Practitioners are discovering a number of different areas in which entrainment therapy may bring positive benefits. From managing mental health more effectively through to providing increased mental focus and concentration, it is thought the technique can be adapted according to the specific issues being treated. An improved immune system, enhanced levels of pain management, and a reduction in autoimmune disorders are also thought to be achieved through the therapy, leading many individuals with chronic ill health to consider brainwave entrainment as a non-invasive yet effective therapy.
Some people believe that using this stuff can be a replacement for meditation. While sitting passively and listening to something that can give you the same effect frequency-wise as meditation, there is still far more benefit to meditating than just entrainment. Meditation and mindfulness allow you to really understand yourself on a level far deeper than technology will bring you.
In 1984 medical researcher Dr. Gene W. Brockopp published a paper making several conclusions of audio and visual entrainment (AVE). Such conclusions were that hemispheric synchronization caused by AVE is related to increased intellectual functioning, practiced use of AVE overtime leads to a cumulative effect, and AVE may result in the recovery of early childhood experiences.
Brain Wave Entrainment is any procedure that causes one's brainwave frequencies to synchronize with a periodic stimulus (sound, vibration or light) having a frequency corresponding to the intended brain-state (for example, to induce a trance, dreams, sleep or relaxation.) It is also called the Flicker-response because of how staring at a campfire or the flickering of a burning candle can lull you into a state of calmness and serenity. There was an extensive article on this phenomenon by Gerard Oster in Scientific American in 1973. It may sound novel, but in many ways, this is old tech.
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.
Gamma brainwaves possess the highest frequency we know of. In this state, our brainwaves are so harmonious that many people report feeling elevated states of consciousness, even spiritual experiences. This frequency is often experienced by monks, nuns, yogis, and experienced meditators. Gamma frequencies also enhance memory, awareness, and mental processing.
You listen to binaural beats using headphones. In each ear, you receive sound at a slightly different frequency (often accompanied by some relaxing background sounds). If your left ear receives a 300-hertz tone and your right ear receives a 280-hertz tone, your brain will process and absorb a 10-hertz tone. That’s a very low-frequency soundwave—one you can’t actually hear. But you don’t need to hear the sound for your brain to be affected by it.
Yoga involves a series of both moving and stationary poses, combined with deep breathing. As well as reducing anxiety and stress, yoga can also improve flexibility, strength, balance, and stamina. Since injuries can happen when yoga is practiced incorrectly, it’s best to learn by attending group classes, hiring a private teacher, or at least following video instructions. Once you’ve learned the basics, you can practice alone or with others, tailoring your practice as you see fit.
“The great neuroscientist W. Gray Walter carried out a series of experiments in the late forties and fifties in which he used an electronic stroboscopic device in combination with EEG equipment to send rhythmic light flashes into the eyes of the subjects at frequencies ranging from ten to twenty five flashes per second. He was startled to find that the flickering seemed to alter the brain-wave activity of the whole cortex instead of just the areas associated with vision. Wrote Walter, “The rhythmic series of flashes appear to be breaking down some of the physiologic barriers between different regions of the brain. This means the stimulus of flicker received by the visual projection area of the cortex was breaking bounds— its ripples were overflowing into other areas.”
It is common for people to try entrainment thinking it is going to produce meditation just because they listened to a track. Often they come away disappointed, feeling that nothing special happened. They decide entrainment isn’t what they were led to believe it was. Or they decide meditation is vastly overrated and for them at least, ineffectual. Their disappointment has more to do with not understanding the principles listed thus far than it does with the effectiveness of meditation and brainwave entrainment.
When you listen to binaural beats/tones, you are actually listening to two slightly different pitched frequencies. Each frequency goes to each of your ears independently. When this happens your brain responds by creating a third tone, making up the difference between the two frequencies. This shift in frequency then shifts your brain’s consciousness and changes your state.
So, in summary, binaural beats certainly do not work the way the sellers claim, but there's no reason to think they're any less effective than any other music track you might listen to that effects you in a way you like. If they make you sleepy (like they all do for me), use them to go to sleep. If they relax you or get you amped, use them for that. But don't expect them to be any more effective than regular music. If someone you know claims that they are, put them to the test, and bust the myth.
This is not to say that entrainment cannot produce some physical effects, particularly negative ones. It is possible to induce epileptic seizures using entrainment, especially visual entrainment that employs flashing lights. That’s why people with seizure disorders are uniformly told to consult with their health care provider before using entrainment if they have a seizure disorder or some other serious medical condition.
With digital upgrades, Berger’s machine is still in use today, known as an electroencephalography machine, or EEG. Berger used his machine to study the brains of psychologically normal and abnormal people and discovered the first brainwave, called the alpha wave and also known as the Berger wave, along with the faster beta wave, which he observed suppressing the alpha wave when subjects opened their closed eyes.
^ Bittman, B. B., Snyder, C., Bruhn, K. T., Liebfreid, F., Stevens, C. K., Westengard, J., and Umbach, P. O., Recreational music-making: An integrative group intervention for reducing burnout and improving mood states in first year associate degree nursing students: Insights and economic impact" International Journal of Nursing Education Scholarship, Vol. 1, Article 12, 2004.