BRAIN. This simple five-letter word yet astonishing organ reigns our bodies. This is not an article about the brain but about certain impulses that play a major role in the functioning of the brain, brainwaves. Let’s talk about the brain again. I wonder why this organ is so complex to understand. It is no surprise that even poets have penned down their perceptions of the brain. Lost in the thought of how this inexplicable organ is capable of dominating our bodies, Emily Dickinson, an American poet wrote:
The Brain—is wider than the Sky—
For—put them side by side—
The one the other will contain
With ease—and You—beside—
What an irony it is that the poet used her brain to write a poem about the brain. Also, you are currently using it to process and understand this article. The question is where do our thoughts, memories, behaviors, and emotions arise from?
Brainwaves are the reason behind those activities occurring in the brain. If you are unaware of this word, then I highly recommend you read this article till the end. Why? Because brainwaves are connected with your mental health, which is as important as physical health.
What Are Brainwaves?
I am certain you have learned about the human brain in your school days. There’s a huge chance that most of you have heard this phrase, “the brain is the control unit of a human’s body”. It’s true, but are you able to recall how exactly it got that name? Here’s the drill.
The human brain consists of billions of neurons that connect through small electrical currents. As a result of the interaction, all these neurons get activated and that’s when the brainwaves arrive.
Brainwaves are sudden electrical forces that occur in the brain produced by interconnected neurons. In the mid-1920s, a German neurologist Hans Berger found the brainwaves. Brainwave patterns are responsible for the functioning of the brain. In a nutshell, all the emotions, thoughts, consciousness, and behaviors that you exhibit are the wonders of brainwaves.
Functions of Brainwaves
Like I mentioned before, our thoughts, consciousness, emotions, and behaviors are the deeds of brainwaves. Some of these activities are even visible outside. Brainwaves are a part of our daily life experience. Their patterns are the cause of everything that we feel within.
The fun fact is that you can detect and visualize your brainwaves on a screen. Isn’t it fascinating? A device named Electroencephalogram (EEG) system or simply an electric brain graph is used to observe your brainwaves. Electrodes or sensors are placed at different areas on the scalp to measure the changes of electrical forces in the brain.
Frequencies of Brainwaves
Think of the word “frequent”. What does it mean? Something that is done or happens many times. Similarly, frequency is the number of repetitive waves that pass a fixed place per unit of time.
Brainwaves also have different frequencies and amplitudes. They are measured in hertz (Hz) or cycles per second. The electrodes are attached to specific sites on the scalp to analyze the different frequencies.
These electric impulses resemble musical notes and even the frequencies of your radio with higher and lower frequencies. Whatever you think or perceive is due to the brainwave frequencies. Remember that our brainwaves change with the change in the state of our being.
The deep-toned drumbeat is the perfect example of a slow activity that shows a lower frequency and a much larger amplitude.
Think of the sound of a highly pitched flute. It has a high frequency and low amplitude which is the exact definition of fast activity.
Types of Brainwaves
The various frequencies of brainwaves have their name. Based on the fast activity and slow activity, there are five types of brainwave frequencies.
Delta brainwaves are the slowest amidst all the brainwaves. This loud frequency with the highest amplitude ranges from 0.5-4 Hz.
Theta brainwaves range from 3-8 Hz. The frontal parts of the brain is the major source of these waves.
Alpha brainwaves frequencies range from 8-13 Hz. These slower but larger frequencies are usually discovered in the brain of a monk. So, they are also known to be the “power of now” which means being in the present.
Beta brainwaves are comparatively faster than alpha brainwaves. These little brainwave frequencies range from 13-38 Hz. These waves are classified into three bands:
Lo-Beta (Beta 1)
Fast idle or musing at the frequency of 12-15 Hz.
Beta (Beta 2)
Actively focusing to figure something out at the frequency of 15-22 Hz.
Hi-Beta (Beta 3)
Integrating new experiences with great excitement or anxiety experienced at the frequency of 22-38 Hz.
Note: There are brainwave frequencies lower than 0.5 Hz known by the name Infra-Low brainwaves or Slow Cortical Potentials. These slow brainwaves are difficult to detect but are believed to take part in brain timing and network function. Since few researches have been done on these waves, they are not considered as one of the types of brainwave frequencies.
