While only the most science-ignorant fool thinks that the entire brain pulses in time to one frequency, EEGs show that at any given time, the electrical patterns that your brain produces are made up from distinct wave forms ranging from 0.5 Hz (pronounced Hertz, or cycle per second) up to 30 or more Hz. Researchers divide these frequencies into the following four groupings:
Beta 14 - 30 Hz
Alpha 8 - 13 Hz
Theta 4 - 7 Hz
Delta 0.5 - 3 Hz
When we say that you are "in beta state" (which you normally are), what we're saying is that that's the dominant set of frequencies, the ones with the highest amplitudes. Beta is associated with alertness, with the highest frequencies in that range often described as "fight/flight" mode. Alpha frequencies have long been associated with meditation and relaxation. Theta waves are considered by some to be associated with a dreamy, creative states. Delta waves are generally strongest when you're asleep.
The electrical frequencies given off by your brain vary from spot to spot. When the whole brain is dominated by one frequency, and especially when the two halves of your brain are in synch, this is called hemispheric synchronization.
In some studies, meditation, drumming, swimming with dolphins, binaural beats, photic stimulation, and in some cases EMG and EEG biofeedback have been shown to alter the distribution of these frequencies, and sometimes to encourage hemispheric synchronization. This process is known as entrainment. How they do it is subject to debate, but this alteration is usually attributed to something called the Frequency Following Effect.
Whether or not altering your brainwaves has any effect on your mind, body, or mood is subject to even more debate. On one side are the people who insist that stimulating appropriate brainwaves is "instant Zen," as Zygon advertised. There are others who insist that brainwaves are just a scalar wave, noise given off by the brain's mental and biological processes. Most people on MIND-L fall somewhere between the two camps.
One particular frequency, the Schumann Resonance, corresponds to the frequency of certain standing waves of electrical activity in the upper atmosphere. Although this phenonemon varies everywhere from 7 Hz to 50 Hz or more, the number is usually given as 7.83 Hz. Some mystics who are also users of mind machines insist that attuning your brain so that the dominant frequency is 7.83 Hz puts you in mystical communion with the planet. As we say on the net, Your Mileage May Vary (YMMV).
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