Alpha is the frequency range from 8 Hz to 12 Hz. Hans Berger named the first rhythmic EEG activity he saw, the "alpha wave." This is activity in the 8-12 Hz range seen in the posterior regions of the head on both sides, being higher in amplitude on the dominant side. It is brought out by closing the eyes and by relaxation. It was noted to attenuate with eye opening or mental exertion.
Beta is the frequency range from 12 Hz to about 30 Hz. It is seen usually on both sides in symmetrical distribution and is most evident frontally. Low amplitude beta with multiple and varying frequencies is often associated with active, busy or anxious thinking and active concentration. Rhythmic beta with a dominant set of frequencies is associated with various pathologies and drug effects, especially benzodiazepines. Activity over about 25 Hz seen in the scalp EEG is rarely cerebral (i.e., it is most often artifactual). It may be absent or reduced in areas of cortical damage. It is the dominant rhythm in patients who are alert or anxious or who have their eyes open.
Gamma is the frequency range approximately 26–100 Hz. Because of the filtering properties of the skull and scalp, gamma rhythms can only be recorded from electrocorticography or possibly with magnetoencephalography. Gamma rhythms are thought to represent binding of different populations of neurons together into a network for the purpose of carrying out a certain cognitive or motor function.