What Are Brain Waves And How To Control Them To Achieve A Better Mental State

Damir Regoc

Surfing The Brain Waves All The Way To Mental Health

Life in general can be quite demanding, and fast-paced. What if there was a way to get at the source of our emotions and thoughts – the brain – and control it so we could achieve the mental state we desired? 

There is, in fact, a way to achieve that, and it’s through the methods of controlling our brain waves. So what are brain waves and how do we measure them? The brain is constructed out of billions of specialized cells, some of which are called neurons. Neurons are constantly communicating with each other and the electrical activity that originates from that communication can be detected using a technique dubbed electroencephalography, or EEG, with sensors attached to the scalp that tune into those bursts of energy and record them as waves. The shape of the wave is observably different at rest than it is when someone is using all of their focus and attention.

Alpha Brain Waves And Attention

Are you having trouble maintaining attention? Neuroscientists from MIT may have a viable solution for you: Turn down your alpha brain waves. In a new study, the researchers found that people can enhance their attention by controlling their own alpha brain waves based on the neurofeedback they receive as they perform a particular task.

One study found that when subjects learned to repress alpha waves in one hemisphere of their parietal cortex, they were able to commit deeper attention to objects that appeared on the opposite side of their visual field. This is the first time that this cause-and-effect relationship has been witnessed, and it indicates that it may be feasible for people to learn to enhance their attention through the utilization of neurofeedback.

How Can Changing Brain Waves Influence Our Memory Capabilities

Remembering is essential for a good quality of our everyday life. It helps us with lots of things, such as remembering to do homework or knowing the answers to a test. Most times forgetting is normal, but sometimes it can be caused by damage to the brain or certain diseases. Scientists have studied the long-term version of memory, which includes things like remembering your first day of school or a friend’s birthday party. These memories happen in the brain due to the activity patterns of brain cells in different brain areas, working together to remember. 

How To Manipulate Brain Waves

There are billions of neurons in the brain, and their combined electrical signals generate oscillations that we refer to as brain waves. Alpha waves, which oscillate in the frequency of 8 to 12 hertz, are considered to play a role in filtering out distracting sensory information.

Previous studies have shown a strong correlation between attention and alpha brain waves, particularly in the parietal cortex. In human and animal studies, a decrease in alpha waves has been linked to enhanced attention. However, it was unclear if alpha waves control attention or are just a byproduct of some other process that governs attention.

To test whether alpha waves actually regulate attention, the researchers designed an experiment in which people were given real-time feedback on their alpha waves as they performed a task. Subjects were asked to look at a grating pattern in the center of a screen and told to use mental effort to increase the contrast of the pattern as they looked at it, making it more visible.

During the study, subjects were examined using magnetoencephalography (MEG), which displays brain activity with millisecond precision. The researchers measured alpha levels in both the left and right hemispheres of the parietal cortex and calculated the degree of asymmetry between the two levels. As the asymmetry between the two hemispheres evolved, the grating pattern became more observable, presenting the participants' real-time feedback.

Although subjects were not informed about what was transpiring, after about 20 trials, they were able to increase the contrast of the pattern. The MEG results indicated they had done so by controlling the asymmetry of their alpha waves.

Binaural Beats 

There are also techniques that use the concept of brain wave entrainment, whereby your brainwaves begin to match or synchronize with the frequency of an external trigger, like a pulsing sound or a light. You can use this concept to train your brain waves to a particular frequency during a specific task. For instance, you may want beta waves while you’re training for a test, or alpha or delta waves to help you sleep.

To get our brain on the right wavelength, you can try listening to binaural beats. Binaural beats are basically two different sound frequencies played in each ear. You can easily find these tracks by searching for Delta Binaural Beats or Alpha Binaural Beats on YouTube. If you find binaural beats to be a bit monotonous or repetitious, there are also services that play music designed specifically to enhance certain brainwaves.

Beauty & the Broth

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