Picking the brains of the woman behind Kids Monde Brainwave Training Centre

(This exclusive interview first appeared here on Domain of Singapore Tutoring Experts on 26 July 2014.)

Ever heard of brainwave training? Well that's what the folks at Kids Monde Brainwave Training Centre do. Founded by Miss Yong Puay Pin, she previously graduated from NUS (Department of Psychology and Statistics) and was a Mother Tongue teacher at a local primary school for a total of 11 years. Also a neurotrainer certified by The Korea Research Institute of Jungshin Science to provide brain training, she left the teaching profession to start this company of hers. We recently wrote to her asking if she would be willing to participate in an exclusive online interview about her relatively new setup, and she graciously agreed. So here we are, having some face to face time with her.

QN: Greetings to you Miss Yong, and thank you for granting us this opportunity to talk to you. You have been in the teaching service for more than a decade, what exactly prompted you to make a career switch from teacher to entrepreneur? Did you have to endure a painful, internal conflict before coming up with this life-changing decision? Any resistance from friends and family when you announced you were jumping ship?

ANS: Hi! Thank you for having me. Teaching has always been my passion and it was a difficult choice to make when I had to tender my resignation letter. As a mother of three, it was difficult to juggle my schedule around work and family commitments especially when my son was diagnosed with autism. He had minimal eye contact, spoke very little and was not able to regulate himself. Things improved after I implemented a strict diet complete with supplements,coupled with the Son-Rise Program and brain training. People around me were supportive of my decision especially after seeing great improvements in my son.

QN: This brainwave training business of yours, I am assuming you need to purchase or loan specific diagnostic equipment to perform the necessary assessments for clients? Could you share with us some of the key operational assets in your inventory and their associated functions? Do they cost an astronomical amount?

ANS: We are using Neuroharmony devices and the program is developed, tested and used in South Korea. The portable device comes with a headband with three contact points and an ear clip. Unlike full QEEG (an electroencephalographic assessment of all 19 sites), this mini system makes training more efficient and less intimidating especially for children with sensory issues. This system is used both in training and for brain scans, which is measuring the EEG activities of a client's brain. This is a scientific and data driven assessment tool to examine and analyze different functions of the brain. After the data is analysed by the Korea Research Institute of Jungshin Science, a 10 page report is subsequently generated. This report consists of seven specific Quotients and a 3-D brainwave diagram to depict the current status of the brain. In order to help our clients to under things better, we usually include a 1 page summary of the report for easy reading and interpretation during our face to face consultations. As for the cost of the equipment, they definitely do not come cheap but do not cost an astronomical amount.

QN: Let's talk about what brainwave training is all about. As far we understand (sketchy at best admittedly), you hook a person up to some rather sophisticated hardware by means of electrodes aka sensors and obtain a read-out of his/her brain activity. Since this analysis is done in real time, you can somewhat tweak them brainwaves once again through the same wires and stuff at the opportune moment to recalibrate/enhance/optimize the said individual's brain function. Could you kindly expand upon (and correct us if there is a need) on the above?

ANS: Brain plasticity is refers to the capacity of the neurons and neural networks within the brain to make new connections, respond to new information and sensory stimulation, as well as to reorganize themselves. We cannot produce new neurons and as we age, we lose more of them, thus explaining the loss of memory experienced. Brain wave training helps to strengthen neural pathways and increase blood flow to the brain, thereby improving mental health.

The very first step towards brainwave training is the assessment of brainwave activity. The experts have a thorough understanding of what brainwave activity should look like under normal circumstances. Thus, based on the data from the Brain Quotient Analysis, the professional team in Korea will tailor make a training program that is designed to normalize the brainwave activity, in turn improving/alleviating the symptoms.

Yes, during brainwave training, electrodes are placed on the scalp or a headband is worn around the head and electrical brain activity is measured. We can see areas of increased and decreased activity. However, we do not tweak the waves. Brainwave training is based on a simple logic that clients can alter their own brainwave activity if they receive immediate feedback on brainwave state changes. The program feeds back to the brain the type of brainwave activity it is monitoring.

