Gamma brain waves are the fastest documented brain wave activity on an E.E.G. oscillating between 40 Hz and 100 Hz. Because they are the “fastest” brain wave activity, they also have the smallest amplitude on an E.E.G. (electroencephalogram) in comparison to the other major ranges of brain wave frequencies. Gamma waves play a role in sensory-binding as well as information processing within the human brain. They are able to link and process information throughout the entire brain. Individuals with healthy gamma wave activity have been associated with having increased problem solving skills, compassion, self-control, and intelligence.
They also play a role in helping us perceive reality and help us with memorization. Individuals that experience a shortage of gamma wave activity tend to have learning disabilities, mental retardation, and problems with cognitive functioning. Individuals that have brain injuries may also experience a shortage of gamma brain wave activity. If you are a person that has a healthy amount of gamma waves, your brain should be functioning quite well.
Gamma Brain Waves: What do they do?
The earliest reports of gamma brain waves were from 1964 when scientists recorded the electrical activity in the visual cortex area of awake monkeys.
- Attention: Gamma waves have been documented to help with attention – specifically attentive-focus. Specifically when the brain increases the 40 Hz frequency, various parts of the brain are able to function with efficiency and unison.
- Binding of senses: They bind all the senses together in the brain. In other words, they help your brain process smells, sights, and sounds simultaneously.
- Focus: Individuals with high level mental processing and functioning tend to exhibit greater gamma activity throughout the brain.
- Compassion: In a study with Buddhist monks, it was found that gamma activity increased when they entered a meditative state of compassion.
- Consciousness: The gamma waves throughout your brain help you understand your environment and dictate your experience of consciousness.
- Meditation: Advanced monks have been documented as having increased amounts of gamma activity. This is a result of their meditative practices.
- Mental Processing: Your overall mental processing is influenced by your gamma brain waves.
- Perception: How you perceive reality and how aware you are is directly tied to 40 Hz gamma activity.
- R.E.M. Sleep: Gamma brain waves play an important role in the R.E.M. or Rapid-Eye Movement sleep stage.
- Subjective awareness: Some have suggested that gamma wave activity correlates with subjectivity. However, this is a claim that is not scientifically supported.
- Unity of consciousness: One popular theory suggests that these brain waves contribute to “unity of consciousness.” This is just a theory – take it with a grain of salt.
Gamma Brain Wave Research
2004: Tibetan Buddhist monks were found to have increased levels of gamma waves as a result of Transcendental Meditation practices. This evidence was documented by neuroscientist Sean O’Nuallain who hooked electrodes up to the brains of eight long term Tibetan Buddhist monks. In comparison to novice meditators, the experienced meditators had significantly more gamma activity. This suggests that gamma activity is trainable in anyone.
2009: Nature published a study in which they successfully induced gamma waves in the brains of mice. They performed the study using genetic engineering and light to manipulate nerve cells of the mice. The study concluded that gamma waves were induced from 25 Hz to 100 Hz, but were most prevalent at 40 Hz. This was the first study that showed a brain state can be induced via cell group activation.