Andy’s Quick Hits (107): What Your Brain Waves Say about You

Andy Hab
2 min readOct 22, 2021

What do my brain waves say about me?
Well that is to catch you attention. But this piece of research, by Mannson et al of the Karolinska Institutet, also caught my attention.

And what was it about?
It was about predicting therapy success with brain wave variability

What is brain wave variability?
This is the variation in your brain waves as you sit and do nothing. Your brain is fluctuating all the time as your mind wanders. Previously many researchers had just seen this as noise in the background but it seems to be a useful marker.

A marker of what?
Well in this study they measured the success of therapy outcomes for those going through treatment for anxiety. This was using the well-known method of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). Participants had their brain waves measured while doing nothing and while looking at emotional faces.

And what happened?
Well, those who had greater brain wave variability responded best to the treatment. This could be measured after only three minutes.

So you can predict success of therapy with this?!
Yes, seems so. After only three minutes! Obviously more research needs to be done.

Indeed, though I have to say brain wave variability is something I’ve had my eye on before, specifically through the work of someone called Per Bak who showed that the brain operates in self-organised criticality (SOC). Precisely these self-organised waves of activity. This could just be predicting a healthier brain and one that can learn quicker.

Anything you can do to help this?
I don’t think so — apart from getting a good night’s sleep!

Andy publishes a quick hit every weekday on all things the brain, behaviour, and business. Please follow to receive your daily dose. Full list here.

Andy is author of leading brains Review a monthly e-magazine on all things the brain, behaviour, and business.

Kristoffer N.T. Månsson, Leonhard Waschke, Amirhossain Manzouri, Tomas Furmark, Håkan Fischer, Douglas D. Garrett.
Moment-to-moment brain signal variability reliably predicts psychiatric treatment outcome.
Biological Psychiatry, 2021
DOI: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2021.09.026



Andy Hab

Sharing fascinating, fun, and important knowledge on the brain and human behaviour - most days. And masters track athlete - still going strong!