You’ve most likely experienced that magical feeling of being hit with a “brainwave”.
It’s basically that moment of newfound clarity, a shift in your perspective or a novel idea.
Typically it appears out of nowhere, perhaps in between sips of coffee or while you’re giving Fido a good belly rub.
Although a brainwave is a figure of speech used to describe your thoughts, clinicians and scientists use literal brain waves measured on the top of your head to help them understand the functioning of the human brain.
So ultimately, there is a science behind brain waves and it is also the key to understanding what leads to these light bulb moments.
So ultimately, brain waves are patterns of electrical activity that occur in the brain.
They are vital to all aspects of brain functioning such as your thoughts, behaviors and emotions.
However, it can be influenced and altered through neurofeedback. So desirable brain activity can be increased in those who are experiencing symptoms of debilitating mental health conditions.
Let’s take a closer look at the different types of brain waves and exactly how they work.
What are the 5 brain waves?
Brain waves are a measurement of activity that’s going on inside your brain as opposed to a physical thing.
The brain is actually an electrochemical organ and this means that if you hook up enough wires to scalp you may be able to power up a light bulb.
This communication which is purely electrical takes place through neurons which are specialized brain cells responsible for transmitting information through the body in both electrical and chemical forms.
The electrical activity that emanates from these neurons communicating is measured in the form of brainwaves.
Brain waves are grouped into five distinct categories, each of which is associated with a specific task and mental state.
The highest frequency of brain waves is known as gamma waves. It’s often associated with insight, expanded consciousness and peak focus.
These waves are generated when the brain is learning new information, storing memories or sharply concentrating.
It’s a hyper-focused and tranquil state characteristic of master musicians and Zen meditators.
Beta waves are what most of us experience most of the time in our always-on society and is a step down from gamma waves.
The advantage is that beta waves allow you to concentrate hard on any task at hand and is critical when you read, write and socialize.
However, the disadvantage of beta waves is that it can separate and reduce your emotional awareness and creativity.
At the end of the day, if you’re lucky, you should shift into a relaxed state of mind and this is where the alpha wave pattern kicks in.
When completing tasks such as winding down with a book to read and daydreaming, it’s highly likely that the alpha state is at play.
If your brain has trouble shifting from beta to Alpha, a stress-induced phenomenon called “alpha blocking” takes place and you could suffer from insomnia, anxiety or obsessive-compulsive symptoms.
Theta and delta
When you are asleep, you experience theta waves and delta waves. These waves promote dreamless, deep and restorative slumber.
Theta waves are also linked with the elusive, hypnotic flow state associated with peak performance.
It’s also associated with the autopilot mode that we tend to shift into when doing something we’ve done about a million times before, such as driving home from work on a familiar route.
People may experience bursts of creativity or flashes of insight when they are in this state because their behavior is often so automatic that they can mentally disengage and just exist.
How many types of brain waves are there?
There are five different types of brain waves ranging from low to high frequency:
- Delta brain waves happen to be the slowest and are generated when in deep meditation and dreamless sleep. It contains healing and regeneration abilities when the individual is in this state.
- Theta waves also occur when you are asleep and during relaxation. These brain waves are indicative of dreams, inner focus as well as vivid imagery
- Alpha waves of occur in your thoughtful and quiet times. They indicate that the brain is in a state of resting.
- Beta waves are probably the most common pattern in the normal waking state. It’s often present when a person is alert, focused or in a problem-solving state of mind
- Gamma waves are the fastest and are associated with higher levels of consciousness.
So to sum it up, these are the 5 brain waves:
- Delta Brain Waves (0.5Hz – 4Hz)
- Theta brain waves (4Hz – 7Hz)
- Alpha brain waves (7Hz – 13Hz)
- Beta brain waves (13Hz – 39Hz)
- Gamma brain waves (40Hz+)
Which brain waves are best for concentration?
Perhaps one of the most scientifically studied and proven benefits of brainwave entrainment is its ability to improve focus and concentration.
Some brain waves also have the ability to improve academic performance, improve cognition and increase IQ.
