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What are Brain Waves and How Do They Affect Me?


By Dr. Donna

Understanding Your Brain

There are five major types of brain waves that affect many of us everyday. By knowing what brainwaves are and how they affect us, you can improve attention span and better understand brain activity. As you ask, “What are brain waves?”, take in the helpful information below:

Alpha Waves

Alpha waves are directly connected to a child’s concentration, so it’s important for parents to understand them. If a child who has trouble paying attention in class learns how to control alpha waves via biofeedback, he can gain control over his attention span. But first, here is some basic information on alpha waves:

  1. Alpha waves put out the strongest signal on the EEG, although they are not found in their mature form until children are three years old. They are found in cells of the thalamus and originate in the occipital lobe.
  2. These waves oscillate at 8-12 Hz when you are relaxing with your eyes closed. They also occur when you are asleep but feel as if you are awake, also described as  wakeful periods during sleep.
  3. Those who have chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia and depression have higher levels of alpha waves. However, despite the association with sleep, alpha waves are not linked with sleep disorders.
  4. Meditators produce more alpha waves when they meditate, as compared to those who don’t meditate.
  5. One type of alpha wave is called a mu wave. Mu waves oscillate at 8-13 Hz.  These are reduced in the brain when you decide to move or when you are physically moving.

In daily life, if alpha waves increase to a level of 25% in the brain, the person will make a mistake. Some experts believe that children using biofeedback tools can learn to alter their alpha waves, especially if they have difficulty staying focused, such as with ADHD.

If these children use biofeedback, they may learn how to better pay attention. They can either take note of changes in their bodies, thoughts and surroundings to identify when higher alpha waves occur, or they can use instruments to automatically identify higher alpha waves. Simply noting the changes often decreases the waves, eventually allowing the child to have more control.

Beta Waves

Beta waves oscillate at 12-30 Hz, and occur during the time we are awake, when we are busy and when we are anxious.

Delta Waves

Delta waves are another very interesting type of brain wave. Your nutrition can affect these brain waves, and the waves can in turn affect your health.

Delta waves oscillate at 0.1-4 Hz.  They are found in the deepest stages of sleep. Delta waves stimulate hormone release at night, specifically of the growth hormone, prolactin, and the thyroid stimulating hormone.

Here are some quick facts about delta waves:

  1. Delta waves occur at the greatest level in newborns, and they are the most prominent brain wave newborns have.
  2. Sleepwalking is characterized by high delta wave activity.
  3. Alcohol reduces delta waves and also lowers the release of the growth hormone in the body.

The drug Gabapentin also decreases delta waves (used for seizures and neurological disorders). GHB, Gamma-hydroxy butyrate (Ecstasy) increases delta waves and the release of Growth Hormone. Of course, it can also cause death.

Be conscious of your diet, as low carbohydrate diets, including the ketogenic diet (high fat, high protein), increase the delta wave activity in those who are healthy.

Theta Waves

Theta waves oscillate at 4-7 Hz. They are found during times when you meditate, are drowsy or are sleeping. They are also associated with spatial learning in animals.

Gamma Waves

There are also gamma waves. Read about these interesting brainwaves and how they are increased in children that participate in the Fat ForWord™ program here at this post:

Still wondering, “What are brain waves?” Keep an eye out for more another post covering  gamma waves, children with learning disorders, and  how Fast ForWord™ can help overcome.

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