Brain Waves and Biohacking

Neural oscillations are more popularly known as brain waves. These rhythmic or repetitive patterns of neural activity in the central nervous system occur in several types. I first learned about this in a high school science class, though I had certainly encountered a version of them on TV and in movies before that.

My teacher said that our body contains electricity and it can be measured. In the brain, an electroencephalogram (EEG) is a test used to measure electrical activity of the brain. Small metal discs with electrodes are placed on the scalp to send signals to a computer to record the results.

Certain actions cause the neurons in our brains to communicate with each other in an electrical or chemical way. There are five types of frequencies or brainwaves.

Beta waves occur with day-to-day activities when we are alert and when we are learning.

Alpha waves are present when we are relaxing, waking up or winding down from our learning and working activities.

In the non-dreaming portions of deep sleep, the restorative healing sleep, slow Delta waves are present.

Dreaming is a special part of sleep. Theta waves appear when we are dreaming or in flow states or in meditation. Those sound like pretty serious times of concentration, but theta waves also occur when you doing something like taking a shower and arrive at solution to a problem at work. It’s not because you were focused on that problem, but you were completely in the moment.

Gamma waves were essentially unknown before the development of digital EEG recorders because the older analog machines could not measure brain waves at that high frequency.

Gamma brain waves are associated with the “feeling of blessings” which are reported by experienced meditators. You have probably heard about the studies done with monks in meditation and nuns in prayer. Neuroscientists believe that gamma waves are able to link information from all parts of the brain. They are associated with peak performance, mentally and physically.

People with high gamma activity have exceptionally vivid and rapid memory recall. They have increased sensory perception, and increased focus. In a gamma state the brain is able to process incredible amounts of information very quickly, remember it, and retrieve that memory later.

There are benefits to entering a gamma state. And all this leads to the idea of brain wave training. What if we could be trained to produce certain waves?

If you could make more theta waves, it could be very beneficial. It could help produce a state of relaxation. It might help those with sleep problems quiet their brain to sleep. It could help the stress and anxiety of those with phobias, OCD, eating disorders and other issues. It might be able to replace tranquilizers.

The term biohacking is used to describe this brain wave training.

How might you try to generate theta waves?  It’s not easy. I have read about some interesting methods. You could try listening to specially prepared “music.” called binaural beats which are two slightly different ranges of hertz that are played in each ear. You can find some of these sounds online by searching YouTube or Spotify for something like “theta binaural beats.”

But you can try meditation practices such as focusing on your breathing which will enable you to be in the present moment. Regular meditation increases alpha activity and decreases beta in waking states.

If you want more serious, data-driven, training you could work with a neurofeedback coach using tools like EEG in the way that people use biofeedback training to control heart rate, skin temperature, and blood pressure.

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A lifelong educator on and off the Internet. Random by design and predictably irrational. It's turtles all the way down. Dolce far niente.

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