Modulate Your Frequency: A Quick Guide to Brain Frequencies

WHAT CAUSES THE CHANGE IN ELECTRICAL CHARGE IN NEURONS?


The changes in voltage are reflected by membrane ion channels or pumps opening, allowing the movement of ions into and out of neurons. Action potentials (neuron firing) result in calcium influx, which causes release of neurotransmitters, an activity that is involved in executive function: learning, memory, planning, and so on.


The most common ions found in neurons are potassium, sodium, calcium, chloride (in inhibitory neurons), and occasionally magnesium. Top = outside the cell, bottom = inside the cell

HOW ARE ELECTRICAL SIGNALS MEASURED IN THE CENTRAL NERVOUS SYSTEM (CNS)?

Neuroscientists have developed various electrophysiological techniques. Using a series of electrodes (probes), we can detect small changes in membrane voltage across a wide spatial resolution. We can measure activity from a single ion channel in one neuron, ion channels across a whole cell, interactions between small circuits of neurons numbering from 2-12 cells (using patch clamp recording), and large networks of neurons (using an EEG) (Brown University).



Multi-cell patch clamp recording. Every electrode is recording activity from a different cell.

Conventional EEGs (electroencephalograms) are completely non-invasive.

WHY SHOULD I CARE ABOUT BRAIN FREQUENCIES?

Different brain regions are more active at different times and during certain activities, like meditation, sex, and sleep. This knowledge can help us understand why we seem more self-aware, creative, or confident in certain contexts. By choosing what to focus on, we control our brain states. The phrase “elevate your frequency” is a bit limiting, since every brain state is useful in certain quantities, and lower frequencies can be powerful for healing. Consciousness is an emergent property of the “collective behavior of widespread thalamocortical frontoparietal network connectivity” (Bruno, 2011).


THE BRAIN FREQUENCIES


GAMMA (30-100 HZ): IN-THE-ZONE PEAK PERFORMANCE


  • Present in: regular meditators and mindfulness practitioners, during dreaming, some types of Hindu and Tibetan Buddhist yoga

  • Expanded conscious awareness: heightened state of mind, enhanced perception

  • Logic and focus: language and memory processing

  • Flow and mental clarity: thought processes and perceptions unify into coherent picture

  • Heightened intuition: activation of the pineal gland, deep feelings of peace, compassion, joy, and oneness

  • Creative insight: ideal state in which to form new ideas, learn, and process and retain large amounts of information


  • Overactivity: presents as stress, anxiety, hyper-vigilance

  • Deficiency: presents as depression, inability to focus, poor memory


BETA STATE (13-30 HZ): MASS CONSCIOUSNESS


  • Default state: most waking hours spent here; fresh, awake, and full of natural energy; can be enhanced with caffeine

  • Alert and working: prefrontal cortex is active, focused, engaged in conversation, thinking, analyzing, planning, solving problems, or making decisions


  • Overactivity: stress, anxiety, the inner critic, ADD, restlessness, constant adrenaline, mental overdrive, struggle for survival

  • Deficiency: can show up as depression, poor cognition, insomnia; low energy levels, concentration, attentiveness, or emotional stability


ALPHA STATE (9-13 HZ): WAKEFUL BLISS, MEDITATIVE CONSCIOUSNESS


  • Present after: yoga, walk in the woods, great workout (especially cardio), good sex

  • Calm rest: physically and mentally relaxed, fully immersed in the moment, at peace, confident, lucid, and reflective, diffuse awareness

  • Stress relief: correlated with openness; decrease in anxiety, negative thoughts, and needless worry

  • Bridge between subconscious and conscious: awareness of subconscious activity. Present when drifting into light sleep, lucid dreaming; meditation; associated with heightened imagination, visualization

  • Cortex active: conducive to memory, learning, concentration, and information processing. Thought to emerge from interactions between thalamus and cortexreflecting rhythmic successions of EPSP (i.e., excitation) in the cortex.

  • Neutral integration: hemispheres are more balanced in activity


  • Overactivity: inability to focus on tasks/complete them, daydreamy, too laid back

  • Deficiency: too little shows up as OCD


THETA (4-8 HZ): UNIFIED CONSCIOUSNESS


  • Visualization and dreaming: dominant during deep meditation, deep relaxation, daydreaming, drowsiness, and light sleep, including REM sleep, dreaming, lucid dreaming

  • Profound insight: strongly correlated with bursts of creativity, inspiration, and vivid daydreams; capacity for complicated problem solving and abstract thought

  • Oneness with everything: associated with capacity for profound emotion, stronger intuition

  • Accessible subconscious: optimal range for visualization, mind programming; subconscious is more receptive to higher knowledge or affirmations


  • Overactivity: can manifest as impulsivity and hyperactivity


DELTA STATE (0.5-4 HZ): UNCONSCIOUS RECOVERY


  • Complete unawareness: the slowest of brain waves with the greatest amplitude, experienced in deep, Stage 4 (dreamless) sleep

  • Biological repair: body is healing, growing, restoring/repairing itself, releasing growth hormone, and resetting internal clocks (digestion, heartbeat)

  • Very deep meditation: Tibetan monks have reached this state while awake and alert

  • Rapid growth and development: babies and children experience delta states more frequently than adults


  • Overactivity: can manifest as learning difficulties, inability to focus or problem solve

  • Deficiency: manifests as sleep deprivation



Note the frequencies have been categorically/functionally determined, so their boundaries may vary.

KEY TAKEAWAYS:


1. Increases in frontal alpha/theta activity are demonstrated by experienced Zen meditators. Overall, meditation alters CNS electrophysiology.

2. Similar medications (SNRIs, SSRIs, ketamine) are prescribed for depression and anxiety, even though they manifest as different brain activity. Could account for ineffectiveness and why some people are “treatment-resistant” … the medications could be working nonspecifically in the whole brain, rather than targeting certain areas, like the hippocampus (depression) or amygdala (anxiety).

3. The states, in a phrase

  • Gamma = creative, intuitive flow

  • Beta = busy bee

  • Alpha = blissful, peaceful awareness

  • Theta = visualization and dreaming

  • Delta = unconscious recovery and growth


This post was originally published on January 5, 2019.

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