So the question is which brainwave is best to study?
Well, there is no clear cut, black or white answer to this question.
However, we’ll explore the different possibilities of how this technology can be used to improve your focus concentration and IQ levels.
There are multiple brain waves that prove to be helpful in improving academic performance and there are also multiple ways to use brainwave entrainment to achieve the desired results.
Lots of people are in agreement that alpha waves are the most conducive to learning.
The state of mind occurs when brain activity slows just below the normal waking state of beta.
However, in the alpha state, the body and mind are relaxed but a level of focus is still easily maintained.
While people are in this alpha state, information is processed consciously without much mental activity to interfere with it.
There’s also a greater link between the subconscious and conscious mind in Alpha.
So what this means is that while an individual is consciously learning, their brain is also unconsciously processing what is being learnt.
Modern neuroscience has also revealed that only one of six of our brain’s processing methods happens on the conscious level.
So there is definitely a benefit to engaging the deeper parts of the brain while taking on the information.
Another thing that is caused in the alpha state is assimilation.
This is the ideal brainwave range to be in after studying or at the end of the day when you are learning something new as it helps the brain better assimilate, remember and organize whatever has been learned.
Can brain waves be manipulated?
Believe it or not, there is a simple way to change your brain waves to feel less stressed and more centered and it’s called meditation.
This is also one of the reasons why you probably heard yoga instructors talk about brain waves while you are deep in Savasana.
Meditation on a daily basis has been found to decrease beta in waking states and also increase Alpha activity.
However, it is the short or beginner meditations that are associated with alpha waves.
Meditation also enhances the gamma state which makes sense because gamma is believed to increase awareness and may cause us to be more in tune with ourselves as well as our surroundings.
So ideally if you want to cultivate a certain type of brainwave while engaging in a specific task like tapping into alpha waves, if you can’t sleep or getting into that theta vibe flow while running, you should listen to binaural beats.
Binaural beats are looping sounds that promote specific brainwave states.
We find them on sites such as Spotify and YouTube and you can search for the specific brain wave that you are after by typing something like “alpha binaural beats”.
There are various other sites that can be used that features actual music which enhances relaxation, meditation and focus.
If you’re looking for more targeted and data-driven training, you can work with a Neurofeedback coach.
They use measurement tools such as EEG to tell you exactly which states you’re currently in and work with you to change that.
So to put it simply, anyone can change their body and brain to access these mental states. It just takes a bit of discipline, dedication and practice.
Can you control alpha brain waves?
Alpha waves are linked with relaxed mental states and this is why lots of experts believe that increasing alpha waves can help reduce anxiety and stress.
It may also help you stay relaxed for longer. Alpha waves are also believed to boost creativity.
So considering the many benefits of alpha waves or being in the alpha state, you’re probably wondering how you can induce this state of mind and reap the benefits:
Learn to meditate
Meditating on a daily basis has been proven to increase alpha waves. Alpha waves are the relaxation brain waves.
Meditation also reduces beta waves which is thought to keep your brain active and learning.
So ultimately alpha waves are recommended for reducing stress.
So closed-eye visualization and deep breathing techniques brings on mindfulness meditation and also boost alpha waves.
Close your eyes
Every time you close your eyes, especially while doing visualization, your brain produces high levels of alpha waves.
Deep breathing exercises are believed to boost your alpha waves.
So try sitting comfortably, breathing in through your nose and then slowly releasing your breath through your mouth as you count down from five.
If you have ever closed your eyes and switched off while soaking in the bathtub, then you already know what it’s like to generate alpha waves.
Try doing some yoga or any other activity that relaxes you such as painting, drawing, listening to music or even having a massage.
There’s always electrical activity going on in your brain whether you are aware of it or not.
One type of your brain’s electrical waves will always dominate depending on the time of day and the tasks you are doing.
When alpha waves are dominating, you are most likely in a wakeful and relaxed state.
Relaxation techniques such as meditation and mindfulness will help increase your alpha waves.
This ultimately makes you feel calmer, less anxious and may even boost your creativity levels.