In order to understand brainwave entrainment you first have to understand something about brain waves and electroencephalograms (EEG). Neurons are cells that communicate with each other through electrical conduction. When a neuron fires it creates a small electrical and magnetic field. These fields are far too small to measure by placing electrodes on the scalp, or even on the surface of the brain. The only reason we can detect the electrical fields of the brain is because many neurons are firing together – in synchrony. All brain waves that are measured by an EEG, therefore, represent a large group of neurons firing together.
You don't have to buy one, though. It's not too hard to make your own binaural beat, and free software is widely available to do just that. The one that I used to make that little sample is an open-source program called Gnaural, available on the Sourceforge website. It's pretty easy to use, though it takes some practice before you can generate some of the really cool, more professional sounding beats. A binaural beat consists of two simple tones, and most people add that background pink noise. Nothing special.
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.
When blended with musical sounds, brainwave entrainment frequencies induce specific states of mind, which are the result of those brainwaves, delivering them in pleasing and relaxing audio tracts for use with and without stereo headphones. For example, alpha and theta waves, because they exist at the borders between conscious and unconscious thought, are especially rich and useful for tapping into and stimulating subconscious processes.
“Chronic stress,” however, is not so easily resolved. This type of stress is associated more commonly with negative health concerns. Chronic stress results when there are constant multiple stressors or major life stressors present (4). Money, work, and the economy were the most commonly reported factors contributing to chronic stress in the American Psychological Association’s (APA) 2011 Stress in America™ survey (3). Additional significant stressors include relationships, family responsibilities, family and personal health problems, job stability, and personal safety (3). Major events, such as the death of a loved one, divorce, and moving also can produce chronic stress.
A study by Tina Huang, PhD, and Christine Charyton, published in the September 2008 issue of the journal, Alternative Therapies examined the results of twenty previous studies measuring the effectiveness of brainwave entrainment for improvements in cognitive dysfunction and deficits, stress reduction, pain management, migraine and headache control, pre-menstrual syndrome, and behavioral difficulties, and all showed significant improvement in symptoms using entrainment techniques.
By exposing an individual to repeatedly external stimulus which can be flashing lights and/or recurring sounds, the entrainment process consists in pushing the brain to adjust to match the frequency provided. Unlike other forms of neurotherapy which require the individual to actively respond to stimulus, entrainment creates an immediate neurophysical response which is instinctive and effortless for the person being provided with the light and/or sound combinations. The key outcome of the sensory stimulation is known as the ‘Frequency Following Response’.
Point #3 can easily be the case if you are still subscribing to the false idea that just listening to an entrainment track is meditation all by itself. Some unscrupulous marketing copy of various entrainment products uses phrases such as; “Our meditation CD meditates you…” which is of course, complete nonsense. I was asked recently to review one marketing ad which claimed, “With our meditation CDs you don’t need to know how to meditate…” This is worse than nonsense, it’s hogwash. That’s like saying, “If you use our wonderful plates and silverware you don’t even need to know how to cook.” If you believe that you’re unlikely to get many takers on your dinner invitations.
All brainwave frequencies are useful and beneficial at certain times – there is no brainwave that is intrinsically better than another. However, by deliberately choosing to attain a particular brainwave state, a corresponding mental state can be brought about at the same time. For example, a working person who has been in an overly alert beta brainwave pattern for many hours can quickly shift their mind and body into a relaxed state by listening to a few minutes of brainwave entrainment music for inducing alpha or theta brainwaves.
To use your senses to quickly relieve stress, you first need to identify the sensory experiences that work best for you. This can require some experimentation. As you employ different senses, note how quickly your stress levels drop. And be as precise as possible. What is the specific kind of sound or type of movement that affects you the most? For example, if you’re a music lover, listen to many different artists and types of music until you find the song that instantly lifts and relaxes you.
