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Beta Brain Waves - More about the research in this image
Beta is generally the mental state most people are in during the day, and usually this state in itself is uneventful. However, beta brain wave activity is significant to proper mental functioning, and insufficient beta activity can cause mental or emotional disorders such as depression, ADD and insomnia.
Broadly speaking, beta brain waves are associated with alert attentiveness and concentration- intense focus and problem solving are linked to beta activity. Beta waves can also be related to strong, excited emotions.
Medications that are designed to induce concentration and alertness, such as Ritalin or Adderall, actually produce a beta brain wave state in most subjects.
All 4 of the studies highlighted in the infographic above met Dr. Tina Huang's standards for inclusion in her landmark 2008 article, "A Comprehensive Review of the Psychological Effects of Brainwave Entrainment."
To be included in that review, articles had to be original, full-length journal articles in peer-reviewed journals, and the studies had to be of an experimental design, with outcomes measured using reliable and appropriate test procedures, and with statistical outcomes revealed.
That highly selective criteria means that these studies represent only a portion of all of the work conducted in this field, but are decidedly some of the most significant. Keep reading to learn more about the incredible results of this research.
One of the many examples of research connecting brain wave stimulation to increased cognitive abilities was conducted by Michael Joyce and David Siever, and focused on the reading and verbal skills in elementary school students in Minnesota.
Before and after the study, the students were tested on the STAR (Standardized Test for the Assessment of Reading). The experiment consisted of 31 sessions across 7 weeks. For the first 8 sessions, 7-9hz alpha brain wave stimulation was used. The remaining sessions consisted of isochronic tone stimulation, targeting high alpha in one ear, and beta ranges in the other.
After the 7 weeks of stimulation, the students improved their reading level by over half a grade- a .6 GE improvement. By comparison, the control group only improved by .2 GE.
The grade equivalent (GE) score ranges from grade 0 to 13 and represents a student's actual grade reading level. For example, a student with a GE of 4.7 is reading at the level of a typical student in the 7th month of the 4th grade.
Another measurement used in this test, the percentile rank (PR), ranges from 1 to 99 and indicates a student's reading/verbal ability compared to his/her peers nationally. In this measure, the control group's performance actually decreased slightly, by 1.2. However, the experimental group improved considerably, raising their average PR by 7.2.
In addition to their academic improvements, teachers and parents noted general social improvements, as documented by the research team. One teacher commented, "during the time students participated in the AVE [audio-visual entrainment] program, behavior began to change. Brains were engaged, and students were more alert. And they began actively participating in the teacher-student dialogue portion of the class."
Joyce M, Siever D. Audio-Visual Entrainment (AVE) program as a treatment for behavior disorders in a school setting. J Neurother. 2000;4(2):9-25
Another significant milestone in the history of brainwave stimulation for cognitive enhancement can be found in a 1999 study led by Dr. Thomas Budzynski.
This study was designed to test the hypothesis that extended beta brain wave stimulation would result in positive changes in academic performance. The participants in this study were university students who had signed up for academic counseling, and they were divided into two groups of 8 each. The experimental group received 30 sessions of 14-22hz beta stimulation. The control group received no training.
The training consisted of 15 minute sessions, 5 days of the week for 6 weeks. Subjects were allowed to adjust light intensity levels, based on earlier work finding great individual differences in preference.
To prove that academic performance was enhanced, the group who received stimulation would have to have shown a significantly greater increase in GPA than the control group. That is exactly what happened: students who received the beta stimulation increased their GPAs by a statistically significant degree in the semester after the training- by .62 points on average. On the other hand, the average GPA of students in the control group decreased by .22 points in the following semester.
Another interesting finding in this study is that direct connections were found between EEG activity and student performance. For example, significant correlations were observed between 12-15hz beta activity, and performance on the Digit Span and Symbol tests, as well as 12-15hz beta band activity during arithmetic performance. The subjects who performed best on these tests were demonstrating higher levels of beta activity.
Budzynski T, Jordy J, Budzynski HK, Tang H, Claypoole K. Academic performance enhancement with photic stimulation and EDR feedback. J Neurother. 1999;3(3-4):11-21
Dr. Cary Howard conducted a study in 1986 with the aim of finding methods to reduce exhaustion and stress among dental students. He noted that the negative impact of the heavy workload for these students was well documented and of concern. He conducted a study using photic and audio beta brain wave stimulation, with the supposition that the therapy may reduce fatigue and stress.
The group receiving the treatment included 12 dental students, who completed a course of seven 30-minute sessions over a seven-week period.
The students who received beta wave stimulation experienced significantly lowered levels of fatigue by the end of the seven weeks, as measured by the POMs (Profile of Mood States) test.
Beyond that, students receiving the stimulation showed notable improvements in the quality of sleep they were able to attain. The number of days during which they experienced a sleep disturbance was reduced by more than half, from an average 4.6 down to 2.2. The number of disturbances on a given night and the severity of the sleep interruptions were also greatly reduced.
Howard CE, Graham LE, 2nd, Wycoff SJ. A comparison of methods for reducing stress among dental students. J Dent Educ. 1986;50(9):542-544
One of the most well researched and documented uses for brainwave stimulation is as an aid for those who have trouble focusing- particularly those diagnosed with ADD/ADHD. A major study on this benefit of beta stimulation was conducted in 1996 by Dr. Graham J. Patrick.
In this study, photic (light) stimulation was used, with the aim of increasing beta brain wave activity at the 12-14hz range. The study included a total of 15 daily sessions- each 40-50 minute session consisted of photic beta stimulation for 2-4 minutes, as well as frequent rest periods.
The experimental group subjects made highly significant gains in attention, as evidenced by their scores on the WISC-3 freedom from distractibility scales, which improved by 81%. These participants also made major gains in controlling impulsivity, demonstrated in their improved WISC-3 processing speed scale scores, which also increased by 81% following stimulation.
The study drew the definitive conclusion that "the subjects did benefit from the 15 sessions of neurotherapy." In stark contrast, none of the 10 control group subjects showed significant changes in any measurement.
A secondary but intriguing finding in this study was that 72% of the subjects increased variability in beta brain wave activity. Increased variability in the EEG sample indicates some samples were much higher and some much lower, which could suggest a degree of training to produce more beta activity.
Another fascinating study actually compared the use of brain wave stimulation against the use of Ritalin. In this study by Dr. Lawrence Micheletti, the children participating had their IQs tested before and after treatment. I.Q. was tested on the Wide Range Achievement Test (WRAT), Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test (PPVP) and Raven's Progressive Matrices (Raven).
One group of students received a 20-minute beta session, five days a week, for a total of 40 sessions. The other group had their IQ tested while not taking medication, and then began taking Ritalin as perscribed for the 4 week period.
The IQ tests from after the treatment were compared with those from before. The result was that the students who received audio visual stimulation demonstrated greater improvement, compared to the students on Ritalin, in all 5 of the IQ tests.
Patrick GJ. Improved neuronal regulation in ADHD: An application of 15 sessions of photic-driven EEG neurotherapy. J Neurother. 1996;1(4):27-36.
Siever, D. Applying Audio-Visual Entrainment Technology for Attention and Learning. Biofeedback Magazine. 2003; 31(4)