Saturday, March 7, 2009

A Bit on Brainwaves and Meditation

Brainwave meditation has its roots in the seventies, when Transcendental Meditation (TM) was in vogue (remember the Beatles - Maharishi connection?). At that time many studies were performed in order to substantiate from a scientific perspective the amazing effects credited to meditation. The results were intriguing to say the least.

It was known back then that our brains generate electrical wave patterns known as brainwaves. The four distinct patterns (frequencies) are Beta, Alpha, Theta and Delta. They're measured in Hertz (Hz = cycles per second). It was also known that:

* Beta brainwave (13-34 Hz) is the daily pattern for most of us. Anxiety and stress are most likely to occur in the high Beta range.

* Alpha brainwaves (8 to 12 Hz) occur when we are relaxed and calm. You are in Alpha brainwave when you daydream for example, but also when you are focused in studying something that gets your undivided attention.

* Theta brainwave (4 to 7 Hz) is a deeply relaxed state, specific to regular sleep. It is also a creative state when achieved in a wakeful state. Supposedly artistic masterpieces were created in such a state.

* Delta brainwave (0.5 to 3 Hz) is the state of dreamless sleep which occurs soon after you fall asleep.

It was discovered during these studies that Delta is also the brainwave achieved by accomplished meditators during the state of deep meditation. The key discovery pertinent to brainwave meditation is that external stimulation of the brain with such frequencies, produces similar states of mind as achieved with meditation.

From a technical stand point this external stimulus was produced by sound: the desired frequency is the difference between the signal heard with each ear. For example: one ear gets 100 Hz and the other 110Hz. This produces a difference of 10 Hz specific to the Alpha brainwave.

It was demonstrated that the brain integrates the two signals also called binaural beats, in a process called brainwave entrainment or brainwave synchronization. The base frequency (100 Hz above) is called carrier frequency.

The most important output of these studies was the fact that if done properly, the exposure to these frequencies forced the brain to adapt by creating new neural connections (read rewiring) similar to many years of practicing classical meditation.

This output is reinforced by the new (at that time) concept of brain plasticity (Neuroplasticity): the brain's capability to adapt to a new stimulus by creating new connections or reassigning specific function to different zones. It was previously considered that the brain does not physically change and is stagnant as "hardware" from very early stages in life. It was demonstrated in other words that the "software" could change the original "hardware".

To find out more about brainwave meditation and other meditation techniques please visit:

Brainwave Meditation.

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