Brain Waves

The brain generates tiny electrical pulses as thoughts traverse the labyrinth of the mind. The physical conduits of these thoughts are the millions of nerve cells or neurons in the brain. Just as radio signals, in order to make a comprehensible message, are beamed out on radio waves, a band of signals within a defined frequency, so the brain’s activity also occurs in waves. Brain waves can be measured on an electro-encephalograph machine (which is normally abbreviated to EEG Machine). By attaching sensitive electrodes to the scalp, it is possible to measure accurately the type of brain wave that a subject is producing. These waves are usually expressed in the number of cycles per second (CPS) or with their frequency (Hz).

Brain waves

The brain produces four main waves with specific frequencies:

Beta level brain waves – range 12-16 Hz (also 13-25 Hz)

Alpha level brain waves – range 8-12 Hz

Theta level brain waves – range 4-7 Hz

Delta level brain waves – range 0.5-3 Hz

The following chart relates each type of brain wave to its principal function. We must remember however, that when we speak of someone being ‘in alpha’ we mean that this is their characteristic and predominant brain wave. Other brain waves will also be present, but in smaller quantities than usual.

Brain activities

The linking of left and right brain activities is important in producing a shift from learning to accelerated learning. Yet our society is very ‘beta orientated’. We are busy thinking about the problem in hand, but don’t leave ourselves sufficiently open to  other influences, which would help us memorize faster and make the sort of less expected connections that we call creative thinking.

Beta brain

In beta you don’t see the wood for concentrating on the trees. But learn to relax, increase the proportion of the alpha and ideally theta brain waves, and you have created the conditions where you may begin to see the whole picture.

Alpha brain

‘Alpha’ is a natural and receptive state of mind, that we can all attain through the techniques of relaxation. They principally involve simple and pleasant relaxation exercises and listening to certain types of music.

Theta brain

The theta brain wave pattern is especially interesting. It occurs spontaneously to most of us in the twilight state between being fully awake and falling asleep. Arthur Koestler called it ‘reverie’. This drowsy stage is associated with fleeting semi-hallucinatory images. Thousands of artistic and literary inspirations and scientific inventions have been credited to this state, a sort of freeform thinking that puts you in touch with your subconscious.

Brain waves interpretation

Many psychologists would agree it is a reasonable hypothesis that, when left/right brain symbiosis takes place, conscious and subconscious are also united. The proportion of theta brain waves becomes much higher than normal. This is the moment when logical left brain activity declines. The left brain, which normally acts as a filter or censor to the subconscious, drops its guard, and allows the more intuitive, emotional and creative depths of the right brain to become increasingly influential.

If the hypothesis is true, then do women, popularly characterised as more intuitive, reach a walking theta state more often than men; and can this be associated with the fact that their left/right brain link, the Corpus callosum, is larger and richer in connective capabilities than men’s? We do not yet know, but it is a fascinating area for future research.

At the University of Colorado Medical Centre and at the Biofeedback Centre in Denver, Dr. Thomas Budzyski has found that, when people were trained to achieve and maintain theta brain waves using biofeedback techniques, they did indeed learn much faster. Moreover, many emotional and attitudinal problems were solved at the same time.

For example, in a theta state, suggestions that racial prejudice is wrong were well accepted. Suggestions to overweight people to follow a sensible eating pattern were accepted and subsequently complied with, and insomnia and drinking problems were successfuly tackled.

Some time ago a New York advertising agency was asked to produce a TV commercial to combat racial prejudice. They produced two. The first used a carefully built up rational argument. The second was a highly emotional film featuring attractive young black children and using many subconscious but positive appeals for fairness.

The logical TV commercial actually intensified the degree of racial prejudice. The subjects felt themselves threatened as they realized they could not give an equally dispassionate and rational counter argument. Consequently the only possible response was an aggressive defence involving an increased emotional commitment to their original attitude.

The second commercial however, worked. Emotion laden appeals went beyond the conscious, the intellectual objections, and created a new positive image at the subconscious level that changed the subject’s entire personal response, so no conflict or threat was aroused. Can intelligence be increased?

Whilst it is certainly an oversimplification to relate intelligence to brain capacity it is, however, interesting to relate three statements:

The average IQ is 100.

The genius-level is 160.

The average human probably uses 4% of his potential brain power.

If that average human could learn to use not 4% of his brain but a still minimal 7% of his brain, could he attain genius level? This article is about techniques that probably improve the human memory, that increase creativity and that provide access to unused brain power. The indications are that the same techniques can measurably improve intelligence.


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