Gamma brainwaves are the fastest of all due to which they are difficult to notice. These speedy frequencies range from 38-42 Hz.
Purpose of Each Brainwave
Each brainwave has different purposes. These brainwaves occur simultaneously depending on the activities you are doing.
- Delta brainwaves are the waves of healing. These waves occur while you are sleeping without having any dreams or meditating intensely. A dreamless sleep restores, regenerates, and rejuvenates the process of healing. When people say a deep 8 hours of sleep is very essential, it is not only for your body but for your mind as well.
- Theta brainwaves are the waves of twilight. These waves occur while you are dreaming or you are in deep meditation. The vivid imagery, intuition, and information that you perceive are far from reality. Nonetheless, the insights from the visible world are also combined with your inner senses (your fears, past, and nightmares) when you are in theta waves. As a result, this might enhance your learning and memory.
- Alpha waves are the waves of resting. These waves occur when you are quietly thinking or in some meditative states like doing yoga and being artistic. Considering these waves are your brain’s resting state, you get calmer and your mind unites with your body.
- Beta brainwaves are waves of attention. These waves occur when your full focus is on certain tasks. You become alert while solving problems, learning new concepts, and making decisions or judgments. These waves improve your active thinking power in the outside world.
- Gamma brainwaves are the waves of speed. These waves occur when you are at a peak of consciousness. In gamma, information flows rapidly and quietly from various parts of the brain. These waves strengthen the bond between your conscious and subconscious mind and heighten perception.
Why Should You Know About Brainwaves?
You might be wondering why you’re reading an article about brainwaves. What use are these in your life anyway? These are essential. Let me point out the fact that your everyday event has an intimate bond with the brainwaves. The imbalance in your brainwaves affects your mental and emotional health.
Why do you think people suffer from depression, anxiety, panic attacks, insomnia, and even schizophrenia? You might have noticed all these mentioned conditions are related to our neuro-physical health. Studies have shown that aberration in the brainwave patterns affects the functioning of the brain which further leads to these conditions.
To be precise, the excessive ups and down in any of the brainwave frequencies can be an obstacle for our stable emotional health. When the frequency of brainwaves is very low in some brain areas, it becomes the cause of depression, attention deficit as well as chronic pain. Higher states of arousal in specific areas of the brain causes aggression, anxiety, nightmares, insomnia, impulsive behavior, long-term nerve pain, and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
It has been discovered that abnormally high gamma waves trigger the symptoms of schizophrenia. Hallucinations and lack of sleep contribute to its symptoms. Over-arousal of alpha waves in the left frontal parts of the brain causes depression. Tics, bipolar disorder, epilepsy, vertigo, anorexia/bulimia, diabetes, migraines, and hypoglycemia are also the results of the irregularity in brainwave frequencies. This pretty much sums up the importance of knowing about brainwaves.
Brainwaves Accompany Your Sleep
If you think that your brain becomes passive when you sleep then you’re wrong. Of course, we sleep to rest our body but don’t assume that our brains will shut the lights off and rest as well. Rather, the brain goes through a set of stages during the night. In the year 1950, researchers used electroencephalography (EEG) to analyze the activities of human brain waves while sleeping and later found out the series of stages.
This means the different brainwave frequencies accompany you in different stages throughout your sleep.
You have the alpha brainwaves at your service when you’re awake. As you begin to relax and then fall asleep, theta brainwaves substitute the alpha waves. At this stage, your sleep is mild and you are somewhat aware of what’s happening around you. You can get awake easily when disturbed.
At this stage, the theta brainwaves entirely replace the alpha brainwave. The brainwaves slow down to deepen your sleep.
Stage 3 & Stage 4
The delta brainwaves gradually take over the theta waves and that’s when the brain activity becomes moderate. You’ll go to such a deep phase of sleep at both the stages that it’s likely for you to sleepwalk and have nightmares.
Stage 5 has comparable brainwave patterns to that in stages 1 and 2. However, this is the stage at which your sleep is so intense and deep that you can’t even hear some bothersome mosquitoes buzzing around your ears. You’ll be encountering the dream world at this phase.
