Alpha wave biofeedback is a type of feedback that measures the alpha waves of the brain. Through this kind of monitoring, one would be able to control the amount and frequency of the alpha waves and create a relaxed and positive mental state for oneself.
What are Alpha waves?
Alpha waves are considered one of five brain waves. The other four are Delta, Theta, Beta and Gamma waves and are measured by an electroencephalograph or EEG. Brain waves are tiny oscillating voltages, no more than a few millionths of a volt, but each wave will cycle at a different frequency. Alpha waves normally cycle at a frequency of 8-12 Hz and indicate that the brain is in a conscious and pleasurable state. Meditation, yoga or even being in an inebriated state will allow a person to experience Alpha waves.
The oscillations of Alpha waves are ranged in the middle of the brain wave spectrum. They are considered to be the safest and healthiest brain wave range. Below them are Delta and Theta waves, which are associated with unconsciousness and deep-sleep. Beta waves oscillate at one level above Alpha and usually coincide with a state of intense concentration or alertness. If Beta waves were maintained for long periods of time, one would begin to experience feelings of fear or anxiety. However, this brain state is important in times of danger or fight or flight situations where mental alertness is essential. Gamma waves cycle at the highest frequency and are considered to be quite dangerous to the brain.
Alpha waves are more commonly found in individuals who are highly creative or extroverted and even in children. On the whole, children experience Alpha wave activity in greater number than adults do. Typically, as we age, our brain wave pattern will shift away from Alpha to Beta. This is why it is important for adults to actively increase their Alpha wave production, as it would be a huge benefit for them.
Where Alpha Waves Come From
Electrical rhythms and brain activity was first discovered in animals in 1875 by English scientist Richard Caton. This finding helped pave the way for German researcher Hans Berger who, in 1924, proved that humans also have these same electrical brain rhythms. Berger used his invention, the EEG machine, to discover “Berger’s waves” or what we call Alpha waves. They are named as such because they were the first brain waves to be discovered, hence the word “alpha”, which is the first letter of the Greek alphabet.
It is believed that Alpha waves are produced in the thalamus, located in the brain stem and is the result of the body and mind being in a very relaxed state. In fact, even the simple act of closing your eyes will produce Alpha waves in your brain. Some feel that when the body is in a relaxed state, it will send, through the spinal cord, signals to the thalamus in order for the brain to interpret the signals. These signals are then interpreted as Alpha waves. In this case, the thalamus acts almost as a switching point or gateway to direct these signals to the brain in much the same way that signals meant to move your hands or feet are siphoned to the part of the brain that is meant to handle that information. Though this theory on how Alpha waves are generated and interpreted in the brain is popular, it has not yet gained wide recognition in scientific quarters. The fact is Alpha waves are resulted from a combination of complex factors within the body such as the nervous system, brain metabolism and the age of an individual.
We can easily measure the strength and degree of Alpha waves and other brain activity with the use of the EEG device. The device is particularly useful in determining a subject’s state of consciousness, which will in turn inform that person what brain wave level they are functioning on and then be able to consciously manipulate their wave level to get it to Alpha. In a sense, a person learns to control their brain waves. However, keep in mind that with brain wave therapy one is not controlling the actual electrical and synaptic connections in the brain, but rather a person learns to control the subjective events that the brain associates with Alpha signals. In other words, we are learning to control our own experiences and how we manifest external stimuli.
Why Alpha Waves Are Good For You
There are many different benefits that Alpha wave therapy can give a person, if that person is willing to take the time to learn it. To fully experience Alpha waves, all a person would have to do is put themselves in a completely relaxed state. By doing so, one can immediately reduce their stress level and even be able to think clearer. Meditation will also help to achieve this.
Alpha wave therapy is especially useful in enhancing creativity. Artists, innovators and creative thinkers typically have higher levels of Alpha wave activity. It also helps to augment a person’s problem solving skills by integrating both hemispheres of the brain for increased communication.
Athletes can also benefit from Alpha waves. Studies have shown that successful athletes often have a high level of Alpha activity. The waves help to enhance peek performance by “blasting” the brain just before a big competition or important moment in a game, such as a big shot in a basketball game or a big hit in baseball.
Alpha waves are also responsible for improving the immune system. It has been associated with increased health and recovery from illness. Stress is a huge detriment to a person’s immune system and can lead to various physical illnesses. By using Alpha waves to reduce your stress level and, in effect, the strain on your immune system, you run a lower risk of developing threatening ailments. In fact, Alpha waves provide a natural substitute for antidepressants by releasing serotonin into the brain. When a person is depressed, serotonin levels drop in the brain. Alpha waves help to raise the level, allowing a person to feel better about themselves.
Another important benefit of Alpha waves is its function in helping to ward off insomnia. Sleeping regularly is very important for our bodies and brain. In addition to recharging our batteries, sleep also enables our brain to process and transfer information we receive during the day from short term to long-term memory. Being able to relax and reach a state of Alpha just before sleep has proven to be an effective therapy for insomniacs.
Alpha wave feedback is an extremely beneficial way to relieve stress and counter many bodily and mental ailments. It is low risk to apply and with even a few weeks of training, you too can experience self-improvement on a level comparable with mediators with twenty years of training.