The Meditation-Brainwave Connection

October 18, 2009 by  
Filed under Build Mind Power

Years of research shows that some very interesting changes in brainwave frequencies occur as people move toward higher states of mental awareness.

brain-mazeAnd because such awareness shifts often occur to meditators, it is useful to review the brainwave states experienced by meditators.

Beta Brainwaves
Beta brainwaves range from 12 to about 30 on-off cycles per second (cps), and are associated with active thinking, speaking, and analyzing. As such, the meditator must quiet their Beta brainwaves to successfully enter into a meditative state.

Alpha Brainwaves
When brainwave activity is focused primarily within the 8 to 11.9 cps range, Alpha brainwaves are produced if you are relaxed and your eyes are closed. When your brain is generating strong Alpha brainwaves, you tend to experience a pleasant, and mildly relaxed, yet wakeful, state of awareness.

The deeper the Alpha state, the more likely a meditator will experience visual imagery behind their closed eyes. Such a deeper Alpha state is often associated with increased activity in the lower Alpha brainwave range.

When an EEG is used to measure Alpha brainwaves, it is seen that they occur both in bursts (trains of waves) and pulses (single waves.) More advanced meditators tend to produce continuous trains of Alpha waves. Research has revealed that persons such as artists who tend to use the visual and spatial abilities characteristic of the right-brain tend to produce Alpha more easily than more analytical, left-brain thinkers.

It is often possible to determine whether or not a person meditates, and also how long they have been practicing, by simply looking at their Alpha brainwaves. Beginning meditators usually produce faster 10 to 12 cps Alpha brainwaves. But the dominant Alpha frequency deepens with longer meditation practice, and meditators with ten years of experience produce lower Alpha in the 8 to 9 cps frequency range that borders their deeper Theta brainwaves.

Theta Brainwaves
Theta brainwaves occur in the 4 to 7.9 cps frequency range. To the non-meditator, Theta is primarily experienced as the mental state just prior to dropping off to sleep, and also REM (rapid eye movement) sleep.

But to the experienced meditator with a well-established Alpha state, Theta is often characterized by a peaceful sense of bliss and well-being marked by spontaneous creativity and deeply meaningful personal or transcendental imagery.

Delta Brainwaves
Delta brainwaves are the slowest brainwaves, and range from 0 to about 3.9 cps. The Delta state is normally primarily associated with deep sleep, although many interesting mental states occur in Delta to those tuned into these lower brainwaves on a conscious level.

Generally only the most advanced meditators can remain awake while producing Delta brainwaves.

But some non-meditators also produce strong Delta states. Persons with natural ESP abilities, for example, are often able to focus consciously in the 3.8 to 3.9 cps range. And those with psychic abilities or deep intuition also tend to have more active Delta brainwaves.

Gamma Brainwaves
Gamma brainwaves are the fastest brainwave frequencies that have been commonly studied. Gamma brainwaves range from about 28 to 80+ cycles-per-second cps. Each cycle consists of an on peak, and an off valley.

Until recently, Gamma brainwaves were believed to be primarily present during highly focused mental activities or stress. But studies of expert meditators such as Tibetan Buddhist monks has shown that Gamma brainwaves in the 40 cps range are indicative of what experienced meditators describe as higher states mental clarity and insights.

For most people however, these potentially valuable high frequency Gamma brainwaves have little or nothing to do with higher states, and are more often only present during extreme stress.

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Meditation Builds up the Brain

May 5, 2009 by  
Filed under Creativity


Meditating does more than just feel good and calm you down, it makes you perform better and alters the structure of your brain, researchers have found.

People who meditate say the practice restores their energy, and some claim they need less sleep as a result. Many studies have reported that the brain works differently during meditation – brainwave patterns change and neuronal firing patterns synchronise. But whether meditation actually brings any of the restorative benefits of sleep has remained largely unexplored.

So Bruce O’Hara and colleagues at the University of Kentucky in Lexington, US, decided to investigate. They used a well-established psychomotor vigilance task, which has long been used to quantify the effects of sleepiness on mental acuity.

Ten volunteers were tested before and after 40 minutes of either sleep, meditation, reading or light conversation, with all subjects trying all conditions.

What astonished the researchers was that meditation was the only intervention that immediately led to superior performance, despite none of the volunteers being experienced at meditation.

Every single subject showed improvement, says O’Hara. The improvement was even more dramatic after a night without sleep. But, he admits: Why it improves performance, we do not know. The team is now studying experienced meditators, who spend several hours each day in practice.

Brain builder
What effect meditating has on the structure of the brain has also been a matter of some debate. Now Sara Lazar at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, US, and colleagues have used MRI to compare 15 meditators, with experience ranging from 1 to 30 years, and 15 non-meditators.

They found that meditating actually increases the thickness of the cortex in areas involved in attention and sensory processing, such as the prefrontal cortex and the right anterior insula.

You are exercising it while you meditate, and it gets bigger, she says. The finding is in line with studies showing that accomplished musicians, athletes and linguists all have thickening in relevant areas of the cortex. It is further evidence, says Lazar, that yogis aren’t just sitting there doing nothing.

The growth of the cortex is not due to the growth of new neurons, she points out, but results from wider blood vessels, more supporting structures such as glia and astrocytes, and increased branching and connections. news service, By Alison Motluk

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