Applied Research Using Alpha/Theta Training for Enhancing Creativity and Well-Being : Journal of Neurotherapy: Investigations in Neuromodulation, Neurofeedback and Applied Neuroscience. Volume 5, Issue 1-2, 2001

Introduction. Previous research has supported anecdotal reports of a possible correlation between the state of hypnagogia and the enhancement of creative ability (Green, 1972; Green, Green, & Walters, 1970, 1974; Parks, 1996; Stembridge, 1972; Whisenant & Murphy, 1977). Some psychologists (e.g., Maslow, 1963; Rogers, 1978) have suggested that there is also a correlation between creative ability and enhanced well-being.

Methods. This study utilized an 8-week repeated-measures experimental design to investigate the effects of electroencephalogram (EEG) biofeedback on the willful use of hypnagogia for increasing creativity and well-being. The sample size of 62 (30 experimental subjects and 32 controls) was comprised of both sexes with a mean age of 45. The EEG parameters of hypnagogia were broadly defined as the presence and predominance of alpha and theta brain wave activity. Creativity was defined by the three most readily agreed upon divergent thinking abilities: (a) fluency (the ability to generate numerous ideas), (b) flexibility (the ability to see a given problem from multiple perspectives), and (c) originality (the ability to come up with new and unique ideas).

Results. Hypnagogia was analyzed through multiple univariate analyses of variance. The EEG data showed that both experimental and control participants were able to achieve light to deep hypnagogic states in every training session. T-tests results on fluency and originality scores from the Torrance Test of Creative Thinking and the Christensen-Guilford Associational Fluency Test showed no significant changes in pre- and post-tests for either group. However, flexibility in thinking, as measured by the Alternate Uses Test was significantly increased (p < .001) for all participants. Well-being, as measured by the Friedman Well-Being Scale, also significantly increased for all participants (p = .002).

Discussion. The data suggest that willful use of hypnagogia may indeed increase creativity and well-being. Participants reported increased personal creativity, stress reduction, heightened self-awareness, emotional equanimity, and improved work performance.


A Theory of Alpha/Theta Neurofeedback, Creative Performance Enhancement, Long Distance Functional Connectivity and Psychological Integration: John Gruzelier (2008): Cogn Process DOI 10.1007/s10339-008-0248-5

Creativity of the kind traditionally associated with hypnogogia, is the ability to retrieve, understand and express novel orderly relationships.  It involves making new cognitive associations between items already stored in long-term memory. Here it is posited that novel cognitive associations require the integration of distributed neural networks. That this gave a particular role for theta and low alpha was established by those memory and learning studies in animals that demonstrated that it was alpha and theta that carried information over long distance distributed connections (von Stein and Sarntheim 2000). Similarly the act of meditation, aside from increasing the theta and low alpha power of the EEG spectrum, also increased theta coherence between distal electrode derivations in both the caudal and lateral dimensions of the topographical EEG (Aftanas and Golocheikine, 2001). Indeed a study of creative thought has confirmed an increase of anatomically distributed coherence of EEG oscillations (Petsche 1996), especially amongst the low end of the spectrum—delta, theta and low alpha. Accordingly, here it is hypothesised that creative cognitive associations arise   from integration through the co-activation by slow wave activity of distributed neural networks, for which the relaxed hypnogogic state is especially conducive


Better than sleep: Theta neurofeedback training accelerates memory consolidation

Abstract - Consistent empirical results showed that both night and day sleep enhanced memory consolidation. In this study we explore processes of consolidation of memory during awake hours. Since theta oscillations have been shown to play central role in exchange of information, we hypothesized that elevated theta during awake hours will enhance memory consolidation. 

We used a neurofeedback protocol, to enhance the relative power of theta or beta oscillations. Participants trained on a tapping task, were divided into three groups: neurofeedback theta; neurofeedback beta; control. We found a significant improvement in performance in the theta group, relative to the beta and control groups, immediately after neurofeedback. Performance was further improved after night sleep in all groups, with a significant advantage favoring the theta group. Theta power during training was correlated with the level of improvement, indicating a clear relationship between memory consolidation, and theta nerofeedback.

Abstract- Evidence is presented that EEG oscillations in the alpha and theta band reflect cognitive and memory performance in particular. Good performance is related to two types of EEG phenomena (i) a tonic increase in alpha but a decrease in theta power, and (ii) a large phasic (event-related) decrease in alpha but increase in theta, depending on the type of memory demands. Because alpha frequency shows large interindividual differences which are related to age and memory performance, this double dissociation between alpha vs. theta and tonic vs. phasic changes can be observed only if fixed frequency bands are abandoned. It is suggested to adjust the frequency windows of alpha and theta for each subject by using individual alpha frequency as an anchor point. Based on this procedure, a consistent interpretation of a variety of findings is made possible. As an example, in a similar way as brain volume does, upper alpha power increases (but theta power decreases) from early childhood to adulthood, whereas the opposite holds true for the late part of the lifespan. Alpha power is lowered and theta power enhanced in subjects with a variety of different neurological disorders. Furthermore, after sustained wakefulness and during the transition from waking to sleeping when the ability to respond to external stimuli ceases, upper alpha power decreases, whereas theta increases. Event-related changes indicate that the extent of upper alpha desynchronization is positively correlated with (semantic) long-term memory performance, whereas theta synchronization is positively correlated with the ability to encode new information. The reviewed findings are interpreted on the basis of brain oscillations. It is suggested that the encoding of new information is reflected by theta oscillations in hippocampo-cortical feedback loops, whereas search and retrieval processes in (semantic) long-term memory are reflected by upper alpha oscillations in thalamo-cortical feedback loops.


