At the root of all our thoughts, emotions and behaviors are the communication between neurons within our brains.
Brain waves are produced by synchronized electrical pulses from masses of neurons communicating with each other.
Brain waves 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 waves 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 brain waves 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.
Brain wave speed is measured in Hertz (cycles per second) and they are divided into bands delineating slow, moderate, and fast waves.
Infra-Low brain waves (also known as Slow Cortical Potentials) are thought to be the basic cortical rhythms that underlie our higher brain functions.
Very little is known about infra-low brain waves. Their slow nature makes 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 brain waves 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 brain waves 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In theta, our senses are withdrawn from the external world and focused on signals originating from within.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 waves 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 waves 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 a 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 waves are the fastest of brain waves (high frequency, like a flute), and relate to simultaneous processing of information from different brain areas.
Gamma waves pass information rapidly and quietly. The most subtle of the brain wave 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 Brain Waves Mean to You
Our brain wave profile and our daily experience of the world are inseparable. When our brain waves 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, hyper-vigilance, impulsive behavior, 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.
Instabilities in brain rhythms correlate with tics, obsessive-compulsive disorder, aggressive behavior, rage, bruxism, panic attacks, bipolar disorder, migraines, narcolepsy, epilepsy, sleep apnea, vertigo, tinnitus, anorexia/bulimia, PMT, diabetes, hypoglycemia, and explosive behavior.
Altering Yor Brain Waves
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.
*This article was originally published at brainworksneurotherapy.com.