The Science

 

You and Your Brainwaves - The Basics

One of the primary functions of SmartSound™ is to assist with brainwave 'management' via our sound technologies.

The study of brainwaves and related phenomena remains a work in progress for neuroscientists, but from our perspective as therapeutic sound specialists we're including some of the basics below, in part to help explain how influencing brainwave patterns using our technologies may offer various forms of assistance.  

 

What are brainwaves?

Brainwaves are basically your neurons communicating via rhythmic waves of synchronised electrical activity throughout your brain. Different brainwaves (and combinations) correlate to particular physiological processes and states of consciousness, from deep dreamless sleep to heightened states of awareness - and beyond.

Brainwave frequencies are identified by their bandwidth (in Hertz (Hz) or cycles per second) which can be measured by an EEG or electroencephalograph. (You can see one of our EGG 'brain maps' elsewhere on this site). 

In descending order (fastest to slowest) your major brainwave frequencies are gamma, beta, sensorimotor rhythms (SMR), alpha, theta, delta and sub-delta. See 'Brainwave Frequencies and Effects' for more information.

Although one may be dominant at any given time - such as delta during deep sleep, this incredibly complex system involves interplays between frequencies (such as 'coupling' where one rhythm nests within another) and many other processes yet to be fully understood.

 

Your dominant brainwaves determine your state of consciousness

Like a vast polyrhythmic orchestra, your brain is constantly producing different 'suites' or combinations of brainwave frequencies and patterns. As mentioned, those that are dominant at any given time will influence  your state of consciousness and produce a characteristic 'signature' or physiological effect.

For example, brainwave patterns of stress, panic or anxiety are often associated with high-range beta frequencies and the production of stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline, accelerated heart and breathing rates and other fight-flight-freeze phenomena.  While potentially lifesaving in an emergency, this kind of survival response can severely impact our health if chronic and unresolved - or overwhelm us in acute 'eruptions' such as panic attacks for example.

Conversely, when you are feeling calm but alert, for example in the upper alpha range, your brainwave patterns tend to be much more coherent, resulting in optimal heart and breathing rates and so on.

 

Neuroplasticity and brainwaves

The brain of course is now known to be neuroplastic - capable of changing and adapting throughout life. And while brainwave patterns have been shown to alter over time as a result of practices such as long-term meditation or repetitive exposure to certain stimuli, they can also be temporarily influenced and altered by your thoughts and emotions, exercise, food, pharmaceuticals, technology and so on.

A simple example is the caffeine in your coffee, a stimulant known to temporarily boost beta brainwaves and therefore, alertness.

A recent study has found that even eating certain nuts on a regular basis can strengthen brainwave frequencies associated with cognition, learning, healing, memory and other key brain functions.

The point here is that your brainwaves can be influenced and changed in varying degrees by many different means, including technologies like SmartSound™. 

 

Brainwaves can get ‘stuck' and 'out of balance’

Unfortunately, the ability to access optimal brainwave patterns for a given task or situation is not always as easy or automatic as it should be. Problematic brainwave patterns can become 'hardwired' as the default and highly resistant to change due to long term conditioning and habituation, trauma and so on. This is an example of maladaptive, rather than beneficial neuroplastic change.

Not surprisingly, being 'stuck in the wrong gear' at any given time (neurological dysregulation) can greatly impact your day to day wellbeing and performance.

Those with ADHD for example often produce counterproductive slow wave patterns when faced with tasks requiring concentration which would normally involve beta activity. To help counter this, and excessive diurnal slow wave activity in general, they may be prescribed Ritalin or other stimulant medications known to encourage faster, beta brainwave activity.

Clinical depression likewise is also typically associated with excessive slow wave production - resulting in a lack of motivation and energy amongst other things. Clinical sound research suggests one way to help alleviate depression is to counter slow wave production by exposing the brain to faster frequencies such as beta 1 or 2 during the day. And, as you'll read in 'Brainwave Frequencies and Effects', gamma stimulation is also proving helpful.

Conversely, for those with insomnia or other sleep onset issues, there's often a problem 'shifting down' from fast, alert beta brainwave activity (and its accompanying 'mind chatter') at bedtime. Research suggests such conditions may be assisted by inducing the slower 'sleep' frequencies of alpha, theta and delta at or around bedtime - and further supplemented by exposure to beta or SMR stimulation during the day to assist with alertness and concentration.

Hopefully, these examples have helped you understand some of the basic principles involved in 'brainwave management' .

 

 

NeuroSonica.

Hearing is Believing!

 

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