Therefore we are very receptive to new technology products that promise to improve our lives, or solve previously difficult problems, because of some new scientific or technological advance. This has created, in a sense, a marketplace of consumers that expect to be dazzled with technobabble they don’t understand, backed by assurances of legitimacy by the citing of research and association with professionals or professional institutions, and offering significant benefits. We are all, in a sense, waiting for that next product to improve our lives, and many of us like to feel we are on the cutting edge – getting an advantage over others by being savvy early adopters.
Binaural beats are pretty simple. Basically, you take two frequencies that are similar and play each one through it’s own stereo headphone. The two competing frequencies will work together in your mind to produce a pulsing. That pulse will be a certain frequency that corresponds to a number in hertz that is linked to what your brain produces when you are in certain states of consciousness.
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.
Binaural beats are created from two different continuous tones, which when sent separately to each ear create a single beat inside your head. Isochronic tones are basically a single tone which is switched on and off at regular intervals. Imagine a single continuous tone playing on a stereo system and you’ve got your hand on the volume switch. Then once per second, you turn the volume off for half a second and keep doing that every second. For half a second the volume is off, for the other half a beat waveform is formed. The beat is cycling once per second per second, i.e. at a rate of 1Hz.
Both brainwave entrainment and neurofeedback deal with brainwaves, but the similarity stops there. Entrainment pushes your whole brain into a pre-determined state, while neurofeedback teaches you how to move specific parts of your brain on your own. It is the differeence between forcing the brain into a given position, and skills building so you can move it there yourself.