If anybody would like to look over the scientific evidence concerning brainwave entrainment and isochronic tones, I’ve done a lot of research over the years which I’ve collected at the PubMed website of NCBI – a branch of the National Institute of Health – that provides access to a large library of medical journal articles. I’ve made my list public so you can look through the journal articles that were published concerning this topic. Here’s the link: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/sites/myncbi/1tmDFOl0XtyA4/collections/51531796/public/. Most of the collection only gives access to abstracts or summaries unless you’re at some kind of educational institution that has a subscription to the particular journal that article is in, but I actually find abstracts really helpful. So have at it, read away. And if your psychiatrist/therapist thinks you’re nuts for feeling better after listening to isochronic tones, just whip out your 82-page collection of scientific journal abstracts written by her peers and give it to her to read. 🙂
There’s an aesthetic element to the music and there are a lot of drone-based sounds and time-stretched sounds, deep, rich bass sounds—there’s a spectrum of sounds within there—and what’s more, there’s a load of 3D processing that goes on to ensure that the mind doesn’t become habituated to them. There’s also a constant, subtle sense, a slow and gradual sense, of the sounds shifting around. And, there are layers of binaural beats.
Whenever we become very relaxed and the usual chatter of the mind slows down a little bit, if we remain aware and do not slip into sleep or unconsciousness, we begin to perceive things that we had not noticed before. This is slightly different than the issue of “expectations” discussed previously, although a relationship to them can develop which will be discussed below. These have to do with the fact that in our typical state of consciousness our mind is racing so fast and so loud, and our body is so engaged with activity and physical tension, that we are unaware of some subtle perceptions that are there all the while, but which get buried beneath all the physical and mental noise.
Theta waves also have been observed in moments when a person recalls information from the past, and this may be what links them also to improvement in learning ability. We also experience theta waves when we go into automatic pilot mode, such as when doing a repetitive task like driving a familiar route where the mind become disconnected while you still drive safely toward your destination.
The phenomena of brainwave entrainment was first described in the scientific literature in 1973 by Gerald Oster in results published in an article in Scientific American entitled, “Auditory Beats in the Brain”. He showed that a specific brainwave could be induced when a person heard two separate, but closely related, sound frequencies, one in each ear. He discovered that when the frequencies heard by each ear differed by about 10 hertz, the brainwave pattern of the person hearing the sound would synchronize to the difference between the two frequencies. For example, if the person heard a 410 hertz sound in one ear and a 400 hertz sound in the other ear, their brainwaves would stabilize at the difference between the two, or 10 hertz. This technique is called binaural beats, and it is a fundamental principle of brainwave entrainment methods.
Deep breathing is an easy stress reliever that has numerous benefits for the body, including relaxing muscles and quieting the mind. Breathing exercises are especially helpful because you can practice them anywhere. Perhaps more importantly, they work quickly so you can de-stress in a flash. The karate breathing meditation is a great exercise to start with, and this basic breathing exercise can be done anywhere to help you reverse your stress response, get back to being more proactive (rather than reactive), and face stress with greater resilience.
Binaural-beat perception originates in the inferior colliculus of the midbrain and the superior olivary complex of the brainstem, where auditory signals from each ear are integrated and precipitate electrical impulses along neural pathways through the reticular formation up the midbrain to the thalamus, auditory cortex, and other cortical regions.
And so we (not too surprisingly) begin to experience “symptoms” or “signs” of something that we do not ordinarily experience. Immediately, we associate these with the entrainment or the meditation. We wonder if this is something real or imagined so we often start asking others if they have experienced the same or similar things. We seek validation that our practices are producing tangible effects on us.
These brainwaves take a lot of energy to produce and you’ll feel really productive and focused when you’re in this state. Your brain in Beta is actively engaged, aware, and reactive. This is a great state for short-term problem solving or being engaged in exciting activities. It’s not a great state for long-term decision making or really thinking through your actions.
“In order to get into a flow state, you have to calm a part of the brain, the posterior cingulate cortex, which is the source of what brain scientists call the default state, which is the non-focused state,” says Harris. “At any rate, it turns out that Holosync [binaural beats], when you listen to it, [calms that part of the brain] and so does traditional meditation. It’s just Holosync does it faster and more easily and more effortlessly. It turns down the posterior cingulate cortex and it enhances the other part of the brain that, when it’s enhanced, you can easily go into a flow state.”
“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.”
Doing almost any routine, repetitive activity (like vacuuming, shredding paper or knitting), or reciting a word that represents how you wish you felt (such as calm) is a quick way to achieve a Zen-like state. Studies show the effects lower blood pressure and slow heart rate and breathing. The crucial elements are to focus on a word, your breathing or a movement and to bring your attention back to your task if your mind wanders or negative thoughts intrude. Or look to your faith for a mantra: A recent study published in the Journal of Advanced Nursing found that repeating phrases with spiritual meanings helped participants cope with a range of problems, from anxiety to insomnia.
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One can also learn to control and slow down their brain waves through various neurofeedback technologies such as electroencephalograph (EEG), galvanic skin response (GSR), and heart, pulse and breath rate monitors. These devices measure stress and relaxation parameters and then "play" back the signals to the user so they can use the signals as a beacon to guide and "steer" themselves into a relaxed state. This takes some time, work and discipline but is much quicker than learning meditation.
This can help develop the ability to see energy fields around people and in nature, and it will also make it much easier to stay awake during your meditations. When your eyes begin to close, you simply have to open them back up again. Doing the meditations with your eyes open is a serious step up in exercising your brain, so go slow with that technique at first.
Stress levels and a proper diet are closely related. When we’re overwhelmed, we often forget to eat well and resort to using sugary, fatty snack foods as a pick-me-up. Try to avoid sugary snacks and plan ahead. Fruits and vegetables are always good, and fish with high levels of omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to reduce the symptoms of stress. A tuna sandwich really is brain food.
Brainwave entrainment is a colloquialism for such 'neural entrainment', which is a term used to denote the way in which the aggregate frequency of oscillations produced by the synchronous electrical activity in ensembles of cortical neurons can adjust to synchronize with the periodic vibration of an external stimuli, such as a sustained acoustic frequency perceived as pitch, a regularly repeating pattern of intermittent sounds, perceived as rhythm, or of a regularly rhythmically intermittent flashing light.