Discovered by Austrian Psychiatrist Hans Berger in 1908, Alpha brainwaves cycle 8 to 13 times per second, a good bit slower than beta brainwaves. While considered a part of a group of brainwaves, the Alpha brainwave has one distinct trait that makes it stand out from its siblings – it appears and disappears while going through our brain. Sometimes alpha waves are present, sometimes they are not. The disappearance of the Alpha brainwave usually occurs when someone is asleep or experiences heightened emotions such as fear or anger. This brainwave only appears whenever a person is awake and relaxed, a one-of-a-kind distinction among other types of brainwaves.
The objectives and inclusion criteria of the review were clear. Relevant sources were searched for studies, although the restriction to published studies in English meant that the review was prone to publication and language biases. The authors did not state whether steps were taken to minimise the risk of bias and error in the processes of study selection and data extraction (for example, by having more than one reviewer independently make decisions). The authors mentioned which studies were blinded, but it did not appear that study validity was systematically assessed, which made it difficult to judge the reliability of the review findings. The decision to combine studies by narrative synthesis appeared appropriate given the strong clinical heterogeneity between the studies, but the authors failed to quantify the size or statistical significance of the findings reported. The evidence presented appeared to justify the authors’ conclusions that further research was justified, but in view of the dearth of good-quality evidence and problems with methodology and reporting in the review, the conclusions regarding efficacy did not appear reliable.
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Beta brainwaves are next highest in frequency after alpha waves, occurring at 13 to 30 hertz. Beta brainwaves are what we experience every day as we are awake and using our analytic mind. Beta brainwaves are needed for concentrating on mental tasks, and when they are present for too long of a time, they lead to stress, anxiety, and even paranoia. Most people do not have trouble achieving beta brainwaves and in fact suffer from spending too much time in beta brainwave patterns. However, those with attention deficit disorder (ADD) who have problems focusing their attention can benefit from learning how to achieve and remain in beta brainwave states for longer amounts of time.
Many people experienced in using alpha brainwave entrainment report that the state of mind associated with alpha waves is a time when they feel most consciously connected to their subconscious mind. The intense experience of hypnagogic sleep, reported by some people as a feeling of being awake and asleep at the same time, is also associated with alpha brainwaves.
There are many advantages and disadvantages with binaural beats. One of the major advantages is hemispheric synchronization. Since both hemispheres are required to create the beat within the brain, this method is an excellent way to create greater harmony between areas of the mind typically functioning independently. Binaural beats are also known to have effective hypnotic and relaxing effects.
When the brain is stimulated with pulsed sounds (neuro-electrical activity via the nerves originating from the ears), the overall activity of the brain will respond to and align with these pulses. By selecting the desired rate, the brain — via the frequency following response (entrainment) — can be naturally induced towards the selected brainwave state.
Subsequently, the term 'entrainment' has been used to describe a shared tendency of many physical and biological systems to synchronize their periodicity and rhythm through interaction. This tendency has been identified as specifically pertinent to the study of sound and music generally, and acoustic rhythms specifically. The most ubiquitous and familiar examples of neuromotor entrainment to acoustic stimuli is observable in spontaneous foot or finger tapping to the rhythmic beat of a song.