Brain waves control our concentration?
We have always experienced our minds wandering through the movie scenes or playground or even our dinner menu. But it is difficult to concentrate on the specific task at hand. This is more or less common to all of us irrespective of age. A recent study undertaken by UC Berkley revealed that measuring brain activities through brain waves can shed light on where the mind or the internal thought process flows. This study by the team of scientists from UC Berkley, the University of Calgary, and the University of Virginia got published in the famous Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
How do brain waves work?
Our brain is divided into few regions which lead to some specific tasks. Electroencephalogram (EEG) records the specific brain waves from those brain parts when they work on certain tasks. The prefrontal cortex and Parietal cortex, for example, are two important parts of our brain that have the responsibilities to take a decision and hear, see, etc respectively. When they are engaged in those tasks, brain waves with some certain wavelengths are emitted and those can be recorded with EEG by putting the electrodes on the brain i.e., around the head.
What did the scientists learn from brain wave measurements?
A study was conducted on 12 subjects (human beings) in which it was revealed that when their concentration gets hampered or the mind wanders aimlessly while doing a job, a slow-moving “Alpha” type brain wave is emitted abundantly from Prefrontal Cortex. In addition, a weak type of brain wave named “P3” is emitted from Parietal Cortex.
Professor Robert Knight from the department of Psychology and Neuroscience from UC Berkley says, “This is the first time that we were able to record the neuro-physical signals of our internal thoughts. This understanding will help us to differentiate between healthy and disordered thoughts.”
Another study was conducted on 39 subjects where their thought processes while doing a job were categorized into four departments:
- specific to the task,
- forcefully limited,
- willingly limited.
On a scale of 1 to 7, they were asked to rate their thought processes. This review was compared to the simultaneously recorded brain waves and it was found that when their mind wanders freely, a large number of Alpha waves are emitted and the emission of P3 waves get decreased.
Increased emission of Alpha waves means increased activities at Prefrontal Cortex where all the creative thinking takes place. Ellison Gopnik, a scientist associated with this study from UC Berkley, says, “Our study suggests that mind-wandering is actually a positively fruitful or creative feature of our thought process.”
This research might shed light on how to control the thought processes of patients with psychological disorders and treat them in the future. This study with brain waves has the potential to be key in shaping healthy and ordered thinking.