Brainwave training only encourages the brain to produce more of desired waves. The brain learns how to make that happen unconsciously. When the brain functions in a desired mode, a ‘ting’ sound is produced. This sound is enough to get the brain to cooperate. The positive effects accrue as the client produces more desired brainwaves. Take for instance; the training mode of the program is for the child to produce more beta waves. He sits in front of the computer and watches a game screen. When the brain produces beta waves, and theta waves decrease, the ‘ting’ sound is produced. The brain finds it novel and keeps producing beta waves and more ‘ting’ sounds are produced. Back to the game screen on the monitor, the child gets a high score for maintaining the desired brainwave states. On the other hand, if the game stops, it shows that the child is unable to maintain the desired brainwave state.

This is a powerful tool, as the clients have control over their own physiological processes. However, we must always bear in mind that this is not an overnight cure. To witness significant benefits, we require at least three months of intensive conditioning. With time, clients are gradually able to shape their brain wave patterns to resemble that of a normal one.

QN: Brainwave training is probably non-invasive largely in the sense that no surgical procedure or medication routine is administered during the entire resolution pathway. Still, wouldn't augmenting brainwaves even by means of external electrical pulses ( to achieve a desired outcome) be considered interfering with one's natural brain processes? Can there really be zero side effects achieved from such a form of "therapy"?

ANS: The only temporary side effects are probably headache and tiredness. The reason for a minor headache from the training sessions is that there is increased blood flow to the brain. Like any physical exercise, brain training can be tiring for the brain. It is therefore essential to keep the body hydrated.

Brainwave training is in no way amounting to creating artificial brainwaves. The brain takes its own pace to produce desired waves, some respond faster while others take slightly longer time. Our overall brain quotient gives a very good gauge of the overall brain status. If the current state is deemed poor, to improve from poor to below average, to good, then very good and lastly excellent certainly takes much more time than one whose state of brain function is already at the average level.

Just like exercising, consider man A who exercises in a gym with a trainer while man B jogs on the tracks all by himself with no supervision. The trainer helps man A achieve better results in a shorter period of time. Studying and learning is good for the brain, this is undeniable. Brainwave training is like having a trainer look after the brainwaves, making sure that the regime is followed while the client’s brain is not subjected to the ‘torments’ of having to read, write or memorize in inefficient ways. I am definitely not saying the no learning is required after brainwave training. Learning still remains very important, however brainwave training makes acquisition of knowledge easier as neural pathways are strengthened. Retrieval of information from memory becomes easier just like the widening/expansion of an expressway. More cars can travel on the same road and at a faster speed. Therefore it can be said that brain training in this regard improves cognitive processes.

QN: In your website, you mentioned that brainwave training can also be employed to help the aged (those above 60 years old ) in terms of preventing dementia and memory loss - that is nothing short of fascinating. Is there sufficient literature to support this assertion? Any success story from your personal training sessions that you can put out here for our readers to appreciate?

ANS: There are about 100 billion neurons in the human brain with 10 to 100 trillion neural networks. Development of the brain slows down as we age. We lose about 200,000 neurons every day when we reach 20, 21 years of age. We can never replace what we have lost. That is why as we age, some of us may complain of poorer memory. For the elderly, once the brain cells die due to infections, interruptions in the brain’s blood supply or by neuro-degenerative disease, the rate at which neurons die may become accelerated. Brainwave training is not a ‘cure’ and it cannot ‘resurrect’ the neurons that have died. Brainwave training strengthens neural network of the neurons residing within healthy parts of the brain, thereby maximizing the function of the healthy parts of the brain, maintaining self-regulation and in turn delaying the onset of the symptoms. Thus, brainwave training will become the daily routine of this group of elderly to prevent worsening of their present conditions.

Yes, there have been extensive researches done in this area. In fact brain training is not new, it has been around for the last five decades and is widely used. The device from Korea has been around for more than a decade. This system has been present in Singapore, Malaysia, Korea, China and Hongkong for a while. In fact, the training centres in these counties have been very successful in providing brain training.

My mother-in-law who is 75 this year has been using receiving brain training every day for three months. Like any elderly, she began showing some symptoms of forgetfulness that became more frequent with time. She is doing well now and she sits behind the children to learn simple English when I teach the little ones.

QN: You are a neurotrainer certified by The Korea Research Institute of Jungshin Science-that sounds real awesome and interesting. What are the precise skill-sets you possess in relation to this certification? What exactly can you do?

ANS: At our brainwave centre, you can see that the analysis of brain assessment and training mode of clients are done by the professional team in Korea. Thus, my role is to help clients have a better understanding of the report, which is the brain status of the client. For training sessions, I ensure that clients are able to carry them out correctly. I will brief them about the posture, breathing and ensure that the headband is worn properly.

