Changes in neural oscillations, demonstrable through electroencephalogram (EEG) measurements, are precipitated by listening to music, which can modulate autonomic arousal ergotropically and trophotropically, increasing and decreasing arousal respectively. Musical auditory stimulation has also been demonstrated to improve immune function, facilitate relaxation, improve mood, and contribute to the alleviation of stress. These findings have contributed to the development of neurologic music therapy, which uses music and song as an active and receptive intervention, to contribute to the treatment and management of disorders characterized by impairment to parts of the brain and central nervous system, including stroke, traumatic brain injury, Parkinson's disease, Huntington's disease, cerebral palsy, Alzheimer's disease, and autism.
Anyone who has sought out different methods for enhancing cognitive ability will probably have come across a technique known as Brainwave Entrainment. However, it is a fairly niche area of brain training, meaning that this form of stimulation is often overlooked in favour of more mainstream methods. The following outlines what Brainwave Entrainment actually is, how it is used, and some of the benefits attributed to it.
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.
Binaural beats were the first method discovered for brainwave entrainment and works by delivering tones of different audible frequencies to the two ears with the difference in frequency between the two tones being the frequency of entrainment. The difference in frequency between the two tones must be less than 30 hertz, and this resulting frequency is called a beat or the target frequency, and it is processed in a brain region called the olivary body. When listening to such tones with stereo headphones, the two hemispheres of the brain become synchronized at the target frequency.
LEARNING OBJECTIVE • Exercise can be an effective component of a stress management program, and all types of exercise can be beneficial for stress management. Exercise programs consistent with the current recommendations to improve health can be prescribed to manage stress. Fitness professionals should recognize that it might be necessary to refer a client to a psychologist or other health care provider to help develop strategies for managing stressors that produce chronic and acute episodic stress.
The Frequency following response (FFR), also referred to as Frequency Following Potential (FFP), is a specific response to hearing sound and music, by which neural oscillations adjust their frequency to match the rhythm of auditory stimuli. The use of sound with intent to influence cortical brainwave frequency is called auditory driving, by which frequency of neural oscillation is 'driven' to entrain with that of the rhythm of a sound source.
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When we first use brainwave entrainment, we may not have anything specific in mind that will happen, but we hold a general expectation that “something” should happen. As we begin the process of entrainment we are on high alert looking for any little indication that something is happening. Pretty soon we identify some feeling or twitch or unusual perception. The moment we focus on whatever it is, the act of focusing on it magnifies the thing. Since we were already viewing the situation with an expectation that it was the entrainment that was going to produce some sort of result, we automatically associate whatever our phenomenon is with entrainment.
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.
“A quite different phenomenon results when stereophonic earphones are used and the signals are applied separately to each ear. Under the right circumstances beats can be perceived, but they are of an entirely different character. They are called binaural beats. . . . Binaural beats require the combined action of both ears. They exist as a consequence of the interaction of perceptions within the brain.”
The functional role of neural oscillations is still not fully understood; however they have been shown to correlate with emotional responses, motor control, and a number of cognitive functions including information transfer, perception, and memory. Specifically, neural oscillations, in particular theta activity, are extensively linked to memory function, and coupling between theta and gamma activity is considered to be vital for memory functions, including episodic memory.