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Brain waves or Neural oscillations are rhythmic or repetitive patterns of neural activity in the central nervous system. Neural tissue can generate oscillatory activity in many ways, driven either by mechanisms within individual neurons or by interactions between neurons. Brain waves are produced by synchronised electrical pulses from masses of neurons communicating with each other. Brain waves are detected using sensors produced on the scalp. They are divided into bandwidths to describe their functions, but it can be best described as a continuous spectrum of consciousness; from slow, loud and functional – to fast, subtle and complex. Brain waves are just like musical notes- the low-frequency waves are like a deeply penetrating drum beat, while the higher frequency is more like a subtle high pitched flute. Like a symphony, the higher and lower frequencies link and cohere with each other through harmonics. Our brainwaves change according to what we are doing or feeling. When slower brain waves are dominant we can feel tired, slow, sluggish and dreamy. The higher frequencies are dominant when they feel wired and hyper-alert. Brainwave speed is measured in Hertz (cycles per second) and they are divided into bands delineating slow. Moderate, and fast waves.
- Infra-low ( less 0.5 Hz): Infra-low brain waves (also known as Slow cortical potentials), are thought to be the basic cortical rhythms that underlie our higher brain functions. Their slow nature makes them difficult to detect and to measure accurately. They play a major role in brain timing and network function.
Delta waves (0.5 to 3 Hz): Delta brain waves are slow, loud brain waves (low frequency and deeply penetrating like a drum beat).
They are generated in deepest meditation and dreamless sleep.
Delta waves suspend external awareness and are the source of empathy. Healing and regeneration are stimulated in this state, and that is why deep restorative sleep is so essential for the healing process.
Theta Waves (3 to 8 Hz): Theta brain waves occur most often in sleep but are also dominant in deep meditation. Theta is our gateway to learning, memory and intuition. In theta, our senses are withdrawn from the external world and focussed on signals originating from within. It is that twilight state which we normally experience fleetingly as we wake or drift off to sleep. In theta, we are in a dream, vivid imagery. Intuition and information beyond our normal conscious awareness. It is where we hold our stuff, our fears, troubled history and nightmares.
Alpha waves (8 to 12 Hz): Alpha brain waves are dominant during quietly flowing thoughts and in some meditative states. Alpha is ‘the power of now’, being here, in the present. Alpha is the resting state for the brain. Alpha waves aid overall mental coordination, calmness, alertness, mind/body integration and learning.
Beta waves (12 to 38 Hz): Beta brain waves dominate our normal waking state of consciousness when attention is directed towards cognitive tasks and the outside world. Beta is a ‘fast’ activity, present when we are alert, attentive, engaged in problem-solving, judgement, decision making, or focussed mental activity. Beta brain waves are further divided into three bands;
a. Lo-beta (Beta1, 12-15HZ) – can be considered as ‘fast idle’ or musing.
b. Beta (Beta2 15-22HZ) is a high engagement or actively figuring out something out.
c. Hi-Beta(Beta3 22-38HZ) is highly complex thought, integrating new experiences, high anxiety or excitement.
Continual high-frequency processing is not a very efficient way to run the brain, as it takes a tremendous amount of energy.
Gamma Waves (38 to 42 Hz): Gamma brain waves are the fastest of brain waves (high frequency like a flute), and relate to simultaneous processing of information from different brain areas. Gamma brain waves pass information rapidly and quietly. The most subtle of the brain wave frequencies. The mind has to be quiet to access gamma. The greater presence of gamma relates to expanded consciousness and spiritual emergence.
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