Types Of Brain Waves: Delta, Theta, Alpha, Beta And Gamma

There are 5 types of brain waves that work almost like musical notes. Some act at a low frequency, others at a higher frequency. However, together they are capable of forming a harmonic tune where our thoughts, emotions and sensations can reach a perfect balance, where we feel more centered and receptive to everything that surrounds us …

Perhaps we have heard someone say that “I want to train my Alpha brain wave to feel more relaxed and achieve adequate serenity and personal peace .” Furthermore, lately there is even talk of biofeedback machines, capable of stimulating certain waves to allow us to reach certain states of consciousness with them. Well, the truth is that you should be careful with these data.

“The eye absorbs … The brain produces shapes …”

-Paul Cézanne-

In relation to our brain waves, the key to true well-being is that each one of them works properly, within its frequency and at an optimal level. Furthermore, we also cannot ignore that these brain rhythms are not stable, but change as we grow, mature and age.

The goal, therefore, is not to become obsessed with enhancing Beta waves to improve attention or Gamma waves to reach a supposed mystical or spiritual state.

The truth is that there is  no type of brain wave better than another or one more special compared to the others. They are all important, because they are all the result of the electrical activity of our neurons and of each of our mental states.

The different types of brain waves

We all know that the brain is an electrochemical organ; in fact, neurologists tell us that if all our nerve cells were activated at the same time we could get enough energy to light a light bulb. The data is undoubtedly amazing.

In turn, all this electrical activity is responsible for the different types of brain waves, a kind of complex, fascinating and perfect process through which each activity, each mental state and thought is capable of emitting a type of brain wave.

On the other hand, it is important to clarify that, throughout the day, our brain keeps the 5 types of brain waves active. Depending on what we do at each moment, some waves will show greater activity in certain areas of our brain and others will work with less intensity in other areas, but none of them will be, so to speak, “disconnected”.

For example, at one point in the day our Alpha wave may have an intense activity in the frontal lobe, which will cause us to feel some anxiety. However, this same Alpha wave in the occipital area would imply an optimal state of relaxation.

They are very specific nuances that should be taken into account. Let’s see below what are the different types of brain waves and how their effect is characterized.

1. Delta Waves (1 to 3 Hz)

Delta waves are those with the highest wave amplitude and are related to deep sleep (but without dreams). It is also interesting to know that they are very common in babies and younger children, so that as we get older and older, we tend to produce fewer waves of this type. The truth is that sleep and our ability to rest are lost, little by little, over the years.

On the other hand, it should also be noted that this type of wave is mainly related to bodily activities of which we are not aware, such as the regulation of heart rate or digestion.

  • What happens if this wave appears in very high peaks on an electroencephalogram? It can indicate a brain injury, learning disabilities or even be an indicator of severe ADHD.
  • What happens if this wave appears in low peaks on an EEG? It can indicate poor sleep, problems activating and revitalizing the body and mind …
  • An adequate level of delta waves favors and takes care of the immune system, our rest and our ability to learn.

2. Theta waves (3.5 to 8 Hz)

The second of the types of brain waves ranges from 3.5 to 8 Hz and is mainly related to our imaginative capacities, to reflection and sleep. As a curiosity, it should be said that theta waves tend to show high activity when we experience very deep emotions.

A simple example in which we can be aware of when this type of wave takes control is when we finish making an effort or a task that has demanded a lot of energy. Just at that moment when we relax and let our imagination “fly”, theta waves acquire a greater presence in our brain.

Let’s see more illustrative data:

  • A high peak of Theta waves can be related to a depressive disorder, inattention …
  • Low peaks are associated with anxiety, stress, and low emotional self-awareness.
  • An adequate level of delta waves favors creativity, emotional connection and even our intuition.

3. Alpha waves (8 to 13 Hz)

The Alphas arise in that intermediate twilight where there is calm, but not sleep, where there is relaxation and a state conducive to meditation. We can also experience it when we are on the couch watching TV or in bed resting, but without falling asleep.

  • A high level of alpha waves would prevent us from being able to focus attention or even feel with very little strength to perform a task.
  • A low level causes anxiety, stress and insomnia.

4. Beta waves (12 to 33 Hz)

We are already crossing the threshold of those types of brain waves, low or moderate level, to reach a higher step. We are already in that spectrum of higher frequencies that arise as a result of intense neuronal activity.

We are talking about  very interesting states, as well as complex, everything must be said. States that are related to those daily activities where we put all our attention, when we remain alert and need to be aware of multiple stimuli.

Activities as common as driving, taking an exam, making a presentation, being in a work meeting presenting a project, etc., are moments of maximum activation. However, an excess, a neuronal over-activation can lead to a state of anxiety or stress capable of harming us.

  • A low level of Beta waves, on the other hand, would lead us to a too relaxed, lax, even depressed state …
  • An optimal level of these waves helps us to be much more receptive, focused on improving even our ability to solve problems.

Research in this area continues to bear fruit. A study recently published by a team of neuroscientists at the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has revealed a great discovery about beta waves.

Specifically, when people perform tasks that require working memory, the brain uses this kind of low-frequency waves to switch between the different parts of the information. That is, it acts as a regulatory gate that decides when the information briefly stored in working memory is read or discarded, and allows us to think about something else.

5. Gamma waves (25 to 100 Hz)

We know that when we hear the word “gamma” the famous gamma rays, with their long wavelength and high electromagnetic radiation, immediately come to mind. Well, gamma waves and gamma rays are actually only alike in one respect: their extremely fast frequency.

Needless to say, neuroscientists are beginning to uncover more data on this type of wave, but until recently, hardly much was known. What’s more, it is very difficult to capture on EEGs. We speak of a type of wave that originates in the thalamus and moves from the back of the brain forward and at an incredible speed.

  • It is related to tasks of high cognitive processing.
  • It has to do with our learning style, with the ability to settle new information and also with our senses and perceptions.
  • It is known, for example, that people with mental or learning disabilities tend to have less than average gamma wave activity.
  • The states of happiness also show high peaks in this type of wave.
  • The REM sleep phase is also often characterized by high activity in this frequency range.

To conclude, knowing the different types of waves allows us to understand  our mental processes, our emotions, activities and dynamics generate a type of “energy” in our brain. The key therefore is to be aware of it, to learn to relax, to be more receptive, intuitive or to favor, for example, that emotional control, where our anxiety works in our favor and never against us.

It’s worth a try.


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