Brain Wave Coherence
Coherence heals. The coherence effect is the healing effect from making the mind and the body function in a more orderly or coherent way. It’s the most important factor in whether we’re healthy, which is starting to be recognized by modern science.
Measuring brain waves with EEG technology
Brain wave coherence, for example, is the new frontier in brain science. When studying brain waves, the term “coherence” means that the cells in different parts of the brain are firing at the same time in the same way (more about this in chapter 2). This is important because one part of the brain is responsible for memory, one for reasoning, several parts for creativity, and so on. And because success requires many different areas of the brain to work together, the different areas need to be communicating with each other, and they communicate by a synchronous, or coherent, firing. Brain coherence improves mental functioning and self-esteem, and is associated with reduced anxiety, depression, stress, and other disorders. Conversely, the absence of brain wave coherence is associated with autism, schizophrenia, and Alzheimer’s disease. These findings are why researchers today are looking so closely at brain wave coherence.
Harvard Medical School Professor of Psychiatry Robert W. McCarley says that “synchronized [brain] rhythms characterize conscious thought, perception and problem solving” and that “our brains need a coherence of firing to organize perception and analysis of data from the world around us.” Reference: Bergland, C., “Alpha Brain Waves Boost Creativity and Reduce Depression,” Psychology Today, April 17, 2015, online at https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-athletes-way/201504/alpha-brain-waves-boost-creativity-and-reduce-depression.
What Meditation Practice Develops Brain Wave Coherence?
So, if we are going to try meditation to develop brain coherence, which do we choose? The first pictures below show brain wave coherence during sleep and for a four-month practitioner of the Transcendental Meditation (TM) technique. The four-month meditator is showing brain wave coherence in the front of the brain (the decision-making part of the brain) in the critical alpha frequency (8-10 Hz) [more on why this is important in the book]. No other meditation practice has been shown in the literature to develop alpha brain wave coherence (other than a single study of Zen Buddhist priests who were meditating for many years). And the published reports do not show that mindfulness or other popular meditation practices produce any significant brain coherence other than several studies on Sahaja meditators who show theta coherence [see chapter 3 in the book for a complete analysis of different meditation programs and their effect on brain waves].
The peaks show periods of strong coherence. As can be seen, there is not much strong brain coherence during sleep. The coherence is much more pronounced after just four months of meditation. The picture on the right (above) shows the increased brain wave coherence for a particular 5-year meditator, and the coherence has spread to many different frequencies [more on this in the book].
On the side of the picture on the right are designations “EO” (eyes open and not meditating), “EC” (eyes closed and not meditating), and “TM” (during the TM session). What is most important is that the coherence in the longer-term meditators is not just during the meditation session, but is strong even when the person is not meditating. This is what we need for high performance—coherence when we are at work or solving problems. And it is what we need for health—the brain is the control center of the body and when the brain becomes coherent, it causes the body to become more orderly or coherent, reducing or eliminating many disorders such as insomnia, anxiety, depression, PTSD and others.