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Beta waves

Beta wave, or beta rhythm, is the term used to designate the frequency range of brain activity between 12 and 30 Hz (12 to 30 transitions or cycles per second). Beta waves are split into three sections: High Beta Waves (19Hz+); Beta Waves (15-18Hz); and Low Beta Waves (12-15Hz). Beta states are the states associated with normal waking consciousness.


Low amplitude beta waves with multiple and varying frequencies are often associated with active, busy, or anxious thinking and active concentration.

Over the motor cortex beta waves are associated with the muscle contractions that happen in isotonic movements and are suppressed prior to and during movement changes.[1] Bursts of beta activity are associated with a strengthening of sensory feedback in static motor control and reduced when there is movement change.[2] Beta activity is increased when movement has to be resisted or voluntarily suppressed.[3] The artificial induction of increased beta waves over the motor cortex by a variety of Transcranial magnetic stimulation called Transcranial alternating-current stimulation consistent with its link to isotonic contraction produces a slowing of motor movements.[4]


Rhythmic beta with a dominant set of frequencies is associated with various pathologies and drug effects. For instance, beta activity can be accentuated by sedative-hypnotic drugs such as benzodiazepines or barbiturates. It can also be absent or reduced in a patient with cortical damage. Exaggerated beta activity is found in Parkinson’s disease and this links to their motor slowing.[5]


  1. ^ Baker SN. (2007). Oscillatory interactions between sensorimotor cortex and the periphery. Curr Opin Neurobiol. 17(6):649-55. PMID 18339546
  2. ^ Lalo E, Gilbertson T, Doyle L, Di Lazzaro V, Cioni B, Brown P. (2007). Phasic increases in cortical beta activity are associated with alterations in sensory processing in the human. Exp Brain Res. 2007 Feb;177(1):137-45. Exp Brain Res. 177(1):146. PMID 16972074
  3. ^ Zhang Y, Chen Y, Bressler SL, Ding M. (2008). Response preparation and inhibition: the role of the cortical sensorimotor beta rhythm. Neuroscience. 22;156(1):238-46. PMID 18674598
  4. ^ Pogosyan A, Gaynor LD, Eusebio A, Brown P. (2009). Boosting cortical activity at Beta-band frequencies slows movement in humans. Curr Biol. 19(19):1637-41. PMID 19800236
  5. ^ Hammond C, Bergman H, Brown P. (2007). Pathological synchronization in Parkinson's disease: networks, models and treatments. Trends Neurosci. 30(7):357-64. PMID 17532060

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