The advice “take a deep breath” may seem like a cliché, but it holds true when it comes to stress. For centuries, Buddhist monks have been conscious of deliberate breathing during meditation. For an easy three- to five-minute exercise, sit up in your chair with your feet flat on the floor and hands on top of your knees. Breathe in and out slowly and deeply, concentrating on your lungs as they expand fully in your chest. While shallow breathing causes stress, deep breathing oxygenates your blood, helps center your body, and clears your mind.
Theta waves are associated with ➤ Increased sense of inner peace and emotional stability ➤ Deep relaxation ➤ Improved memory ➤ Heightened intuition and inspiration ➤ Calms the chatter of your mind ➤ Increased psychic abilities and sense of spiritual connection ➤ Speed healing, improved physical healing ➤ More restful sleep ➤ Release beneficial hormones related to health and longevity ➤ Reduce mental fatigue ➤ Reduction of anxiety and stress
Brainwave entrainment is a field of study and endeavor founded in the same physiological and psychological processes that make music, drumming, and chanting so powerful as methods for transforming the mind and spirit and aiding in healing of the body. These processes involve how the electrical energy in our brains synchronizes with sounds and visual stimuli, producing a particular brainwave frequency and its associated mental states.
... One of the possible explanation for insignificant results could be length of exposure to AVS. Our participants were exposed to it for 11 minutes, while some authors (Cruceanu & Rotarescu, 2013) suggest that at least 20 minutes is needed for the positive effects to take place. Furthermore, part of our reserach was also visualization of gymnastic skills, performed after AVS. ...
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.
“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.”
Dealing with sudden stress—a phone call with bad news, a last-minute assignment from your boss, or an argument with your spouse—triggers a cascade of physical and mental symptoms that can be hard to stop. The first thing to do? Pay attention to your breathing pattern, and make an effort to start taking slow, deep breaths as stress relievers. “Breathing can change how we feel because emotions and breathing are closely connected,” says Emma Seppala, PhD, author of The Happiness Track and a Stanford University psychologist who’s done research on yogic breathing. “A revealing research study showed that different emotional states are associated with distinct respiration patterns.” In a follow-up study, participants actually started to feel the emotions that corresponded to an assigned breathing pattern. “This finding is revolutionary: We can change how we feel using our breath!” Dr. Seppala says. Deep breathing gets more oxygen to your brain and may lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
This is an extreme example, naturally, but the idea holds true even in situations that are not as extreme. This ties in very closely with Point #4 above. When you’re wishing to combine meditation and brainwave entrainment, if you’re practicing a meditation technique but not really paying attention to what you’re doing, or perhaps you are performing the technique wrong, whilst allowing your mind to drift off to wherever it takes you, it should come as no surprise that the entrainment track is not helping you achieve a state of meditation. That’s because in fact you aren’t really trying to enter meditation or because you’re specifically engaging in activities that prevent you from getting there.
Beware simple answers to complex problems, or easy methods for accomplishing difficult goals. If you combine this maxim with the advice to be skeptical of any claims that are being made in order to sell you something – then ironically you have a simple method (perhaps I should call it an “elegant” method) for protecting yourself from most scams and cons. Actually the application of this combination of maxims can be complex, but what it does do is trigger doubt and skeptical analysis. (And to be clear I am not saying that all simple solutions must be wrong – you should just beware them, meaning your skeptical senses should be tingling.)
Binaural beats change the frequency of your brainwaves, giving you control over which category you experience at any given moment. And because you’re in the driver’s seat — and producing specific frequencies to induce a specific state of mind — you can use binaural beats to boost performance, increase focus, get better sleep… the possibilities are endless. “There’s an infinite number of variations on how you could use this kind of technology,” says Bill Harris, Director of Centerpointe Research Institute and creator of auditory brainwave training program Holosync.
Your brain operates at certain levels of activity – the normal waking, active Beta, the meditative Alpha, the asleep-and-dreaming or deep meditative Theta, and the deep sleep/unconscious Delta. Beta is characterized by one thing we all want to get away from – stress.But that brainwave state has its place. It’s the action mode, and that’s the way it should be! If we’re not alert when we’re awake, bad things can happen, right?