Many mind power tools depend on entering the alpha level or state through deep relaxation. The alpha rhythm is an activity recorded by the Electroencephalograph (EEG). The EEG records the electrical activity of the brain from electrodes attached to the scalp. The activities change depending on whether you are awake, relaxed, drowsy or asleep. They also change depending on the health of the brain. The EEG test is used, in hospitals, to assist in the diagnosis and management of the epilepsies.
The diagram shows part of an EEG recording. It shows only 4 out of the 24 channels of the recording over a 4 – 5 second period. The 4 channels are from electrodes on the right side of the head starting from the forehead and going backwards to the occipital region of the brain. Because it is recording from near the eyes, the first channel picks up eye movements. You can see what happens when the eyes close. The dip before that represents an eye blink. The activity that we are interested in is the quasi-sinusoidal rhythm seen in the bottom 3 channels after eye closure. In this case, traces of the rhythm can be seen even in the first channel. The darker, yellow vertical lines are 1-second time markers. Counting the peaks of the waves in one second you will see that, in this case, the alpha rhythm is about 11-12 cycles per second or Hertz (Hz).
The above trace shows that the alpha rhythm is partly or completely blocked by eye opening. When the eyes are open, the mind is more active. The activity appears more readily, when the eyes are closed because we tend to be more relaxed with the eyes closed. It is then most obvious towards the back of the head in the occipital regions.
Children, from about 10 years of age onwards, and all adults (including the elderly) have an alpha rhythm between 8 and 13 cycles per second in the waking state. This activity is most obvious in the posterior regions of the brain on eye closure.
Other Brain Waves
There are other activities recorded by the EEG. Delta waves (<4Hz) are seen in neonates and toddlers as well as in all age groups during deep sleep. Theta waves (4-<8Hz) are prominent in children between the ages of 2 years and 6 years. They are seen in all age groups during drowsiness and very light sleep. Beta activity (14-30Hz) is seen in all age groups from 2 years onwards. It is present even in the waking state when the alpha rhythm is prominent. It usually becomes most obvious when the eyes are open and the alpha rhythm is blocked. Often the beta activity appears superimposed on the alpha rhythm.
In some subjects, during the waking state, alpha activity is well-formed and continuous and in others it is intermittent. In tense and anxious subjects the activity may be of such low amplitude that it is disorganised and/or barely discernible. Beta activity is then more apparent. However, if the subject goes into a deep state of relaxation the alpha rhythm becomes more organised, more abundant, more widespread and continuous. This is what I associate with the alpha level. A routine procedure, during an EEG, is to get the subject to deep breathe. This effectively relaxes the subject and significantly enhances the appearance and spread of the alpha rhythm.
The brain has a left and a right hemisphere often called the left brain and the right brain. If you are right-handed your dominant brain is the left brain. The dominant hemisphere is responsible for logical, intellectual, analytical and verbal activities such as reading, writing and arithmetic (1). The non-dominant hemisphere is the non-verbal, creative, musical and emotional brain. It is the intuitive part of us. When you are relaxed and in the alpha state you shift into right-brain dominance (1) where you become more creative and intuitive (2, 3, 4). Visualisation and imagery are most effective in this state (1, 2, 5) and so are many mind power tools which utilise visualisation. The state is also achieved during meditation and during hypnosis (1). According to Laura Silva (2), you can develop your creative side and your intuition at the alpha level. This level is also associated with accelerated healing.
In Alpha Biofeedback techniques the subject watching his EEG in real time can change his physiology to become more and more relaxed. This, in turn, increases the amount of alpha activity in his recording. It is one of the many ways to learn to relax.