Visconti 2000 offers Brainy Cantabridgians Mind Over Matter

Cambridge residents have got it rough. The object of many a national joke, they've had to put up for decades with reputations for crunchy liberalness and weird New Age experimentation.

No more. When things get too tough, Cantabrigians can drop by their local Visconti 2000 Center for Peak Performance and Neuro-Sensory Development, say goodbye to the world, and find their Zone.

Sit back in a sleek black reclining chair, get fitted with futuristic goggles and headphones, and let yourself be carried to a more balanced state of consciousness. Electronic blips bounce between your ears, tiny strobe lights flash into your eyes and scientifically created static fills your head.

Before you know it, you're on your way to the Zone--a sense of inner well-being, and a finely-tuned, pumped-up brain.

And through it all, the center's founder, Maryellen Visconti, coaches your "MIND/BRAIN workout." Her equipment, a roomful of electronic light and sound machines using '21st century technology," are the tools for her MindMax System. According to Visconti, her system is the only one of its kind in the world.


Businessmen and Brains

Located on the third floor of the Porter Exchange in Porter Square, Visconti's center, furnished with space-age sofas and chairs, caters mostly to male businessmen in their twenties and thirties. Customers have also included some Harvard and MIT students, who are willing to shell out $35 for a half hour session in order to, as the center puts it, "get in the Flow."

Visconti, a public relations expert, says her electronic workout makes people better prepared for today's tense world. She charges $450 for a four-week series (or $950 for eight weeks) of sessions and seminars with her MindMax system, which aim at bringing customers into their Zones.

The paths to the Zones are many. The MC2 Program, for example, is a goggles-and-head-phones workout coded to match human brain waves. The program in its entirety is a 15-minute experience.

Another option is to stick your head in the "Lumatron," which will improve your peripheral vision and fine-tune your hand-eye coordination.

And that's not all. For just $20, you can bring Visconti 2000 home with you: a tape of static that matches the brain waves you need to do anything from playing tennis to memorizing vocabulary. For those trying to tone their brain waves down, there are mellowing tapes of the sounds of surf.

On any store visit, one can also get her or his mind mapped by a computer, or have a conference with Visconti herself, who teaches the secrets to coping with the modern world.

Doubting Toms

Of course, not everyone agrees that "getting in the Flow" is as easy as Visconti says. Her futuristic system of brain development and electronically accelerated learning have come under attack by doubting academics, the national media and even the federal government.

"So many of these things are so far-fetched," says Harvard's Assistant Professor of Psychology Todd F. Heatherton, who has never studied Visconti's system, but is aware of her process and technology. "There is no reason why flashing strobe lights at a person would help them learn. Just studying makes so much more sense," he says.

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