The brain is a dense interconnected bridge of neuronal networks, constantly firing signals at each other to bring about physical and mental activities. These signals sometime gets transmitted by a cluster of nerve cells in unison, producing a unique, synchronised pattern of electrical impulse. The repeated cycle or rhythm of this synchronised firing produces what is known as brainwaves or the medical community call it, neuronal oscillations.
Brainwaves are strong enough to be detected using electrodes on the scalp, a technique known as Electroencephalogram (EEG). This helps us to further understand the variety of brainwaves present and how it affect brain function. Strides has been made in understanding the different types of brainwaves but there are still so much science behind it that we have yet to understand and a lot of exceptions when trying to generalise the profile of the brainwaves.
The type of brainwaves
Brainwaves, like most other waves in physics, are distinguished from one another based on their amplitude and frequency. The frequency of the cycle of a brainwave per second is counted using the unit hertz (Hz) while the amplitude refers to how high the wave gets per oscillation. Generally, the higher the frequency of the wave, the more awake a person is and that the higher frequency of that wave meant the amplitude is lower. While a specific brainwave may be tailored to a specific activity, that isn’t to say that all other brainwaves disappeared at that time but instead, they are reduced into the background while the other waves dominate.
Below are the list of the known brainwaves (in ascending order of wave speed) and the generally associated effect it has on our brain.
Delta Waves (0.5 To 3 HZ)
Delta waves have a low frequency but a high amplitude and it is usually associated with deep dreamless sleep or the deepest stage of meditation. Delta waves are thought to suspend external awareness. 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)
Slightly faster than delta waves, theta wave is associated with daydreaming and deep meditation. People tend to generate a lot of ideas during this stage and it can occur when you are doing something routine or relaxed such as showering or driving down the highway.
Alpha Waves (8 To 12 HZ)
Slightly faster than theta is alpha. Alpha waves are associated with a relaxed but awake state for example when someone just finished a task and taking a second to walk around and reflect. Alpha is usually strongest at the occipital lobe, the back of the brain.
Beta Waves (12 To 38 HZ)
Beta brainwaves are waves of higher frequency and lower amplitude and they dominate our normal waking state of consciousness when attention is directed towards cognitive tasks and the outside world. Beta waves are characteristics of a strongly engaged mind. A person in active conversation would be in beta. A debater would be in high beta. A person making a speech, or a teacher, or a talk show host would all be in beta when they are engaged in their work.
Gamma Waves (38 To 42 HZ)
Gamma brainwaves are the fastest of brain waves and relate to simultaneous processing of information from different brain areas. Gamma brainwaves pass information rapidly and quietly. The most subtle of the brainwave 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. Also, it is shown during short-term memory matching of recognized objects, sounds, or tactile sensations.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Review Date: March 11, 2019 | Last Modified: November 15, 2019