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What are Brainwaves?
At the root of all our thoughts, emotions and behaviours is the communication between neurons within our brains. Brainwaves are produced by synchronised electrical pulses from masses of neurons communicating with each other.
Brainwaves are detected using sensors placed on the scalp. They are divided into bandwidths to describe their functions (below), but are best thought of as a continuous spectrum of consciousness; from slow, loud and functional - to fast, subtle, and complex.
It is a handy analogy to think of brainwaves as musical notes - the low frequency waves are like a deeply penetrating drum beat, while the higher frequency brainwaves are more like a subtle high pitched flute. Like a symphony, the higher and lower frequencies link and cohere with each other through harmonics.
Our brainwaves change according to what we’re doing and feeling. When slower brainwaves are dominant we can feel tired, slow, sluggish, or dreamy. The higher frequencies are dominant when we feel wired, or hyper-alert.
The descriptions that follow are only broad descriptions - in practice things are far more complex, and brainwaves reflect different aspects when they occur in different locations in the brain.
Brainwave speed is measured in Hertz (cycles per second) and they are divided into bands delineating slow, moderate, and fast waves.
Infra-Low brainwaves (also known as Slow Cortical Potentials), are thought to be the basic cortical rythms that underlie our higher brain functions. Very little is known about infra-low brainwaves. Their slow nature make them difficult to detect and accurately measure, so few studies have been done. They appear to take a major role in brain timing and network function.
Delta waves (.5 to 3 Hz)
Delta brainwaves are slow, loud brainwaves (low frequency and deeply penetrating, like a drum beat). They are generated in deepest meditation and dreamless sleep. Delta waves suspend external awareness and are the source of empathy. Healing and regeneration are stimulated in this state, and that is why deep restorative sleep is so essential to the healing process.
Theta waves (3 to 8 Hz)
Theta brainwaves occur most often in sleep but are also dominant in deep meditation. Theta is our gateway to learning, memory, and intuition. In theta, our senses are withdrawn from the external world and focused on signals originating from within. It is that twilight state which we normally only experience fleetingly as we wake or drift off to sleep. In theta we are in a dream; vivid imagery, intuition and information beyond our normal conscious awareness. It’s where we hold our ‘stuff’, our fears, troubled history, and nightmares.
Alpha waves (8 to 12 Hz)
Alpha brainwaves are dominant during quietly flowing thoughts, and in some meditative states. Alpha is ‘the power of now’, being here, in the present. Alpha is the resting state for the brain. Alpha waves aid overall mental coordination, calmness, alertness, mind/body integration and learning.
Beta waves (12 to 38 Hz)
Beta brainwaves dominate our normal waking state of consciousness when attention is directed towards cognitive tasks and the outside world. Beta is a ‘fast’ activity, present when we are alert, attentive, engaged in problem solving, judgment, decision making, or focused mental activity.
Beta brainwaves are further divided into three bands; Lo-Beta (Beta1, 12-15Hz) can be thought of as a 'fast idle', or musing. Beta (Beta2, 15-22Hz) is high engagement or actively figuring something out. Hi-Beta (Beta3, 22-38Hz) is highly complex thought, integrating new experiences, high anxiety, or excitement. Continual high frequency processing is not a very efficient way to run the brain, as it takes a tremendous amount of energy.
Gamma waves (38 to 42 Hz)
Gamma brainwaves are the fastest of brain waves (high frequency, like a flute), and relate to simultaneous processing of information from different brain areas. Gamma brainwaves pass information rapidly and quietly. The most subtle of the brainwave frequencies, the mind has to be quiet to access gamma.
Gamma was dismissed as 'spare brain noise' until researchers discovered it was highly active when in states of universal love, altruism, and the ‘higher virtues’. Gamma is also above the frequency of neuronal firing, so how it is generated remains a mystery. It is speculated that gamma rhythms modulate perception and consciousness, and that a greater presence of gamma relates to expanded consciousness and spiritual emergence.
What brainwaves mean to you
Our brainwave profile and our daily experience of the world are inseparable. When our brainwaves are out of balance, there will be corresponding problems in our emotional or neuro-physical health. Research has identified brainwave patterns associated with all sorts of emotional and neurological conditions. more...
Over-arousal in certain brain areas is linked with anxiety disorders, sleep problems, nightmares, hyper-vigilance, impulsive behaviour, anger/aggression, agitated depression, chronic nerve pain and spasticity. Under-arousal in certain brain areas leads to some types of depression, attention deficit, chronic pain and insomnia. A combination of under-arousal and over-arousal is seen in cases of anxiety, depression and ADHD. more...
Instabilities in brain rhythms correlate with tics, obsessive-compulsive disorder, aggressive behaviour, rage, bruxism, panic attacks, bipolar disorder, migraines, narcolepsy, epilepsy, sleep apnea, vertigo, tinnitus, anorexia/bulimia, PMT, diabetes, hypoglycaemia and explosive behaviour. more...
Altering your brainwaves
By rule of thumb, any process that changes your perception changes your brainwaves.
Chemical interventions such as medications or recreational drugs are the most common methods to alter brain function; however brainwave training is our method of choice.
