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.
This is David from Team Mendi. First of all, I want to thank you for being a Mendi user and for taking the time to share your experiences and thoughts about the device.
I can assure you that Mendi’s measurement of your blood oxygenation in your PFC isn’t random. Our device has been validated by researchers to outperform hardware devices costing $20K+. Mendi is bringing this advanced technology into a consumer-grade hardware device for the first time and we have made significant improvements to the overall design to accommodate this.
You are right in that, just like with fNIRS-based lab equipment, Mendi is sensitive to external light sources. During research and in neurofeedback clinics, they often put layers of “bandage” around their headsets to shield it from external light.
We currently recommend users to practice in a dimly lit or dark room to increase the ability for the device to read your blood flow correctly, simply because this will make it easier for you to learn how to control the movement of the ball. It’s also important not to move around too much, particularly your eyebrows, which are very close to the Mendi device and can therefore accidentally move the device and confuse it.
The good news is that we are hard at work to fix this, and I’m extremely excited about the new signal processing algorithm that the team has been developing. The next release that we’re scheduling in the next month has a 40% quicker response from detected PFC activity to the movement of the ball on the screen, as well as making it work well with a wider range of bright conditions (including certain LED lights) that can otherwise interfere with the signal.
And that’s just the starting point. Over the next several months, we’ll be rolling out a number of important enhancements to further strengthen the environmental resilience of Mendi, as in, its ability to handle scenarios that have traditionally been well outside of scope for high-tech fNIRS-based neurofeedback training, such as the ability to use it in a brightly lit room, outdoors, or even when moving around.
We’re very humbled by the fact that users are reporting life-changing results from consistent training with Mendi - but we are not surprised, because we know from existing science that the brain is becoming healthier with each session as your neural pathways are strengthened.
We’re also excited to release the next phase of Mendi, which will combine goal-based neurofeedback brain training with behavioural science. This is what we call the Mendi Brain Health model, which is rooted in the most recent neuroscience as a product of our collaboration with top scientists. It’s something that has never been done before.
At the same time, this doesn’t distract us from the important work to ship the best neurofeedback-based brain training product on the market, including all the improvements I mentioned above - but we believe that the introduction of Mendi’s full brain health model will shift the focus a little bit from the in-game session scores to the long-term improvements we’re making on your brain health.
Again, thank you for being a Mendi user and for your candid feedback about your journey with it so far!
Posted by: David Tenser | September 28, 2021 at 12:40 AM
Hello - Hoping someone can give me some insight into the implications of the article to which I have attached a link below. My question is simply this: can the Mendi device make anxiety worse? It seems in some cases it’s an overactivity of the prefrontal cortex that causes certain anxiety orders, at least in part, whereas in other anxiety disorders it could be an under activity of the prefrontal cortex. Is it more accurate to say Mendi balances out the prefrontal cortex or does it always stimulate it?
Posted by: Brooks Barton | March 14, 2022 at 05:46 AM
I am feeling nothing and nothing and nothing with mendi so farm I used my lift and felt so much better I don't associate myself to myndliftm mendinhas been very disappointing I don't see a clear instruction on how t use it. The comments and review from you and the member from Facebook iare similar with my experience. I feel very frustrated with mensibright now
Posted by: Anonymous | May 08, 2022 at 11:44 PM
I honestly think mendi needs to provide us more connections to understand how we can empower ourselves to increase the score. Like a game, it would be pointless if we didn't understand the mechanics of the game controls and rules. Mendi just tells us the rules. Yet the game's measurement is odd to me. What do the stars mean( is that blood flow?) Is the rise and fall loss of concentration? Cause I can get it to rise without stars) if the users don't understand inner correlation to the game its just not as powerful as I would've hoped.
How is resilience being measured? Brain activity? How is thay reflected in the game?
I mean otherwise I rather just Meditate and exercise than to Stare at a screen for 10-15 minutes.
Posted by: Zoey | September 30, 2022 at 08:17 AM
Hi. I'd like to jump into this conversation about the Mendi as I find it a fascinating subject; there are many things I like about the experience, including such things as the packaging, the design, and the simplicity. Also the helpfulness of the company is much appreciated. As for results, I would characterize them as somewhat sporadic (after about two months of twice-daily ten minutes sessions) One complication I have with using the Mendi is that I generally become drowsy and find myself fighting to stay awake. I don't think of this as being focused, though the relaxation is helpful. There are times - with eyes closed - where I can zone into the sound of the bell, at the same time passively concentrating on my abdominal area. This odd combination produces a wonderful meditative feeling. Over time, I think training to focus on creating this feeling would be very beneficial. It also can then be done with eyes open but slightly unfocused, in a sort of sahaja samadhi ope-eyed meditation. Lastly, I would tend to agree with others who question the accuracy of the measurements, as the feedback that I get from the markers used seem capricious and might even distract from the actual benefit that I see possible from the use of a Mendi. I hope that others might find some of these ramblings helpful in some way - in general I think we are all on an upward trajectory. I wish everyone the best of luck.
Posted by: Jim Nowak | May 19, 2023 at 01:01 PM