Theta brainwaves in the frequency range of 6 to 9 hertz are known as thalpha waves because of their proximity to alpha waves. They are seen during states of high suggestibility, during hypnosis, and during paranormal experience and are also connected to an increase in human growth hormone (HGH) levels and higher blood flow to the brain. Theta brainwaves sit between the realms of the subconscious and conscious mind, making them an especially useful brainwave state for developing creative thinking, working through emotional problems, and integrating subconscious and conscious experience.
I am fortunate to be working with Deepak Chopra, M.D., and Dr. Rudy Tanzi, co-authors of the bestselling book Super Brain, on a technology called Brain Wave Entrainment. Deepak is very well known, but Rudy is an amazingly interesting person as well. He is the Kennedy Professor of Neurology at Harvard Medical School and Vice-Chair of Neurology at Mass General Hospital. Rudy co-discovered three of the four original Alzheimer's genes and today runs the Alzheimer's Genome Project. He also plays the keyboards, including, at times, for Aerosmith. He is kind of a real life "Buckaroo Banzai."
On the other hand, if you’re a person who generally has their life together, and who is somewhat successful in your current coping strategies, even if they’re not perfect, then a little bit of additional quiet and relaxation may not seem so dramatic to you as it does to that burned out person. It will feel good, but the degree of difference between that and your normal way of life will not seem so extreme to you as it will to the burned out person. It is a relative experience.
The I-Doser claims it can emulate prescription drug-like effects by listening to MP3's, to get stoned. This is largely a moral panic by parents who flunked science fueled by the eternal quest by teenagers to get stoned, and stupid ones convincing their friends it works. It is really more of wishful thinking and making yourself disoriented by playing discordant sounds really damn loud. If you want to experience it yourself, you can always listen to Bjork Captain Beefheart dubstep.
Whenever we become very relaxed and the usual chatter of the mind slows down a little bit, if we remain aware and do not slip into sleep or unconsciousness, we begin to perceive things that we had not noticed before. This is slightly different than the issue of “expectations” discussed previously, although a relationship to them can develop which will be discussed below. These have to do with the fact that in our typical state of consciousness our mind is racing so fast and so loud, and our body is so engaged with activity and physical tension, that we are unaware of some subtle perceptions that are there all the while, but which get buried beneath all the physical and mental noise.
In the average person, the activity of one brain hemisphere is dominant over the other, called brain lateralization. This hemispheric imbalance leads us to experience the world in a black and white way, perceiving separation over connectedness. When brainwave entrainment is used to synchronize brainwave activity in both hemispheres simultaneously, a person can more easily integrate information from all parts of the brain and solve problems with greater intelligence and sensitivity.
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Our brainwave states are natural. Guiding the brain into those states intentionally by using entrainment is just another way of experiencing those same natural states. Nothing “unnatural” is produced by the brain as a result of using entrainment. The only thing that is different is that when using entrainment we often go into the experience with either general expectations, or a well defined laundry list of specific expectations that we associate with entrainment. We have no such list going throughout our normal day when we’re not using entrainment.
For many of us, relaxation means zoning out in front of the TV at the end of a stressful day. But this does little to reduce the damaging effects of stress. To effectively combat stress, we need to activate the body’s natural relaxation response. You can do this by practicing relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, rhythmic exercise, and yoga. Fitting these activities into your life can help reduce everyday stress, boost your energy and mood, and improve your mental and physical health.
In fact just having a particular range of brainwaves running through our grey matter is also not “meditation”. Brainwaves are not the cause of the meditative state. They are only an indicator that we might be in a meditative state. And then again we might be in some other state as well. Those exact same brainwave frequencies are present during many different activities and states of consciousness, not just during meditation.
Recently developed entrainment software has been designed to correct specific imbalances in hemispheric activity associated with undesirable mind-states. For example, people suffering with depression often have more activity in the right hemisphere, and specially designed brainwave music decreases this activity while increasing activity in the left hemisphere, reducing depression.
You know how movie characters always look themselves in the restroom mirror when faced with a tough situation? Well, giving yourself a quick pep talk in the looking glass can actually help relieve stress. “‘Mirror work‘ is done by looking in a mirror and vocally speaking positive affirmations to yourself with affectionate conviction, to release worry or to improve your self-confidence,” Whitaker says. To relieve stress in the moment, she suggests using a restroom mirror, your car’s rear-view mirror, or even a compact. “Calm your mind by saying encouraging affirmations aloud to yourself, such as, ‘I am excellent at what I do,’ ‘I’ve got this! I am amazing,’ ‘I am an asset to this company,’ or ‘I am awesome!’” she says.
The functional role of neural oscillations is still not fully understood; however they have been shown to correlate with emotional responses, motor control, and a number of cognitive functions including information transfer, perception, and memory. Specifically, neural oscillations, in particular theta activity, are extensively linked to memory function, and coupling between theta and gamma activity is considered to be vital for memory functions, including episodic memory.