Alpha Brain Waves Reduce Depression: How To Stimulate Them?

Alpha brain waves are found in the frequency range between 8 and 12 Hz. They are the result of that synchronous and more rhythmic brain activity that favors relaxation and concentration, also stimulating our creativity and well-being and even reducing the symptoms associated with depressive states.

These brain waves and the fact that we can enhance them does not mean that we are going to be able to completely remit a mood disorder, such as anxiety or depression. What training these states of calm and balance that mediates with alpha waves achieves is to reach a more satisfactory, calm and prepared internal state to be able to face these psychological realities with better resources.

It is a means to an end. Furthermore, in recent years work has already been done more widely on electrical stimulation of the brain, in order to increase the appearance of these types of waves. Studies, such as the one carried out in the Department of Psychiatry, University of Minnesota and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), show us that applying low currents such as those contained between 8 and 10 hertz, very positive results are being achieved in the field of neuropsychiatry.

Let’s learn more about it.

Patients with chronic fatigue have been found to have certain alterations in alpha brain waves, often leading to problems falling asleep and cognitive disorders such as difficulty focusing attention.

Alpha brain waves, our allies to boost creativity and reduce depression

Our brain is made up of billions of neurons that communicate with each other through electrical impulses. In this way, when we speak of brain waves, we refer precisely to those impulses that flow from one neuron to another through any brain region. Furthermore, it does not matter that we are asleep or even that a person is in a coma; that electrical activity will always be present as long as we are alive.

On the other hand, an interesting aspect is the fact that each of the 5 types of brain waves that appear in our brain have a specific function. For example, gamma waves are raised by high-level cognitive processes such as consciousness, attention, concentration, or reasoning. Delta waves, on the other hand, have a greater wave amplitude when we sleep but do not dream. Thus, theta waves arise when we experience intense emotions, such as anxiety and stress.

Now, it is possible that among these five typologies, the most fascinating are alpha waves. Discovered by the German physiologist and psychiatrist Hans Berger in 1924, they represented a before and after in many respects. The first, because Berger also invented the electroencephalogram, thereby changing the history of neurology. The second, because we found another way to reduce the effects of anxiety and depression.

Alpha waves and creativity

A study conducted at the University of North Carolina by Dr. Caroline Lustenberg pointed out an interesting idea. When people are relaxed or more connected to what surrounds us, alpha waves rise. In those states where the brain’s electrical activity works at these frequencies, the brain produces more innovative ideas and inspiration increases.

Depression and alpha waves

A person with depression, like a patient suffering from anxiety, fibromyalgia, or chronic fatigue, will show an altered alpha wave pattern. There is a continuous oscillation, when in reality, these waves are characterized by an almost perfect synchrony. This has led neurologists and neuropsychologists to become interested in brain stimulation as a means of increasing these types of waves and thus mediating the well-being of many patients with psychiatric disorders.

Likewise, the Harvard Medical School (HMS) also advanced the hypothesis that  when alpha waves are active, the production of the inhibitory neurotransmitter GABA increases, a key component to reduce fear, stress, anxiety, etc.

How can we increase the presence of alpha brain waves?

Alpha brain waves are, as we see it, very important in mediating our well-being. How then can we produce them ourselves to reduce the symptoms associated with depression? Actually, there are several ways to achieve this. Some, for example, resort to neurofeedback.

It is a type of brain electrical activity training that uses operant conditioning and electroencephalogram technology. In these cases, the patient will have electrodes placed on the head (no shocks are applied) that will measure the activity of the brain waves. Then, together with a specialized technician, you will be shown a series of images on a screen to work on the increase in alpha brain waves.

On the other hand, and beyond neurofeedback, there are other simpler strategies that we can all develop on a day-to-day basis. They are as follows:

  • Meditation or Mindfulness.
  • Yoga.
  • Deep breathing
  • Progressive muscle relaxation.
  • Daydreaming or guided imagery techniques.
  • Music or binaural sounds. It is a type of auditory stimuli contained in a frequency lower than 1000 Hz, where a different sound is created in each ear. In this way, relaxation and the appearance of alpha brain waves are stimulated.

To conclude, as we see it is an interesting topic. Despite this, let’s not forget that many more strategies are needed to treat depression. However, facilitating the appearance of this type of waves will always mediate our well-being in order to thus advance in recovery and in psychological therapy itself.