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Robert Austin

Remembering Tom Budzynski

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When Tom passed away recently, I lost an old friend and mentor.

Tom was a true pioneer in the fields of biofeedback and light and sound, as well as an inventor. Trained originally as an electrical engineer, he worked on such projects as the SR-71 spy plane, before returning to college for his PhD in psychology. His dissertation was about the use of electromyographic (EMG) biofeedback to control frontalis (forehead) muscles?useful for reducing tension and headaches. He opened the world?s first biofeedback clinic in Boulder, Colorado in the early 1970s, and continued working as a highly sought after neurofeedback clinician in Poulsbo, Washington, until the day he died, age 77.

Tom developed several innovative pieces of technology over the decades, such as the Twilight Learning Device, which used neurofeedback-controlled tape recorders to play language lessons and other educational material only while a specific brainwave pattern was present.

We first met at a mutual friend?s home in 1989. I had released our first light and sound system the previous year, the MindsEye, which was also the first user-programmable system on the market and at that time Tom was conducting some EEG research with ?Hemifield? stimulation ? that is, using a single light in the far left and far right visual fields, active while the user was looking straight ahead. With this arrangement, it?s possible for the left light to stimulate only the right visual cortex and vice versa, with the goal of preferentially altering one hemisphere?s activity. He found that this could only work for a few seconds before the two hemispheres ?snapped back? into a common rhythm, however. His wife and longtime collaborator, Helen, was kind enough to send me that Hemifield stimulation prototype, which was designed and built by Todd Stone, who subsequently became our main engineer for many years.

Tom frequently used light and sound with his psychotherapy patients, typically as a means for accessing old or repressed memories; we commissioned from him the ?clinical guide to light and sound? which discussed this application in detail, which you can find in our Documents section.

During the years 1996-98, we established a separate research facility and company called SynchroMed, and Tom became our research director. We worked very closely together during that period, exploring a variety of processes, such as differential effects of colored light, binaural beats vs. dual binaural beats, etc. culminating in a two-University study of the effects of GSR and light and sound stimulation on University students who were not doing well in school; the experimental group saw an increase in their grade point average while the control group did not. This study was published in the Journal of Neurotherapy in 1999.

Since moving to Orcas Island five years ago, I haven?t seen Tom and Helen nearly as often as I would have liked ? visiting Poulsbo is no longer a day trip, as it had been from Seattle. I had just sent him a prototype of a new operating system for the Procyon, which sadly arrived the day after he passed away.

So long, old friend?you are already missed by many!

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Updated 05-04-2011 at 01:51 PM by Andy

Human Interest


  1. Marisa's Avatar
    I didn't get the opportunity to ever meet Tom but through Robert, I became familiar with his work and fantastic contributions to the AVS community. I am forever grateful for all the time and effort he spent in furthering the field of AVS. Yes, he is already missed.

    Thank you Robert for sharing some of Tom's history with the community. Perhaps with permission from Helen, we can publish more of his research on the forum or provide a link or list of where his books may be purchased.
  2. Anji's Avatar
    Thomas H. BUDZYNSKI, Phd Dr. Thomas Hice Budzynski passed away quickly from a heart attack on Monday, February 14 early in the morning the way that he wished his end-of-life to be. He was 77. This concluded an illustrious career, depicted by diverse and innovative projects. He started as an electrical engineer developing the inertial navigation component of the Blackbird SR-71 and saw the first Blackbird successfully completed and flying before switching fields to clinical physiologic psychology. Tom developed the first analog-to-digital electromyography instrument in 1968 later partnering, Biofeedback Systems. Tom, a pioneer in the fields of Bio- and Neuro-feedback has taught at numerous universities. Best known for his research and writing in management of stress problems, he explored and developed training for acquisition of 'twilight learning' and, investigated photic stimulation for clinical use and helped pioneer EEG training for cognitive restoration from brain damage. For the past 9 years Tom has been in private practice in Poulsbo, and was a Clinical Professor connected with the University of Washington. His most recent studies have been in anti-aging research. Tom's friends and colleagues stretch across the world, it would be unrealistic to try to gather in one place so we are taking communications from his facebook and by email or mail. There will be a very private family gathering for a memorial service near the water as he wanted. He is survived by his wife, Helen, son Peter and daughter-in-law Helen, and his three grandchildren, Kayla, Sarah and Tristan. Two brothers and their spouses, Doug and Sue, and Jim and Lill, and numerous nieces and nephews live in Michigan.
    Published in The Seattle Times on February 27, 2011
  3. Anji's Avatar
    He wrote "The Clinical Guide to LIght/Sound"
    Updated 05-16-2011 at 12:35 PM by Anji