The brain is a complex organ. At all times, information is being processed, and millions of neurons are firing, producing electrical signals that control our thoughts and behaviors. Most of us have heard the term “brainwaves,” but what are brainwaves? Well, brainwaves are the synchronized waves of neural oscillations; in other words, human brainwave frequencies show what’s happening in the brain.
The brain produces five different types of brain waves states, which we’ll discuss in detail below. All five human brainwave frequencies have varying but equally important impacts on your health and mental wellness. Studying brain waves can help identify possible problems with someone’s cognitive, emotional, or neurological function.
If brainwaves aren’t in balance, it may lead us to experience mental, emotional, cognitive, and neurological issues. For example, over-activity of one particular brain wave frequency may lead to feeling anxious and agitated; over-activity of a different brain wave frequency could lead to excessive fatigue and sluggishness.
Research indicates brain wave frequency imbalance can lead to or contribute to the following conditions:
Beta brainwaves are under gamma brainwaves, falling in the 12 to 40 Hz range. This brain wave state is most common when you’re awake, alert, and engaged in a task or thought. Beta brainwaves can vary from fast (when thinking about a complex problem) to slow (when you’re more relaxed). Beta brain waves benefits include logical thinking and focus, but if beta activity is too high, it can lead to anxiety, obsessiveness, and sleep problems. If beta brainwave activity is too low, it can lead to difficulty problem-solving and trouble with concentrating.
Theta brain waves measure between 3 and 8 Hz. This type of brain wave frequency is observed most often during sleep, but theta brain waves can also happen during deep meditation. Excess theta wave activity is frequently reported in people with ADHD, while low theta wave activity is linked to stress, anxiety, and low emotional awareness.4
Human brainwave frequencies can be measured and detected by an EEG (electroencephalography). EEG is a test administered by attaching small metal discs, called electrodes, to one’s head, which pick up electrical signals from the brain and create an observable graph of wavy lines. The brain waves patterns look like wavy lines of varying lengths, and these brain waves patterns represent human brainwave frequencies. These graphs can detect many things that are typically difficult to diagnose, from epilepsy to schizophrenia.
EEGs are important brain waves patterns that can diagnose other brain disorders, including:
Of course, improvements can only be made by listening to the appropriate brain wave frequency. Someone looking to improve sleep would not want to listen to a beta wave meditation (which promotes alertness) and instead could utilize an alpha waves frequency or theta waves frequency to encourage feelings of tiredness and relaxation.
Research is limited on isochronic tones, but research done on binaural beats and monaural beats (which work similarly to isochronic tones) does indicate brainwave entrainment as an effective therapy.6
Meditation and brain waves frequencies used at home could help with mood and focus. Still, the safest and most reliable form of brainwave training is neurofeedback, in which professionals can use EEGs to measure your brain waves states and determine which frequencies would be most beneficial for you.