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Delta, Theta, Alpha, Beta, Gamma Brain Waves And Their Functions
The human brain is a super-smart electrochemical organ. There are countless interconnected nerve cells called neurons that send electrical impulses to communicate with each other and create our thoughts, emotions and behaviours. These electrical impulses within the brain are called brainwaves, divided into five frequencies measured in a unit called Hertz (Hz). These are Delta, Theta, Alpha, Beta and Gamma (from low frequency to high frequency). Let’s get to know more about them here:
Types of Brainwaves
These brainwaves have a frequency of 0.5 to 4 Hz, making them slow but loud. This frequency is associated with heightened meditative states, as in when a person attains deep relaxation and sleep. In fact, delta waves are recorded to be the slowest of brainwaves, and they can cease external awareness to make one connect with their inner self. These brainwaves are higher in young children, and their number decreases as the person ages. Operating on this level can lead to many positives effects on life. This frequency is linked to pain relief, restful sleep, healing, better problem-solving and subconscious learning, as well as a natural feeling of happiness and wellbeing.
The frequency of these brainwaves falls between 4 and 7 Hz. The brain is seen to create these brainwaves when a person goes into a trance of a deep hypnotic state. In our usual lives, these brainwaves are released during sleep and daydreaming. If a person driving his car on a freeway suddenly discovers that he or she has no recall of the last few miles, the person was operating at the theta frequency. This brainwave is associated with intuition, creative ideas, introspection, deep self-empathy, and relaxation. However, high levels of theta waves can lead to depressive states, lack of focus, hyperactivity and impulsivity, while low levels can cause poor emotional awareness, high stress and anxiety.
The frequency of Alpha brainwaves ranges between 7 and 13 Hz. It’s interesting to note that these waves form a bridge between the conscious and subconscious minds. They have extremely calming effects on the brain and can make one feel a sense of self-contentment. These brainwaves have a crucial role to play in communication, network coordination, learning and mind-body integration. In stress situations, the brain stops releasing this brainwave and goes into the beta brainwave mode (discussed next). Low levels of these brainwaves can lead to anxiety, while high levels can lead to lack of focus, an overly relaxed state, and excessive daydreaming.
Beta brainwaves vibrate at a frequency of 13 to 39Hz. These have a high frequency as compared to the previous three brainwaves. They are recorded mostly during a person's conscious state and are linked to calculation, cognitive reasoning, thinking, or communication. In stress situations, a person experiences too much beta activity because of “alpha blocking”—something that can make the person feel overwhelmed and anxious. Prolonged processing at this high frequency is not considered efficient and can lead to difficulty in relaxing, sleep disorders, and depression. At an optimal range, these brainwaves can improve focus, memory and problem-solving ability.
This is the last of the brainwaves, having a frequency of 40 to 100 Hz—the highest in the range. These brainwaves are mostly associated with a high level of concentration and cognitive functioning. They play a crucial role in complex problem-solving, learning, and memory formation. Low levels of this brainwave cause impaired mental processing, learning difficulties, and memory loss, while high levels can make one feel stressed and anxious. When produced at an optimal range, these brainwaves can foster cognition, focus and intelligence.
The above are the various frequencies at which our brains can operate and drive our moods and behaviours. With this knowledge, you should be able to utilise each state's characteristics and see positive results in your mental capabilities and life in general.