While a practical understanding of brainwaves has been around for as long as people have been singing, chanting, and drumming, a scientific view of the electrical activity inside the human brain was not published until 1924 when German psychiatrist Hans Berger developed a machine for sensing and recording activity in the brain by attaching small electrical sensors to the scalp of his patients and recording the resulting electrical activity. Berger’s inventions and discoveries were built upon the earlier work of Richard Caton who published animal studies on brainwave oscillations in 1875.
Each of us is unique, and what works well for me might be totally useless to you. Generically speaking, there are three types of meditation techniques. There are techniques that take your awareness outwards, techniques that take your awareness inwards, and techniques that do a little of both. People with exceptionally busy minds tend to do better with techniques that take awareness outwards since their minds naturally head that direction anyway. People with more contemplative natures tend to do better with techniques that take you inwards. The combination techniques are a “maybe” for just about anyone, but are usually best used when a person has some experience with meditation under their belt.
When people begin to believe these kinds of claims it is only half a step further for them to begin to attribute all of their own curious little experiences to entrainment. After all, they reason in the back of their minds, if 3.84Hz can cure an ovarian cyst, isn’t it just as reasonable that listening to a track at 8Hz might cause the room to appear to spin and change colors? There is an old saying that suggests that the more outrageous a claim is, the more people will be inclined to believe it. Don’t fall for outrageous, ridiculous claims. If you do you’re heading for disappointment, guaranteed.
Because the mind and body are a single system, changing our brainwaves and spending more time in harmonious, relaxed, and restorative mind-states also affects our physical health. Physical health then reinforces our mental-state, and a feedback loop of either positive or negative processes becomes established. Research studies have shown beneficial effects of using brainwave entrainment for treating migraine headaches, premenstrual syndrome, and for managing physical pain.
You know how movie characters always look themselves in the restroom mirror when faced with a tough situation? Well, giving yourself a quick pep talk in the looking glass can actually help relieve stress. “‘Mirror work‘ is done by looking in a mirror and vocally speaking positive affirmations to yourself with affectionate conviction, to release worry or to improve your self-confidence,” Whitaker says. To relieve stress in the moment, she suggests using a restroom mirror, your car’s rear-view mirror, or even a compact. “Calm your mind by saying encouraging affirmations aloud to yourself, such as, ‘I am excellent at what I do,’ ‘I’ve got this! I am amazing,’ ‘I am an asset to this company,’ or ‘I am awesome!’” she says.
OK – so some of this is pretty common marketing hype. Consumers have become almost numb to such hyperbole. But still we see some of the common – almost ubiquitous – elements of pseudoscientific scams. The company claims that the device is “effort-free”, that the results are “rapid and long-lasting,” that it is the “most effective” method of its kind, and that it is useful for a broad range of applications (hey, why limit the market). I am used to such hype about dishwashing detergent, but find it intolerable when applied to a pseudoscientific device with medical applications.
Entrainment is a principle of physics which appears in biology, chemistry, neurology, medicine, astronomy etc. It is defined as the synchronization of two or more rhythmic cycles. In the seventeenth century, Dutch scientist Christian Huygens found out that by placing two unsynchronized clocks side by side on a wall, they would slowly synchronize to each other in a very accurate way. The clocks were the first example of spontaneous synchronization, a phenomenon found throughout nature from cells to the Solar System.
Brainwave entrainment is a colloquialism for such 'neural entrainment', which is a term used to denote the way in which the aggregate frequency of oscillations produced by the synchronous electrical activity in ensembles of cortical neurons can adjust to synchronize with the periodic vibration of an external stimuli, such as a sustained acoustic frequency perceived as pitch, a regularly repeating pattern of intermittent sounds, perceived as rhythm, or of a regularly rhythmically intermittent flashing light.