Over the long term, traditional eastern methods (such as meditation and yoga) train your brainwaves into balance. Of the newer methods, brainwave entrainment is an easy, low-cost method to temporarily alter your brainwave state. If you are trying to solve a particular difficulty or fine-tune your brainwave function, state-of-the-art brain training methods like neurofeedback and pEMF deliver targeted, quick, and lasting results.
Different Types Of Brain Waves And Their Benefits
Different Types Of Brain Waves
Beta waves improves concentration
Alpha alleviates stress
Theta and delta releases beneficial hormones
Gamma produces high level of intelligence
Beta waves are responsible for the fight-flight response. Alpha waves help reduce anxiety, chronic pain and increase athletic performance. Theta waves help improve physical healing and reduce mental fatigue. Delta waves help increase Human Growth Hormone that maintains skin and bone density. Gamma waves help build high intelligence levels and compassion.
Our brain is made up of billions of brain cells called neurons. The combination of neurons sending signals at once, produces an enormous amount of electrical activity in the brain. These synchronized electrical pulses from masses of neurons communicating with each other produces ‘Brainwaves’. Brainwave speed is measured in Hertz (cycles per second) and they are divided into bands describing slow, moderate and fast waves.
Brainwaves are generally broken down into five main frequencies: Beta waves, Alpha waves, Theta waves, Delta waves and Gamma waves. Not only do brainwaves vary in frequency (waves occurring within a period of time), they also vary in amplitude (the depth and height of each wave).
1. Alpha WavesWith a frequency range from 8hz – 12hz, Alpha is emitted when we are in a state of physical and mental relaxation (awake, but not processing much information). Studies show that Alpha states significantly increase beta-endorphin, noroepinephrine and dopamine.
These naturally occurring chemicals are linked to feelings of expanded mental clarity and generate an internal environment for new learning and accessing previously learned information.1
Benefits Of Alpha Waves
Alleviates stress and depression
Reduces chronic pain
Reduction of high blood pressure
Increases athletic performance
Increased cerebral blood flow
Increased motivation, energy and happiness
2. The Beta Waves
This is the brainwave for the fight-flight response. With a frequency range from 12hz – 27hz, beta waves are emitted when we are consciously alert or we feel agitated, tense and afraid. Many people lack sufficient beta activity, which can cause mental or emotional disorders such as depression and insomnia.2
Benefits Of Beta Waves
This is the brainwave responsible for the fight-flight response.
Improves concentration and alertness.
Improved logic, reasoning and critical thinking.
3. Theta Brain Waves
Present in a frequency range from 3hz – 8hz, these waves offer a state of somnolence with reduced consciousness, light sleep or extreme relaxation. Theta is also a very receptive mental state that has proven useful for hypnotherapy as well as self-hypnosis using recorded affirmations and suggestions.3
Benefits Of Theta Brainwaves
Improved physical healing
Sleep onset and more restful sleep
Release beneficial hormones related to health and longevity
Reduce mental fatigue
Reduction of anxiety and stress
4. Delta Brain Waves
Delta Brain waves are present with a frequency range from 0.2hz – 3hz . Delta waves are emitted during deep and during dreamless sleep when there is unconsciousness. Delta is the slowest band of brainwaves. You do not dream in this state and are completely unconscious.4
Benefits Of Delta Brainwaves
The delta state releases anti-aging hormones, including melatonin and DHEA.
Human growth hormone (HGH) is another anti-aging hormone that is increased when delta brainwaves are occurring inside the brain, due to the stimulation of the pituitary gland. HGH maintains the skin, bone density, cartilage, joints and can also help heal physical pain.
5. Gamma Brain Waves
With a frequency range from 27 Hz and up, gamma is associated with the formation of ideas, language, memory processing and various types of learning. Gamma waves have been shown to disappear during deep sleep induced by anesthesia, but return with the transition back to a wakeful state.5
Benefits of Gamma Brainwaves
Having high levels of intelligence
Having high amounts of self-control
Having greater than average feelings of natural happiness
Increased awareness through your five senses
What Happens When Brain Waves Are Out Of Balance?
When our brainwaves are out of balance, there will be corresponding problems in our emotional or neuro-physical health. Research has identified brainwave patterns associated with all sorts of emotional and neurological conditions. Over-arousal in certain brain areas is linked with anxiety disorders, sleep problems, nightmares, agitated depression, chronic nerve pain and spasticity.
Under-arousal in certain brain areas leads to some types of depression, attention deficit, chronic pain and insomnia. While instabilities in brain rhythms correlate with obsessive-compulsive disorder, aggressive behavior, rage, panic attacks, bipolar disorder, anorexia/bulimia, diabetes, hypoglycemia and explosive behavior.6
Understanding The Benefits Of Altering Your Brainwaves
Research has shown that although one brainwave state may predominate at any given time, depending on the activity level of the individual, the remaining four brain states are present in the mix of brainwaves at all times.
Knowledge of brainwave states enhances a person’s ability to make use of the specialized characteristics of those states: these include being mentally productive across a wide range of activities, such as being intensely focused, relaxed, creative and in restful sleep.
You can thus train your brain to change brainwaves by learning meditation and relaxation techniques.7