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.
15. Melville GW, Chang D, Colagiuri B, Marshall PW, Cheema BC. Fifteen minutes of chair-based yoga postures or guided meditation performed in the office can elicit a relaxation response. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med [Internet]. 2012 [cited 2012 June 27]; Available from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3265094/?tool=pubmed. doi:10.1155/2012/501986.
^ Trost W. and Vuilleumier P., Rhythmic entrainment as a mechanism for emotion induction by music: a neurophysiological perspective. In The Emotional Power of Music: Multidisciplinary Perspectives on Musical Arousal, Expression, and Social Control, Cochrane T., Fantini B., and Scherer K. R., (Eds.), Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press; 2013, pp213–225.
Well … to understand the role entrainment plays in meditation, think of a water pump. Most of you have lived in areas where you have access to city water. You turn the knob on the tap, water comes out, end of story. If you grew up like I did, on a farm with a local well, then you probably know that in order to get the water flowing from a well you must first “prime the pump”. (Those of you who remember the days when cars all had carburetors rather than fuel injectors might also remember running out of gas and needing to prime the carburetor with a little gasoline. It’s the same principle.)
So to summarize their claim, they're saying that entrainment means that a binaural beat will cause your brain's electroencephalogram to match the pattern of the phantom beat. Well, if it did, entrainment certainly doesn't apply and would not be part of the equation, so we can scratch that off the list. But it doesn't make the claimed observation wrong. We do know that certain electroencephalogram waveforms are often associated with certain kinds of activity. For example, physical activity or REM sleep often produces an electroencephalogram with a sine wave of between 4 and 8 Hz, which we term a theta pattern. Waking relaxation with eyes closed often produces a pattern from 8 to 12 Hz, which is called an alpha pattern. There are only a few characterized patterns, and pretty general descriptions of what kinds of activities go with them. The claim made by the binaural beat sellers depends on much more granular and specific matches. For example, the claim that a binaural beat with a frequency of X produces the same effect in your brain as Vicodin is wholly implausible. Such claims presume that we know the exact frequency of the electroencephalogram in each of these desired conditions, and the fact is that brain waves don't work that way. It is wholly and absolutely implausible to say that desired brain condition X will occur if we get your EEG to read exactly X Hz.
Although there is a general stress response pattern, there can be variations in the response according to the characteristics of the stressor (10). Individuals tend to respond differently based on the familiarity of the stressor. For example, the perceived level of stress and physiological response when giving a presentation to a group of work colleagues will likely be less than when presenting to an unfamiliar group. The stress response also varies depending on the level of perceived control one has over the stressor (10). If there is a way for one to actively cope with the stressor that is reasonable, then the individual usually perceives more control over the situation. Consider an individual who has to take a certification examination for work and has 6 months to prepare. He can adjust his schedule to accommodate study time. However, waiting for medical test results that show whether one has a serious illness does not allow a sense of control over the stressor, and the individual passively endures the stressor or may try to avoid the stressor. With this uncontrollable type of stressor, there is a more negative reaction with greater productions of cortisol, which can have damaging health effects because of the suppression of immune function (10).
In addition, Western culture reinforces thought and communication styles associated with the left brain hemisphere, which controls logic, language, and linear thinking in a majority of people, as opposed to the right hemisphere which controls brain centers for emotional, intuitive, creative, and non-linear thought processes. Note that a significant minority of people has the opposite hemispheric dominance than the majority of people.
Today we're going to put on our headphones, kick back in the beanbag, and get mellow to the soothing sounds of the latest digital drug: binaural beats. These computer generated sound files are said to massage your brain and produce all sorts of effects, everything from psychedelic experiences to behavior modification. Let's point our skeptical eye at the science of binaural beats, and especially at some of the claims made for them.
The group is loud and boisterous, cheering on their favorite team, jeering at the referees, complaining about bad calls, laughing at some of the terrible acting of the players as they writhe in agony on the ground in an attempt to get the referee to call a foul on another player, and then as soon as the call is made they spring to their feet and trot off, all memory of the agony of a moment before completely forgotten.
“Stress” is a commonly used term, and it is often used with different meanings. The standard definition for stress that will be used in this article is the disruption of the body’s homeostasis or a state of disharmony in response to a real or perceived threat or challenge (8). The threatening or challenging situation is referred to as a “stressor.” When a person encounters a stressor, the body prepares to respond to the challenge or threat. The autonomic nervous and endocrine systems respond by producing the hormones epinephrine, norepinephrine, and cortisol. The result of this hormone production is a cascade of physiological reactions that make up the stress response. Epinephrine and norepinephrine are involved in the initial changes that take place to prepare the body to react and to prepare for a challenge. These responses include increases in heart and respiration rates, blood pressure, perspiration, and energy production (8). There also is a suppression of immune function, production of β-endorphin (the body’s natural pain killer), and increased acuity of the senses. These changes make up the fight-or-flight response, which prepares the body to cope with the stressor. If the stressor is perceived as negative or more as a threat than as a challenge, cortisol production is increased. Cortisol is involved in energy production but also suppresses immune function.
♥ Imagine a really bad ringing in your ear and the pain that it brought along or when your ear was throbbing with pain. Can you remember the sound coming from that ear? Probably not, since the pain was probably far more memorable. This sounds very similar to that, but it is not at all painful. Quite a unique experience, really. Try it out, but you need to be wearing earphones and have the volume up.
These two tracks entrain the brain to specific frequencies in the lower regions of Beta brainwaves, beneath 20 Hertz. Most people are operating in a stressful brainwave frequency above 20Hz during their days, so listening to these tracks while you work, commute, run errands or anything else during your waking day will help you maintain a calm, yet active state of mind.
This research investigates the brainwave entrainment process and aims to demonstrate the usefulness of such an approach within the framework of cognitive performance improvements. In the introductory part the theories regarding the neurophysiological structure and the psychological processing of the cognitive system are discussed, for each of their components that are considered to be relevant for this research. The hypothesis states that the stimulation with binaural beats and stroboscopic light, synchronized at 10.2 Hz frequency, will produce a positive change in cognition. The research variables are the cognitive performance (the dependent variable) and the brainwave entrainment (the independent variable). The brainwave entrainment program consists in the synchronized application of Alpha binaural beats and stroboscopic light, at a 10.2 Hz frequency, in a 30 minutes long session. The difference was made by the stroop effect based exercise that was used as a frame. There were 60 participants, divided into two independent samples. The two independent samples t test for the means differences was used in the statistical analysis. The obtained results by evaluations and by statistics confirmed this research's hypothesis, stating that the stimulation with binaural beats and stroboscopic light, synchronized at 10.2 Hz frequency, will produce a positive change in cognition.
I have read something different about theta waves and learning languages. A University of Washington study tested students resting brainwave activity before learning French. They found that students with a higher amount beta/gamma and a lower amount of delta/theta activity were better at acquiring a second language. When you are dominant in theta, that is the lowest and most deeply relaxed awakened state you can be in. I think it would be much harder to really concentrate, fully understand and learn new information while in a theta state, so I would personally consider using theta while studying.
Also, don’t you think that the inherent hemispheric synchronization using binaural beats might be a positive benefit within itself? While it’s true that the huge majority of us use both sides of our brains most of the time, it’s also true that many of us are a bit polarized to one side or the other in general, or when doing a particular kind of activity or focus. I’ve found stimulating a more equally and consistently whole brain activity has it’s own benefits other than the entrainment aspect.