The Different Brainwaves
Our brain is made up of billions of brain cells called neurons, which use impulses to communicate with each other. The combination of billions of neurons, all sending signals at once, produces an enormous amount of activity in the brain, which is commonly called a Brainwave Pattern.
Our brain regulates its activities by emitting tiny electrochemical impulses of varied frequencies. These frequencies can be measured by a clinical device called Electroencephalogram or EEG.40
The EEG is typically described in terms of (1) rhythmic activity and (2) transients.
The rhythmic activity is divided into bands by frequency. To some degree, these frequency bands are a matter of nomenclature (i.e., any rhythmic activity between 6–12 Hz can be described as “alpha”), but these designations arose, because rhythmic activity within a certain frequency range was noted to have a certain distribution over the scalp or a certain biological significance. Most of the cerebral signal observed in the scalp EEG falls in the range of 1– 20 Hz.
There are five main brainwaves called, beta, alpha, theta, delta and gamma.
- Beta waves have low amplitude, but are the fastest of the four main brain waves. We emit beta waves when the brain is aroused and engaged in mental activities. For example, when we are in conversation with another person, we would be in a beta state. If we were teaching, speaking, or are engaged with our work, these would all be beta states. Typically beta waves will range in frequency from 13 to 30 cycles a second.
- Alpha waves are next in order of frequency. They are much slower than the beta waves and have higher amplitude. Alpha waves represent non-arousal and calmness. When someone takes time out to rest or relax, they are typically in an alpha state. It is when we calm our mind and feel peaceful. Alpha waves can range in frequency from 8 to 13 cycles a second.
- Theta waves are even slower than alpha waves and have higher amplitude. Theta waves can be difficult to accomplish, because they require a complete break from our conscious reality. Most of us have experienced times when we simply blank out from the world, where we are daydreaming or perhaps driving and suddenly realize we can’t remember the last ten minutes of the drive. Theta waves are often induced by things of a repetitious nature, for example when our actions become so automatic that our mind disengages. The frequency range of theta waves is typically between 4 and 7 cycles per second.
- Delta waves occur when we are in deep dreamless sleep. Our brain frequency in this state is very slow and of the greatest amplitude. The frequency range is usually somewhere between 1.5 to 4 cycles per second, which it is about as slow as one can get without causing damage to our brains.
- Gamma waves are often not distinguished as a unique class of brain wave by some researchers. It’s worth noting that until recently, gamma waves were not researched to the same extent as the other four brain waves. Today they have gained more popularity and are known to be associated with perception and consciousness. Gamma waves can be between 30 and 100 Hz per second but most often correspond to frequencies of 40 Hz or higher. It has been shown that gamma waves are typically present during the process of awakening, as well as during active rapid eye movement in (REM) sleep, as well as in a state of deep meditation.
Scientific research demonstrates that long-term meditation practice, not only enables us to evolve within and experience different states of consciousness, but also has a positive, and lasting, impact on our health and wellbeing.
Long-term meditation is the tool to continuously evolve our own brain and to develop more compassion and relatedness towards ourselves, as well as to others.
Scientists have identified three types of meditation practice.
- Deep Relaxation Techniques: These take us into the alpha state in which we enhance our learning abilities, store data and gain mental clarity and a sense of calm.
- Object Meditation/Focused Attention Meditation: This is the focus on the breath, a mantra or an image. During object meditation changes in the networks of the brain were seen that are known to improve attention. Object meditation takes us into the theta state which impacts on our self-healing properties and draws us into a deeper state of meditation.
- Objectless Meditation/Open Monitor Meditation: This mediation type doesn’t focus on a specific object, but rather cultivates a state of being. This advanced state of meditation produces sustained high frequency gamma activity in the left cortex of the frontal lobe, which ultimately leads to permanent changes of brain function in long- term meditators.
Abstract of ‘Inside Meditation – in search of the unchanging nature within’ by Alexander Filmer-Lorch
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