Have you ever observed your pet dog while sleeping? I am fond of watching my dog sleep. I’ve heard my dog’s little ‘woof-woof’ and witnessed her eyes fluttering rapidly. Well, that happens to us as well. At stage 5, our muscles tend to get temporarily paralyzed and our eyes flicker rapidly. This stage is known as Rapid Eye Movement (REM) stage.
Transform Your Brainwaves
We can’t stop certain events and situations from happening in our lives. Thanks to the therapeutic techniques, we can still alter our brainwaves for the well-being of our neuro-physical health.
Practically, our brainwave changes with whatever process that can change our perception. There are certain medications to transform our brainwaves but the best way is to train our brainwaves. Although the changes at the beginning exist for a short period, with continuous training and practice, the changes last longer to make the brainwaves healthier.
The conventional way of balancing our brainwaves is yoga and meditation. Meditation helps us to control our thoughts that further gives the ability to control our brainwaves. Here are some of the freshest methods to transform our brainwaves.
Almost all of us are privileged with normal mental health, However, due to imbalance in the brain we still suffer from a whirlwind of emotions. Neurofeedback is a therapy to train brain functions and improve our mental state of being.
In this training, therapists observe your brain functions by attaching the sensors on your scalp. They identify the areas of concern that led to the symptoms you’re facing and create a training plan to alter it into your desired state. The training sessions are in the form of music, movie, and even video game.
The therapists compare your current brain activity with your desired state in each session. This helps them to know whether you are improving or not. If you are near your desired comfortable state, then the computer screen shows a positive response.
Some chronic cases require neuro field sessions to tune your brainwave patterns. Neurofield is similar to neurofeedback except that it uses four small coils instead of the sensors.
This therapy uses the neuro signaling technique to train the brain having stubborn brainwave patterns to be more flexible. The neuro field is suitable for Infra-Low waves that have a frequency of less than 0.5 Hz.
As the name suggests, brainwave entrainment is an easy method to encourage your brain into entering a state of relaxation, trance, sleep induction, focus, or meditation briefly.
Brainwave entertainment uses a pulsing light, sound, or electromagnetic field to stimulate your brain to follow the frequency of the performed beat. When your brainwave frequency aligns with the beat’s frequency, your brain reaches a state of relaxation. This cost-efficient method is suitable for anyone that has a hard time reaching that state of comfort.
Acknowledging More About Brainwaves
Can Brainwaves Be Transmitted?
Yes, brainwaves can be transmitted. While doing researches on mice, scientists observed that the brainwaves were being transmitted by a weak electrical field to interact without synaptic transmissions, gap junctions, or diffusions.
Which Frequency is Best For the Brain? Which Brainwave is Best For Studying?
Our brain is usually performing in Beta brainwave frequencies. However, Alpha brainwaves are the best frequencies for studying. These waves keep you relaxed and alert at the same time. Also, alpha brainwaves aid focus and enthusiasm in learning which are the perfect essentials for studying. You need to practice meditation to level up your brainwave frequencies from Beta to Alpha.
Are Gamma Brain Waves Dangerous?
Normal gamma waves aren’t dangerous. Rather, these waves are capable of powerful mental abilities like memory, perception, and perception. But, gamma waves can be dangerous if they are obstructed. Obstructed gamma waves cause various brain disorders such as schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s disease.
A Need-To-Know Language of the Brain
Brainwaves play a principal role in brain functioning. These electrical pulses are the root causes of the way you think, feel, and behave. The significance of mental health is gradually coming to light now. People have started understanding that mental health is as essential as physical health. They are opening about their mental health and learning to care for it. If you are one of them, then why not start from brainwaves? Know about the different brainwaves and their effects on your brain.
In this hectic life, all of us are suffering mentally one way or the other. We all wish to keep our minds at ease. Try out brainwave entrainment technique but don’t expect to get results instantly. As Noam Spencer, an author of the novel The Good Psychologist has quoted, “mental health… is not a destination but a process. It’s about how you drive, not where you’re going. The therapist is like a driving instructor, not a chauffeur.”