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Brain Waves

October 8, 2012

The brain is composed of billions of neurons which communicate continuously via electrical signalling. All of these neurons sending signals at the same time produces an enormous amount of electrical activity in the brain, which can be detected using sensitive medical equipment such as an EEG – electroencephalogram – measuring electricity levels over areas of the scalp.

The total combination of electrical activity in the brain is often called a brain wave pattern because of its cyclic, ‘wave-like’ nature. Brain waves change depending on a person’s state of consciousness. Ongoing research has revealed a clearer picture of the relationship between brain waves and a person’s health and state of mind.

On a relative scale, higher frequency brain waves have lower amplitudes and vice versa. Below is an outline of the four major brain wave patterns and their associated features (it should be noted that athough one brain wave state may predominate at any given time, the remaining three brain states will always be present to some degree).

Beta Waves operate at a frequency of 12hz – 38hz (cycles per second)
Beta wave activity represents arousal and this is the brain state most people occupy during the day and for most of their waking lives. Beta waves are characteristic of a mind engaged in mental activities such as conversation. A lack of sufficient Beta activity can be associated with mental or emotional disorders including depression, ADD and insomnia. Stimulating Beta activity can improve emotional stability, energy levels, attentiveness and concentration.

Alpha Waves operate at a frequency of 8hz – 12hz
Alpha wave activity represents non-arousal. In this state people are awake but relaxed and not processing much information. For example, on rising in the morning, just before sleep or when watching TV, you enter an Alpha wave state. Interestingly, when you close your eyes the brain automatically starts producing more Alpha. This is a highly receptive mental state that can be used  for great benefit via techniques such as hypnotherapy and meditation.

Theta Waves operate at a frequency of 3hz – 8hz
During Theta wave activity people are in light sleep or deep relaxation. Theta waves can occur anytime that tasks become automatic, allowing mental disengagement and daydreaming. A typical example might be long distance driving. This state is associated with a stream of thoughts and ideas which can be used to create new connections, understanding and “aha moments”. Again, deep relaxation techniques such as hypnotherapy and meditation can access a Theta state.

Delta Waves operate at a frequency of 0.2hz – 3hz
During Delta wave activity people are in deep, dreamless sleep. Stimulating Delta allows the body to heal itself and “reset” its internal clocks. You do not dream in this state and are completely unconscious.

So if you read before attempting sleep you will probably be in low Beta. When you turn off the lights and close your eyes your brainwaves will descend from Beta, to Alpha, to Theta and finally into deep sleep at Delta. The reverse process occurs as you wake up from a night’s sleep. Dreaming occurs during 90 minute cycles when the Delta brainwave frequencies increase into the frequency of Theta brainwaves. Typically, when this occurs there is rapid eye movement (REM), which is characteristic of active dreaming.

These same four brainwave states are common to people of all ages and are consistent around the world. We all experience the same characteristic brainwaves. Knowledge of these brainwave states can enhance a person’s ability to make use of the specialized characteristics of each state.

There will be more to say on this subject in future posts.

Spencer Joseph

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