Tuning brainwaves to improve learning

Neurons generate electric currents. Synchronized rhythmic patterns of electrical activity produced by neurons in the brain, aka large-scale neural oscillations also known as "brainwaves", can be monitored and graphically documented by an electroencephalogram (EEG). Each brain has its own natural rhythm. The functional role of neural oscillations is still not fully understood, but they have been shown to correlate with emotional responses, motor control, and a number of cognitive functions including information transfer, perception, and memory.

Brainwave entrainment, also referred to as brainwave synchronization or neural entrainment, refers to the observation that brainwaves naturally synchronize to the rhythm of periodic external stimuli, such as flickering lights, speech, music, or things that can be felt with your skin - like feeling the air on a windy day or the warmth of a hug.

As simplified by ELI5 powered by ChatGPT, brain entrainment is a special kind of music that helps your brain relax and focus. Special sounds like binaural beats, tones, or lights, can change your brain's electrical activity. This change helps to relax, focus or get to sleep more easily.

A new study found that briefly tuning into a person's individual brainwave cycle before performing a learning task can dramatically boost the speed at which cognitive skills improve. This is achieved by matching the entrainment pulse to the trough of the individual's brainwave and can result in faster learning in a visual identification task. Brain entrainment may boost perceptual learning by altering gain control mechanisms in the visual cortex.

Visual flicker paradigm has been previously shown to result in an increase in alpha power within posterior brain region. Another recent article reveals how neuron populations in different individuals synchronize during social interactions.


Michael E, Covarrubias LS, Leong V, Kourtzi Z. Learning at your brain’s rhythm: individualized entrainment boosts learning for perceptual decisions. Cerebral Cortex. 2022 Nov 9.

M. Xu et al., “Two-in-one system and behavior-specific brain synchrony during goal-free cooperative creation: an analytical approach combining automated behavioral classification and the event-related generalized linear model,” Neurophotonics 10(1), 013511 (2023), doi 10.1117/1.NPh.10.1.013511


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