Gamma brain waves are the fastest brain waves produced inside your brain. If a doctor were to put electrodes on your head and hook them up to a machine to graph the resulting electrical activity — a process known as an electroencephalogram (EEG) — the waves would be very high frequency.

Gamma waves tend to measure above 35 Hz — and in fact, they can oscillate as fast as 100 Hz. However, they can be hard to measure accurately with existing EEG technology. In the future, researchers hope to glean more information about how these brain waves work.

Gamma waves are evidence that you’ve achieved peak concentration. In other words, when you’re intensely focused and your brain is very actively engaged in solving a problem, this is when your brain is likely producing gamma waves. They help you process information.

Research suggests that people with learning difficulties or impaired mental processing may not produce as many gamma waves.

How are gamma waves different to other brain waves?

Think of brain waves as a spectrum that range from very fast to very slow. Gamma waves, of course, appear at the fast end of the spectrum. Besides fast-moving gamma waves, your brain also produces the following types of brain waves.

If your doctor evaluates your brain with an EEG while you’re awake, alert, and engaged, the predominant waves will be beta waves. These waves tend to measure in the 12 to 38 Hz range.

When you’re awake but feeling quiet and contemplative, that’s when alpha waves tend to rise to the occasion. Alpha brain waves are situated in the middle of the spectrum of brain waves. They tend to measure between 8 and 12 Hz.

Theta waves are the brain waves that occur in the 3 to 8 Hz range. They can occur when you’re sleeping, but they tend to be more dominant when you’re deeply relaxed or in a meditative state.

Deep dreamless sleep produces a type of brain wave known as the delta wave. These waves are low and slow. An EEG would measure these waves in the 0.5 and 4 Hz range.

Is it important to keep your brain waves balanced?
Your brain cycles through all five of the different types of brain waves at various times. Imagine yourself flipping through a radio dial, stopping for a little while to catch a tune on each station before moving on to the next. This is similar to how your brain cycles through brain waves.

But there are factors that can disrupt this healthy balance. Stress, a lack of sleep, certain medications, and other factors can affect your brain and the type of brain waves it produces.

Injuries to the brain may also play a role. A 2019 study showed that people who’d experienced combat-related trauma to their brain had developed “markedly elevated” levels of gamma waves. Specifically, mild injury had occurred to two of the four lobes of their cerebral cortex, the prefontal cortex, and the posterior parietal lobe.

According to the researchers, the abnormal level of gamma waves was associated with poorer cognitive function. The researchers concluded, in the future, evidence of unusual gamma wave activity might spur further investigation into mild head injuries that might otherwise get overlooked.

The bottom line
Your brain normally produces five different types of brain waves at different times. Each type of brain wave moves at a different speed. Some are fast while others are slower.

Gamma brain waves are the fastest brain waves produced inside your brain. Although they can be hard to measure accurately, they tend to measure above 35 Hz and can oscillate as fast as 100 Hz.

Your brain tends to produce gamma waves when you’re intensely focused or actively engaged in solving a problem. Gamma waves help you process information.

If you’re unable to concentrate as well as you normally do, you might have some type of brain wave imbalance. Talk to your doctor to find out if you need to undergo any evaluation.