Catch a (Brain) Wave

(Editor’s note: This article is from a past issue of Brain World magazine. If you enjoy this article, please support us with a print or digital subscription!)


What is a Brain Wave?

Our brain is composed of neurons, which deliver information to other neurons. In the process, they generate electrical changes, which gather and generate brain waves. Their frequency is a reflection of our brain activities, which can be measured by an electroencephalogram (EEG). Generally, there are four types of brain waves:

Beta waves (15–30 Hz)

This is the brain rhythm in the normal wakeful state associated with thinking, conscious problem solving and active attention directed towards the outer world. You are most likely in the “beta state” while you are reading this.

Alpha waves (9–14 Hz)

When you are truly relaxed, your brain activity slows from the rapid patterns of beta into the more gentle waves of alpha. Fresh creative energy begins to flow, fears vanish and you experience a liberating sense of peace and well-being. The “alpha state” occurs in meditation when you begin to access the wealth of creativity that lies just below our conscious awareness. It is the gateway that leads into deeper states of consciousness.

Theta waves (4–8 Hz)

Found in even deeper relaxation, sleep and meditation, the “theta state” is where brain activity slows almost to the point of sleep. Theta brings forth heightened receptivity, flashes of dreamlike imagery, inspiration, and, sometimes, your long-forgotten memories.

Delta waves (1–3 Hz)

This slowest of brainwave activity is found during deep, dreamless sleep.

Can We Regulate Brain Waves?

Yes, we can. The frequency of your brain waves changes when you change your consciousness and patterns. You can even regulate your brain waves through training. Simple movement, for example shaking your head from side to the side, can alter the state of you brain waves right away. Brain waves can also be self-regulated through neurofeedback, using equipment connected to an individual with sensors that are placed on the scalp and ears. Once connected, the individual’s brainwave activity can be observed on a computer monitor. Individuals are then taught to play computerized games using their brainwave activity. Changes in the individual’s brainwave activity are then fed back to the individual through visual and/or auditory information by the computer. Gradually, subjects can learn how to regulate their brain waves.

Scientists have long recognized that certain illnesses, such as epilepsy, produce distinctive brainwave patterns. Neurofeedback is thought to reset these patterns, so that the brain performs at optimal levels.

These days, there is a lot of research being done on interfaces between the brain and computer systems. Researchers are developing systems that allow you to play games, piano or to type a keyboard with your brain waves. You can even buy games powered by your brainwaves at your local toy store.

(Editor’s note: This article is from a past issue of Brain World magazine. If you enjoy this article, please support us with a print or digital subscription!)



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