Abstract- Modern-day sleep researchers have defined the twilight sleep in terms of brainwave patterns and eye movements. Sleep researchers Foulkes and Vogel (1964), for example, spoke of the drowsy period just preceding Stage 1 sleep as characterized by a slowing of the alpha rhythm (8 - 12 Hz) accompanied by slow rolling eye movements (SEMS). As the individual passes into Stage 1 sleep the slowed alpha rhythm begins to break up and is replaced by an even slower, smaller amplitude theta rhythm (4 - 7 Hz). The duration of this transition, as one falls asleep, from a relaxed, waking alpha pattern to the disappearance of the alpha and the appearance of theta is roughly five to ten minutes. During this rather brief period people typically report emergent, hallucinatory, dreamlike experiences which are more disjointed and brief rather than those dreams associated with rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. Clinicians know that this state can result in the emergence into consciousness of hitherto repressed or forgotten memoriesThus the theta or twilight state is useful for the "mining" of such material.


Earlier EEG reports linked theta waves over the midfrontal region with states of focused attention during problem-solving tasks. These distinctive trains of rhythmic 6 to 7 cps activity tended to wax and wane. They were often called ‘‘frontal midline theta’’ or ‘‘mental theta.’’ Later MEG studies show that ‘‘mental theta’’ has deeper origins. Its source is farther down within the medial prefrontal and anterior cingulate regions. One MEG report briefly notes that frontal midline theta waves can occur during zazen and Yoga meditation. This informal study lacks subjective reports. It needs to be fully documented.Because our frontal lobes do keep monitoring and updating our responses,they help us maintain a given task ‘‘online.’’ A different phrase, ‘‘working memory,’’ is used to describe related frontal lobe functions. These are the kinds that help us keep certain recent items actionably ‘‘in mind’’ for brief periods. Intracranial EEGs have been recorded from patients. They show that theta increases more when the patients rely on their memory alone to navigate through a virtual maze as opposed to being guided by visual arrow cues. Standard EEG studies suggest that our short-term working-memory tasks are associated not only with coherent prefrontal theta activities (4–7 cps) but also with theta in the posterior association cortex. These joint findings seem to correlate with the actual functional links joining the frontoparietal regions.


Budzynski and psychobiologist Dr. James McGaugh of the University of California at Irvine have both found that information is also more easily processed and recalled in a theta state. Noted researchers Elmer and Alyce Green, of the Menninger Foundation, have also studied this phenomenon, finding that memories experienced in a theta state “were not like going through a memory in one’s mind but rather like an experience, a reliving.” Individuals producing theta waves also had “new and valid ideas or synthesis of ideas, not primarily by deduction but springing by intuition from unconscious sources.” In their seminal book, Beyond Biofeedback, the Greens further discussed many remarkable effects of the theta brain wave state. They found that those producing theta waves became highly creative. They had life-altering insights, what the Greens called “integrative experiences leading to feelings of psychological well-being.” On psychological tests, subjects scored as being “psychologically healthier, had more social poise, were less rigid and conforming, and were more self-accepting and creative.

The presence of theta patterns (4–7 Hz) in the brain has been associated with states of increased receptivity for learning and reduced filtering of information by the left hemisphere. This state of awareness is available for relatively brief periods as the individual enters a state of reverie or passes in and out of the deep sleep phase of the 90 minute sleep cycle. [Binaural beat] signals, however, can facilitate a prolonged state of theta to produce a relaxed receptivity for learning . . . [These signals] create a state of coherence in the brain. Right and left hemispheres as well as subcortical areas become activated in harmony, reflected by equal frequency and amplitude of EEG patterns from both hemispheres. This creates an internal physiological environment for learning which involves the whole brain. The linear, sequential style of problem solving preferred by the left hemisphere is brought into balance with the global, intuitive style of the right hemisphere and limbic system (subcortex). This allows the learner to have greater access to internal and external knowledge and provides a milieu for expanding intuition in problem solving. One of the by-products of hemispheric synchronization appears to be a highly focused state of attending.


The effect of training distinct neurofeedback protocols on aspects of cognitive performance.

Abstract- The use of neurofeedback as an operant conditioning paradigm has disclosed that participants are able to gain some control over particular aspects of their electroencephalogram (EEG). Based on the association between theta activity (4-7 Hz) and working memory performance, and sensorimotor rhythm (SMR) activity (12-15 Hz) and attentional processing, we investigated the possibility that training healthy individuals to enhance either of these frequencies would specifically influence a particular aspect of cognitive performance, relative to a non-neurofeedback control-group. The results revealed that after eight sessions of neurofeedback the SMR-group were able to selectively enhance their SMR activity, as indexed by increased SMR/theta and SMR/beta ratios. In contrast, those trained to selectively enhance theta activity failed to exhibit any changes in their EEG. Furthermore, the SMR-group exhibited a significant and clear improvement in cued recall performance, using a semantic working memory task, and to a lesser extent showed improved accuracy of focused attentional processing using a 2-sequence continuous performance task. This suggests that normal healthy individuals can learn to increase a specific component of their EEG activity, and that such enhanced activity may facilitate semantic processing in a working memory task and to a lesser extent focused attention. We discuss possible mechanisms that could mediate such effects and indicate a number of directions for future research.