Brainwave rhythms and academic excellence

For the first time, University of Cambridge scientists have demonstrated that delivering information at the natural tempo of a person’s individual brainwave cycle improves ones cognitive skills.

Our Brain And New Information

According to the research team, our capacity to absorb and adapt to new information increases when information delivery rates are adjusted to match our natural brain tempo.

Natural Rhythm

This is a unique discovery as each brain has its own rhythm. Its fluctuation simulations which were conducted have made it clear that the brain reaches its best state to flourish when working in that brainwave cycle. The following research could be a key to lifelong learning.


Prof. Zoe Kourtzi of Cambridge’s Department of Psychology states “Each brain has its own natural rhythm, generated by the oscillation of neurons working together.” In order to get the brain in tune with itself and to function efficiently, these fluctuations were simulated with the help of Electroencephalography, or EEG to measure electrical activity in the brains of 80 study participants.

Alpha Waves

To be more specific, alpha waves were in focus of the study, as they usually are the most powerful when we are awake and relaxed.

The frequency of alpha waves ranges from eight to twelve hertz. However, within that range, each person has a unique peak alpha frequency.

The Experiment

A whole optical “pulse” was therefore created by scientists using this data in order to conduct a following experiment:

Before being given a difficult cognitive task, participants received a 1.5-second dose of personalized pulse to get their brains working at their natural rhythm, a technique called “entrainment”(when brain naturally synchronizes to the rhythm of periodic external stimuli, such as flickering lights, speech, music, or tactile stimuli). The task was to distinguish particular shapes from a number of items which formed visual clutter.

Completing Cognitive Tasks

Some participants received rhythms that were either random or at the wrong rate (a little faster or slower), while others received pulses that were in line with their waves’ peak or trough (brainwave cycle parts). The neuroscientists measured how quickly each participant improved after performing over 800 different variations of the cognitive task.

The results were groundbreaking: among all the groups, those who were in sync with the natural rhythm learned at least three times faster. Moreover, those participants even maintained their higher performance levels while working with another round of tasks.

Perception Of The World

Therefore, what is insightful in this discovery, as co-author Prof. Victoria Leong from NTU and Cambridge’s Department of Paediatrics states, is that we treat our brains and the perception of the world completely different from what the scientific reality is: “We feel as if we constantly attend to the world, but in fact our brains take rapid snapshots and then our neurons communicate with each other to string the information together.”

Information Delivery

The essence of the in-focus hypothesis is that the information we learn is remembered faster and better by means of matching information delivery to our natural brainwave rhythm. That is when our neurons are at the height of their ability to respond to different stimuli by producing action potentials or impulses of electrical signal. The stimuli involved in the process include chemicals such as neurotransmitters released by neurons or hormones distributed by the blood.

Lifelong Learning

To conclude, neuroplasticity and its effect on lifelong learning can assist us in achieving personal fulfillment and satisfaction, whether we are pursuing professional goals or personal interests and passions.

It encourages us to improve our own quality of life and sense of self-worth by paying attention to the ideas and goals that inspire us and acknowledges that humans have a natural desire to explore, learn, and grow.

Original article can be found via the following link:

Tuning into brainwave rhythms speeds up learning in adults

Lifelong Learning