Meditation has been generally associated with a reduced sense of stress, anxiety, depression and so on, while having an increased healthy state of mood, self-control, and cognitive function. In recent years, many schools have replaced detention with meditation and have incorporated mindfulness into their education system.
Not only are schools seeing significant changes in behavioral issues but this ability to control the self and raise awareness in the moment has trickled into everyday activities while in the classroom and home life. It’s no secret that once skills such as self-understanding, stress management and general awareness are fine-tuned in children they’re prone to grow into introspective and thoughtful individuals. Not to say that a person can’t gain these traits in absence of this childhood exposure.
However, these practices are simply tools that if utilized at a young age would only increase exponentially through experience and improvement.
While many claim psychological benefits, some might argue that meditation is nothing more than a fad whose benefits are placebo related. It’s difficult to accurately study and effectively measure psychological changes considering there are many different types of meditation practices which were developed for a spectrum of different reasons. However, there are three types of science based meditations: Focused Attention, Open Monitoring, and Self-Transcendence (Transcendence meditation/TM).
In an article written in the Consciousness and Cognition Journal published in 2010 entitled “Focused attention, open monitoring and automatic self-transcending: Categories to organize meditations from Vedic, Buddhist and Chinese traditions” by Travis F & Shear J; EEG bands were used to measure the most active brain waves during each meditation practice.
“Focused attention, characterized by beta/gamma activity, included meditations from Tibetan Buddhist, Buddhist, and Chinese traditions. Open monitoring, characterized by theta activity, included meditations from Buddhist, Chinese, and Vedic traditions. Automatic self-transcending, characterized by alpha1 activity, included meditations from Vedic and Chinese traditions. Between categories, the included meditations differed in focus, subject/object relation, and procedures. These findings shed light on the common mistake of averaging meditations together to determine mechanisms or clinical effects.” (Conscious Cogn. 2010)
An increased Gamma activity is present with the Vipassana practice. This is a noteworthy breakthrough as Gamma activity closely follows local changes in brain blood flow and increases synaptic plasticity important for long term memories and serves purposes including control of mental processing.
The Loving-kindness-compassion practice shows an increased frontal-parietal gamma coherence and power. The Zen meditation presents an increased frontal midline theta. Sahaja yoga increases frontal midline theta and frontal-parietal theta coherence. Transcendental meditation presents a range of different scans from an increased frontal alpha1 power to an increased frontal coherence in the first minute of TM practice and continued high coherence throughout the session.
What Are Gamma Brain Waves?
The fastest documented brainwave frequency range is that of Gamma Brain Waves – which oscillate within the range of 40 Hz to 70 Hz. Gamma Brain Waves have the smallest amplitude on an E.E.G. in comparison to the other four basic types of brainwave frequencies. Gamma Brain Waves have long been considered the brain’s information and sensory-binding brainwave – or the brainwave that is able to link and process information from all parts of the brain. Having high amounts of Gamma Brainwave activity has been associated with: having high levels of intelligence, being compassionate, having high amounts of self-control, and feelings of natural happiness.
Gamma Brain Waves have also been linked to having a great memory and an increased perception of reality. People lacking in Gamma Brainwaves tend to experience difficulties with learning and mental processing. Usually people with impaired or retarded mental functioning tend to have significantly less Gamma Brainwave activity than those who have average and above-average intelligences. There seems to be a correlation with higher amounts of Gamma Brainwave activity and increased brain functioning ability.
What Are Theta Brain Waves?
Theta Brain Waves are the second slowest frequency of brain waves. They typically cycle at a rate of 4-7 times per second (4 Hz – 7 Hz). Theta Brain Waves have long been associated with early stages of sleep and the process of dreaming. Theta Brain Waves are of high amplitude and usually kick in when you experience powerful surges of emotion. Theta Waves have been associated with states of enhanced creativity, “Super Learning,” deeper relaxation, day-dreaming, and sleep-dream activity.
Theta Brain Waves can kick in when you have a spiritual experience or while you are in a highly-creative state. On other occasions, Theta Waves may dominate our brain wave activity when we are not able to concentrate. People with attention-deficit problems (ADD and ADHD) are not able to shift out of the Theta State when events that require focus (i.e. Taking a test) arise. This makes school work much harder for people with attention problems. However, the majority of healthy people are able to naturally shift their brainwave state from Beta to Alpha to Theta and back from Theta to Alpha to Beta in cases where extreme mental focus is required.
Alpha Brain Waves Background Information
Alpha Brain Waves are brain waves within the documented frequency range of 8 Hz to 12 Hz on an E.E.G. and were the first brainwave frequency range to be discovered. In 1908, an Austrian research psychiatrist was the first individual to find “brain waves.” He happened to have found the range of brain waves cycling at a rate of 8 Hz to 12 Hz per second. He named them Alpha Waves (“Alpha” translates to “first” in Greek) due to the fact that they were the first brainwave range to be found and observed in an electroencephalograph (E.E.G.).
Thousands of brainwave researchers have taken the time to learn more about our brainwave frequencies and states of consciousness. Researchers have found that Alpha Brain Waves are associated with states of peace and relaxation. Not everyone even has Alpha Brain Waves due to the fact that they diminish when you get stressed out, nervous, or tense. If this is the case, your brain will shift to a fast-paced state of mind consisting of Beta Brain Waves.
When you take the time to breathe deeply, meditate, or close your eyes, there will be a big increase in the amount of alpha brainwave activity inside your brain. Alpha Brain Waves are not the slowest brain waves though. Theta Brain Waves, which cycle from 4 Hz to 7 Hz (e.g. 4-7 times per second) are associated with early stages of sleep. Even slower than Theta Waves is range of Delta Brain Waves which cycle from 1 Hz to 4 Hz (e.g. 1-4 times per second). Delta Brain Waves are associated with deep sleep and being completely unconscious.
The following is from the
International Journal of Neuroscience
Dr. Robert Keith Wallace was one of the first scientists to study the effects of meditation on aging. His research was based on the practice of Transcendental Meditation.
Dr. Wallace found that subjects with an average chronological age of 50 years, who had been practicing Transcendental Meditation for over 5 years, had a biological age 12 years younger than their chronological age. That means a 55-year-old meditator had the physiology of a 43-year-old.
Several of the subjects in the study were found to have a biological age 27 years younger than their chronological age. This study has since been replicated several times. Other studies have also shown the beneficial effects of Transcendental Meditation on the aging process.
Words by Raymond Pichardo.