Theta waves also have been observed in moments when a person recalls information from the past, and this may be what links them also to improvement in learning ability. We also experience theta waves when we go into automatic pilot mode, such as when doing a repetitive task like driving a familiar route where the mind become disconnected while you still drive safely toward your destination.
Theta waves have another interesting characteristic. The Earth has a measurable resonance of 7.83 hertz known as the Schumann resonance. Because the Schumann resonance is a constant background frequency surrounding all life, it may play a special role in biological activity. The Schumann resonance frequency falls within the range of theta brainwaves and may have something to do with why these brainwave frequencies are so powerful.
While visual entrainment is more powerful than audio alone for inducing desired brainwave states, more caution is needed when using visual methods. Between 0.3 and 3 percent of the population is susceptible to having seizures from flickering light stimulation, and for other people, flickering visual stimuli simply makes them uncomfortable. People with epilepsy have a greater chance of having a seizure from exposure to flickering light stimulation.
Beta brainwaves are next highest in frequency after alpha waves, occurring at 13 to 30 hertz. Beta brainwaves are what we experience every day as we are awake and using our analytic mind. Beta brainwaves are needed for concentrating on mental tasks, and when they are present for too long of a time, they lead to stress, anxiety, and even paranoia. Most people do not have trouble achieving beta brainwaves and in fact suffer from spending too much time in beta brainwave patterns. However, those with attention deficit disorder (ADD) who have problems focusing their attention can benefit from learning how to achieve and remain in beta brainwave states for longer amounts of time.
Electroencephalography (EEG) has been used in many studies as a primary method for evaluating the meditating brain. Electroencephalography uses electrical leads placed all over the scalp to measure the collective electrical activity of the cerebral cortex. Specifically, EEG measures the electric fields of large groups of neurons. EEG has the benefit of excellent temporal resolution and is able to measure aggregate activity of portions or the entire cortex down to the millisecond scale. Unlike other imaging based methods, EEG does not have good spatial resolution and is more appropriately used to evaluate the running spontaneous activity of the cortex. This spontaneous activity is classified into four main classifications based on the frequency of the activity, ranging from low frequency delta waves (< 4 Hz) commonly found during sleep to beta waves (13–30 Hz) associated with an awake and alert brain. In between these two extremes are theta waves (4–8 Hz) and alpha waves (8–12 Hz).