What are Brainwaves?

Part 1 of a 2-Part Series

Brain PowerWe are electrical beings. Our bodies produce electricity every second of every day. Our heart beats because of rhythmic, electrical pulses created by specialized cells located within the heart itself. The 100 billion neurons in our brain constantly create electrical pulses every second of every day.

Brain electricity is like a symphony. Our brain creates synchronized electrical pulses generated from masses of neurons communicating with each other. This electrical activity is known as brainwave activity.

Have you ever watched ocean waves while sitting on the beach?Brain and Ocean Waves

You can see each wave begin on the smooth surface. The water lifts up, comes to a crest and finally crashes to the shore. That is one cycle. In stormy weather, the waves follow each other quickly. Their frequencies are fast. In calm weather, the frequency of the generated waves is slower. If you counted and timed each wave, you would know the frequency of the waves per second.

Hertz, not the car rental company

What is a Hertz
What is a Hertz?

Hertz is an international unity of measure where 1 hertz (Hz) is equal to one cycle per second. Just like the electricity that powers your appliances, brainwave activity is measured in Hertz. Hertz tells us the frequency in which a cycle of electrical activity occurs.

The electricity used in our homes is just one frequency. It is 50Hz, or 50 cycles per second. However, our complex and magnificent brains produce much more than just one frequency. Our brains produce at least six different brainwave frequencies. Some have been known and studied for decades, others have been recently discovered, as our ability to measure brainwave activity continues to advance.


Pain-free Electroencephalography (EEG) measures brainwave activity. Metal sensors (called electrodes), placed on the scalp, detect electrical activity in the brain. They are attached to an EEG machine. This amplifies the signals and records them in  a wave pattern on graph paper or computer screen.Brain waves

All mammals create brainwave activity. The first mention of electrical activity in the brains of animals was made in 1875, by Dr. Richard Caton, a physician practicing in Liverpool. In 1912, scientists made the first EEG recording of brainwave activity in an animal, a dog. Dr. Hans Berger made the first EEG recording of a human brain in 1924.

Love Your BrainEEG Side Effects? No!

  • There are no side effects or risks associated with having an EEG. It is a non-invasive and painless procedure. There is no electrical stimulation going into the brain or body from the electrodes placed on the scalp.  Scalp electrodes detect electrical activity.
  • EEG’s monitor coma patients and persons who have experienced traumatic brain injury. These tests determine if adequate brain activity exists to sustain life.
  • EEG measurements confirm or rule out various conditions such as epilepsy, encephalitis, sleep disorders, stroke, brain tumor, memory problems, learning disabilities, or dementia. An EEG monitors brain activity during brain surgery.Brain Power
  • The EEG is an important diagnostic tool in understanding brain function and detecting problems in the electrical activity of the brain.

Check back in two weeks, to read the conclusion of this two-part series.

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