Your brain is a busy place.
Brain waves are, essentially, the evidence of electrical activity produced by your brain. When a group of neurons sends a burst of electrical pulses to another group of neurons, it creates a wave-like pattern.
These waves are measured in speed cycles per second, which we describe as Hertz (Hz). Depending on how awake and alert you are, the waves might be very fast, or they might be very slow. They can and do change, based on what you’re doing and how you’re feeling.
The fastest brain waves are waves known as gamma waves. These brain waves, which admittedly can be hard to measure accurately with current technology, are proof that your brain is hard at work, processing information and looking for solutions to problems.
Keep reading to learn more about gamma brain waves, the benefits of these waves, and the role they play in your daily life.
Picture yourself deeply immersed in a complex project or fascinated by a lecture from a noted subject matter expert. You’re alert and highly focused. You may even be sitting on the edge of your seat. Your brain is, as the old expression goes, firing on all cylinders.
When this happens, your brain is producing gamma brain waves.
Gamma brain waves are the fastest brain waves produced inside your brain. If a doctor were to put electrodes on your head and hook them up to a machine to graph the resulting electrical activity — a process known as an electroencephalogram (EEG) — the waves would be very high frequency.
Gamma waves tend to measure above 35 Hz — and in fact, they can oscillate as fast as 100 Hz. However, they can be hard to measure accurately with existing EEG technology. In the future, researchers hope to glean more information about how these brain waves work.
Gamma waves are evidence that you’ve achieved peak concentration. In other words, when you’re intensely focused and your brain is very actively engaged in solving a problem, this is when your brain is likely producing gamma waves. They help you process information.
Research suggests that people with learning difficulties or impaired mental processing may not produce as many gamma waves.
Think of brain waves as a spectrum that range from very fast to very slow. Gamma waves, of course, appear at the fast end of the spectrum. Besides fast-moving gamma waves, your brain also produces the following types of brain waves.
If your doctor evaluates your brain with an EEG while you’re awake, alert, and engaged, the predominant waves will be beta waves. These waves tend to measure in the 12 to 38 Hz range.
When you’re awake but feeling quiet and contemplative, that’s when alpha waves tend to rise to the occasion. Alpha brain waves are situated in the middle of the spectrum of brain waves. They tend to measure between 8 and 12 Hz.
Theta waves are the brain waves that occur in the 3 to 8 Hz range. They can occur when you’re sleeping, but they tend to be more dominant when you’re deeply relaxed or in a meditative state.
Deep dreamless sleep produces a type of brain wave known as the delta wave. These waves are low and slow. An EEG would measure these waves in the 0.5 and 4 Hz range.
However, meditation processes vary widely. As such, more research is needed to narrow down the exact processes that can boost the gamma wave production before one particular style can be recommended for this purpose.
Meditation does have numerous other health benefits, though. Research has shown that it’s especially helpful for reducing stress, anxiety, and depression.
So, while the exact method of boosting gamma waves through meditation still needs to be determined, you can still reap other benefits from this practice.
Another possible way to help your brain produce more gamma waves? Eat pistachios.
While this suggestion might raise your eyebrows, a 2017 study showed that eating certain nuts, notably pistachios, seemed to produce a greater gamma wave response. According to the same study, popping peanuts could generate more delta waves.
While more research is needed to further explain this association, we know from other research that nuts offer numerous other health benefits.
Your brain cycles through all five of the different types of brain waves at various times. Imagine yourself flipping through a radio dial, stopping for a little while to catch a tune on each station before moving on to the next. This is similar to how your brain cycles through brain waves.
But there are factors that can disrupt this healthy balance. Stress, a lack of sleep, certain medications, and other factors can affect your brain and the type of brain waves it produces.
Injuries to the brain may also play a role. A 2019 study showed that people who’d experienced combat-related trauma to their brain had developed “markedly elevated” levels of gamma waves. Specifically, mild injury had occurred to two of the four lobes of their cerebral cortex, the prefontal cortex, and the posterior parietal lobe.
According to the researchers, the abnormal level of gamma waves was associated with poorer cognitive function. The researchers concluded, in the future, evidence of unusual gamma wave activity might spur further investigation into mild head injuries that might otherwise get overlooked.
Your brain normally produces five different types of brain waves at different times. Each type of brain wave moves at a different speed. Some are fast while others are slower.
Gamma brain waves are the fastest brain waves produced inside your brain. Although they can be hard to measure accurately, they tend to measure above 35 Hz and can oscillate as fast as 100 Hz.
Your brain tends to produce gamma waves when you’re intensely focused or actively engaged in solving a problem. Gamma waves help you process information.
If you’re unable to concentrate as well as you normally do, you might have some type of brain wave imbalance. Talk to your doctor to find out if you need to undergo any evaluation.