Increasingly, science is able to identify optimal brain wave activity according to types of tasks needing completion and/or particular mental states being sought. Science is also exploring ways to alter those brain waves to create a more balanced brain capable of performing optimally. This is especially important in the case of beta brain waves, given their many positive benefits.
About Brain Waves
Brain waves are the electrical impulses generated by the brain in its various functioning. They are categorized into four different types based on frequency ranges: delta (0.1-3.5 Hz), theta (4-8 Hz), alpha (8-112 Hz), and beta (12-30 Hz). These frequencies are measured via an electroencephalogram (EEG) in which sensors are lightly affixed to specific points on the scalp to obtain brain wave readings. A frequency refers to how often a wave repeats itself within a second.
About Beta Brain Waves
Beta brain waves are the most common brain wave in awake individuals and are characterized as active and quick. Because they encompass such a broad frequency range, they are sometimes further broken down as low beta (12-15 Hz), mid-range beta (15-18 Hz), and high beta (18-30 Hz). Beta waves are produced predominantly on the left side of the brain and increase as a person ages. Low-range to mid-range beta waves are considered normal brain activity, generally found when a person has his eyes open and is engaged in processing information either through listening or thinking. This is also true of the high-beta range, but at the higher frequency, anxious, agitated thoughts and excessive stress reactions are observed.
Positive Influence of Beta Brain Waves
Many positive attributes are associated with beta brain waves in the low-range to mid-range frequencies that are crucial to successful daily living. These include being focused, alert, goal-oriented, able to concentrate and problem-solve, and think quickly. This, in turn, influences many positive behaviors such as self-confidence, being more social and outgoing, upbeat and energetic. Consequently, a person's overall health and productivity benefit. Optimal beta levels have also been shown to improve IQ and interestingly, writing abilities.
Potential Negative Impact of Beta
Excess beta brain waves are known to sometimes result in negative consequences. For example, individuals with paranoid schizophrenia frequently have very high beta brain wave levels. Very low beta levels are commonly found in people with depression. Also, the brain's inability to control beta waves is associated with Parkinson's disease and other movement disorders. This speaks to the importance of finding ways to maintain optimal beta wave function.
Altering Beta Brain Waves
Research continues on ways to optimize beta brain wave levels. Neurofeedback has been producing some remarkable results by utilizing EEG technology, combined with interactive software, to create biofeedback for the brain. Through neurofeedback, the brain is capable of retraining itself to function in a more balanced mode, improving function in conditions such as ADHD, PTSD, brain injury, depression and addiction. Mindfulness meditation is also proving to be helpful in achieving more optimal brain states, especially in calming the brain, thus lowering or balancing beta brain waves. Brain wave training is becoming more popular and involves the use of binaural tones. As the brain synchronizes hearing these different tones simultaneously in different ears, more balanced brain waves have been documented. Scientists are also developing technology where electrodes are actually being implanted in specific parts of the brain, providing relief to patients with Parkinson's and other movement disorders influenced by beta waves. The future for maintaining optimal beta wave levels is bright.