initial impression of what works best to get the ball moving upward.
My first try with the Mendi produced a pretty good score. I think this was because I simply focused on the ball and didn't try to make the ball go up.
The next few Mendi sessions didn't go so well, probably because I was trying to get a better score. From what I can tell so far -- and my experience likely is different from other Mendi users -- trying isn't the best way to train the brain.
Not trying is.
Well, after a lot more experience with my Mendi, I'm much less enthused about the device. The main reason why was pointed to in my first blog post when I said that after I did well with the Mendi, the next few sessions didn't go so well.
For quite a while I thought the problem was with me, not the device.
But now I lean strongly to the position that the Mendi hardware, the software, or both isn't capable of reliably providing feedback on how well a user is concentrating on the single task currently available with the smart phone app: making a ball rise.
I've been meditating every day for over fifty years, often for an hour or two.
I'm a strong advocate of mindfulness, my current approach to meditation. So I'm confident that I can tell the difference between a frenzied scattered mind and a calm concentrated mind.
Yet the scores I get with the Mendi device have little or nothing to do with my ability to focus on the ball. There's simply no evident connection between my state of mind and how much the ball moves upward, which supposedly is a reflection of oxygenated blood flow and neural activity.
The folks who designed and sell the Mendi device also seem to have a haphazard way of describing what a user is supposed to do during their sessions.
My iPhone app tells me to relax and focus on the ball. But I've also seen the advice to concentrate on trying to make the ball go upward, which is quite different from simply focusing on the ball. And other advice is to think about a mental issue you're working on, like anxiety about something.
My suspicion is that the reason there are so many different ways of describing how someone is supposed to use their Mendi device is that there's no consistent way of making the ball go up. Meaning, the device basically is giving random results, not genuine neurofeedback about someone's state of mind or ability to concentrate.
As noted in my first blog post, I get better scores in a dark room than in the room I meditate each morning in -- which has a window facing west with a white shade that I pull down. So even though sun isn't coming through the window, even diffuse light appears to lead to a lower Mendi score.
Thus the combination of not getting results that match up with my feeling relaxed and concentrated and the sensitivity of the Mendi device to how bright a room is, possibly along with other external factors (like where on the forehead the device is worn) has caused me to stop using the device on a regular basis.
I figure that simply meditating is a better use of my time than getting scores from the device that, so far as I can tell, don't mean anything. Reportedly a software/app update is coming that might deal with my concerns, so I'll keep an open mind about the device.
I was moved to write this follow-up blog post about the Mendi device after reading a Facebook post from a user who has a similar attitude to mine. Since you have to be a member of the private Facebook group to read the posts, I'll copy in what Sami Zegnani had to say.