“When you play two separate frequencies in each ear, say 140 Hz and 149 Hz, the difference in frequency is 9 Hz. Your brain compensates for this difference, and a third tone of 9 Hz is experienced,” says Niraj Naik, founder of Trpynaural, a resource for binaural tracks. “This will result in your brain being raised or lowered and tuned into the desired frequency. This is how binaural beats are produced.”
A crossover RCT of a single session of theta stimulation in four healthy adults reported no significant improvement in verbal fluency or attention associated with the intervention and a reduction in immediate recall. Controlled comparisons reported significant benefit from the intervention in all three outcomes measured. Six pre/post studies reported significant benefit from the intervention for 19 of 28 cognitive outcomes.
OK – so some of this is pretty common marketing hype. Consumers have become almost numb to such hyperbole. But still we see some of the common – almost ubiquitous – elements of pseudoscientific scams. The company claims that the device is “effort-free”, that the results are “rapid and long-lasting,” that it is the “most effective” method of its kind, and that it is useful for a broad range of applications (hey, why limit the market). I am used to such hype about dishwashing detergent, but find it intolerable when applied to a pseudoscientific device with medical applications.
In one study, researchers had a group of participants relax alone in a quiet, low-light environment following an exercise session. They split the group in two — one spent 20 minutes listening to theta-frequency binaural beats while the other listened to a carrier tone and monitored their parasympathetic (rest and relaxation) and sympathetic (fight or flight) nervous system activity. Researchers found the group that listened to binaural beats experienced an increase in parasympathetic activity and a decrease in sympathetic activity, along with higher rates of self-reported relaxation.
Binaural beats, or binaural tones, are auditory processing artifacts (apparent sounds) resulting from the stimulation of the ears with two different sound frequencies. In fact, when two different vibrations are delivered to the brain separately through each ear, using stereo headphones, the two hemispheres of the brain function together to “hear” and perceive not the external sound signals, but a third phantom signal. This resulting signal, discovered in 1839 by Heinrich Wilhelm Dove, is called “binaural beat”. The effect on the brain waves depends on the difference of each tone. For example, if a sound frequency of 300 Hz is played in the left ear and 307 Hz in the right one, then the binaural beat would have a frequency of 7 Hz (“frequency following response”) which corresponds to the Alpha brain state, generally associated with relaxation, visualization and creativity. The beating tone is perceived as if the two tones mixed naturally, out of the brain. For the binaural beat effect to occur, the difference between the two frequencies must be small (less than or equal to 30 Hz), otherwise, the two tones will be heard separately, and no beat will be perceived.
Another very useful application for the Theta & Delta frequencies is to keep your eyes open while listening to the entrainment recordings. Simply pick a spot on the wall and look beyond it as if you were looking at the view beyond the wall. Keeping your eyes open while in Theta and Delta brainwave states stimulates connections between the visual information processing centers of your brain and the "dream vision" centers that normally only function with the eyes closed.
Practitioners are discovering a number of different areas in which entrainment therapy may bring positive benefits. From managing mental health more effectively through to providing increased mental focus and concentration, it is thought the technique can be adapted according to the specific issues being treated. An improved immune system, enhanced levels of pain management, and a reduction in autoimmune disorders are also thought to be achieved through the therapy, leading many individuals with chronic ill health to consider brainwave entrainment as a non-invasive yet effective therapy.
If brainwave entrainment leaves you with unwanted side-effects (see below) or discomfort, you’re probably encouraging a range of brainwaves that are already excessive in some area of your brain. The way around this is to get a brain map to see what your brain’s strengths and weaknesses are, and see what (if any) brainwaves could use some encouragement.