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.
Gamma was dismissed as 'spare brain noise' until researchers discovered it was highly active when in states of universal love, altruism, and the ‘higher virtues’. Gamma is also above the frequency of neuronal firing, so how it is generated remains a mystery. It is speculated that gamma rhythms modulate perception and consciousness, and that a greater presence of gamma relates to expanded consciousness and spiritual emergence.
Brainwave Entrainment is an assisted form of meditation using pulses of sound. Entrainment is a process of synchronizing two different beats to become harmonious. Brainwave entrainment works by pulsing a different sound in each ear to stimulate the brain into altered states of consciousness. Examples including Binaural Beats and Isochronic Tones, which are best experienced with headphones to assist with relaxation, deep sleep and focus.
One faulty expectation as it pertains to brainwave entrainment is that listening to an entrainment track is the same as meditating. If you’ve understood the principles so far as they’ve been laid out you understand why this idea is completely untrue. If the answer is not yet obvious to you, read the material covering these principles again and try to grasp their meaning.
Gamma waves are the fastest of the brainwave frequencies (high frequency band of brainwave activity) which signifies the highest state of focus possible. They are associated with peak concentration and the brain’s optimal frequency for cognitive functioning – the 40 Hz frequency corresponds to a Schumann resonance band and many scientists, including Nobel Laureate Sir Francis Crick believe that it may be the key to the act of cognition. The Gamma state relates to simultaneous processing of information from different brain areas; information passes very rapidly.
Our brainwave states are natural. Guiding the brain into those states intentionally by using entrainment is just another way of experiencing those same natural states. Nothing “unnatural” is produced by the brain as a result of using entrainment. The only thing that is different is that when using entrainment we often go into the experience with either general expectations, or a well defined laundry list of specific expectations that we associate with entrainment. We have no such list going throughout our normal day when we’re not using entrainment.
Today, EEG machines are used for diagnosing epilepsy and sleep disorders, for determining dosages for anesthesia, and measuring the brain activity of people in comas or suffering from brain trauma. EEG machines also continue to play a role in researching and understanding brainwave entrainment and developing new and better methods for delivering the benefits of this form of brainwave modification.
That all said, we are all different and have our own different limits. So I generally advise that you just be aware of how you are feeling, and if you feel like you are getting a bit fatigued from it, it’s probably time to stop or at least take a break. When listening over long extended periods, I recommend that you keep yourself well-hydrated. Your brain needs a good supply of water to function well, especially if you are studying hard and increasing your brainwave electrical activity.
Above is a nice, simple and short chart of the various brainwave ranges and the types of effects they generally have and what sorts of activities they may be able to enhance. There simply is nothing more detailed than what this chart contains about entrainment frequencies and what they are useful for. Those other elaborate lists to be found on the internet are nothing but the product of overactive imaginations.
While originally brainwave entrainment was achieved by using pure tones of sound, it is now possible to take these tones and blend them with music, rhythms, and natural sounds, such as the sounds of flowing water, bird sounds, or waves lapping on a beach, creating extended tracts of varied and intriguing brainwave entrainment music for everyday use.
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.