Prior to conducting the brainwave assessment, I ensure clients do not take medications or caffeinated drinks or food that might otherwise cloud the clarity and identity of the brainwaves examined. In short, I am like the nurse assisting the patients. In our centre, our clients are able to do the training on their own once they are familiar with their training mode. The beauty of our device is that it can be easily hooked up to the computer, making home-based training possible.

As I have mentioned, brainwave training using this device is fully automated. I conduct a hands-on approach training involving both the device's software and hardware for users interested in switching over to home-based training eventually, at the same time providing technical support as and when required. Knowledge about the brain, brainwaves, neurons, research studies, brain plasticity, to name some, are imparted during the course. I can assist clients in making sure that the procedures are followed and proper follow-ups are done. We monitor clients’ improvements and review their progress with the professional team on a monthly basis.

QN: We are asking this out of plain curiosity. Would the attributes of a formal school educator such as yourself in any manner contribute implicitly to the technical aspects of Kid Monde's brainwave training business?

ANS: I feel that my years of training as an educator have not been in vain. The ability to connect with children and parents and understand their needs is something really precious. I know the demands of the curriculum and the stress they go through. I can provide some sound advice based on my background as an educator. Coupled with the report based on children’s brainwaves, we strive to provide optimal recommendations to parents. For instance, if the report shows that the child possess weaker thinking skills and suffers from a high level of stress, we can proceed to customize a training program just for the child targeting these areas requiring improvement. Parents can play a part in helping them out too. I normally advise parents to avoid asking lots of questions since it is unlikely that their children can answer all of them. It places undue stress on them.

QN: NLP has been in vogue for the longest while-do you see brainwave training challenging its crown in the world of programmed learning, or complementing it?

ANS: I do not see any conflict arising from this. In fact, they complement each other. Brainwave training is the direct training of the brain function and helps strengthen the neural network. Brainwave training deals with the hardware while NLP helps the software for the mind.

QN: We understand you also offer something called the Brain Quotient Test. Could you explain in layman's terms what this test is all about?

ANS: Unlike the traditional (indirect analysis method) tests that rely on surveys, questionnaires and interviews (I.Q. tests, aptitude tests, and personality tests), the Brain quotient analysis of brain function measures and analyzes the degree of brain development, the condition of brain activity, the balance of brain, the level of attention and concentration, the level of brain relaxation, and the learning ability. Thus, unlike subjective interviews, the Brain Quotient Test (BQT) results are objective and scientific.

BQT can precisely measure one’s brainwave activity whilst testing for the three most important functions of the brains; relaxation, attention, and concentration. These abilities are essential to a fully, properly functioning brain.

Brain activities changes as the input to the brain changes; thus, the ability to analyze the way in which a brain responds to these changes is important in the evaluation of overall brain function. Therefore, BQT analyzes brain waves both with eyes closed and with eyes opened. This process allows for the evaluation of not only the brain’s adaptation to changes in visual input but also the state of health of the brain.

BQT informs us about activity capability, such as learning ability and work performance. Brain quotients, composed of several sub-components, indicate brain function and activity. It provides practical information on learning ability, work performance etc through seven different analytical methods:

It first measures the self-regulating capability of the automatic neural system. The basic rhythm quotient indicates the degree of the brain’s development. The attention quotient shows the level of brain awakening. The activity quotient tells us how the brain is activated. The emotion quotient indicates emotional balance. An anti-stress quotient measures physical and mental stress states, and the correlation quotient captures the level of balance between the left and right hemispheres. All the quotients collectively represent a comprehensive brain quotient.

QN: How is the public response to Kid Monde's offerings so far? Any budding plans you can disclose with regards to longer term projections?

ANS: Initially, the public was quite sceptical about brainwave training. After looking at the report and experiencing the positive effects of our program, more became convinced. I plan to work with special needs schools to offer brainwave training for their students in the near future.

QN: Before signing off, a final word or two for our readers?

ANS: Brainwave training enhances brain performance the way exercise improves your physical health. Believe in it and it will open doors to new possibilities in your life.

You have been such a darling in clarifying our doubts and spreading greater awareness about the concept of brainwave training. We wish you all the best in your business, and may Kid Monde conquer more peaks in the years to come! :)