This is not to say that entrainment cannot produce some physical effects, particularly negative ones. It is possible to induce epileptic seizures using entrainment, especially visual entrainment that employs flashing lights. That’s why people with seizure disorders are uniformly told to consult with their health care provider before using entrainment if they have a seizure disorder or some other serious medical condition.
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.
I appreciate your compliment on my article Henry. I’ve been using and reading up on isochronic tones and brainwave entrainment for many years, so it was just a case of trying to put a lot of what I’ve learnt into one article. I don’t have a great deal of knowledge or experience in using hypnosis and subliminals, so I’m afraid I wouldn’t be in a position to create something so extensive in reviewing them.
“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.”
Binaural beats are the playing of two sine waves of close, but not the same, frequency into different earpieces of a set of headphones. The "beat" is heard as the brain tries to process them as a distinct sound, while taking into account the constructive/destructive interference. It is said to migrate brain waves to be closer to that frequency, like a sort of biological resonance, which is true. Of course the same can be said for listening to relaxing music help you relax, up tempo music to help you feel energetic, etc...
With its focus on full, cleansing breaths, deep breathing is a simple yet powerful relaxation technique. It’s easy to learn, can be practiced almost anywhere, and provides a quick way to get your stress levels in check. Deep breathing is the cornerstone of many other relaxation practices, too, and can be combined with other relaxing elements such as aromatherapy and music. While apps and audio downloads can guide you through the process, all you really need is a few minutes and a place to stretch out.
Another common misconception is that entrainment is going to force your brain into doing something beyond its native capabilities, or at least beyond what it is accustomed to doing. This mistaken belief is often the root that leads to comments like, “When I meditate with LifeFlow my face gets flushed (or my hair vibrates or I develop x-ray vision, or any of the other things we come across). If I meditate without LifeFlow the face flushing doesn’t happen. LifeFlow must be causing it.”
I am fortunate to be working with Deepak Chopra, M.D., and Dr. Rudy Tanzi, co-authors of the bestselling book Super Brain, on a technology called Brain Wave Entrainment. Deepak is very well known, but Rudy is an amazingly interesting person as well. He is the Kennedy Professor of Neurology at Harvard Medical School and Vice-Chair of Neurology at Mass General Hospital. Rudy co-discovered three of the four original Alzheimer's genes and today runs the Alzheimer's Genome Project. He also plays the keyboards, including, at times, for Aerosmith. He is kind of a real life "Buckaroo Banzai."
“One of the best ways to explain how brainwave entrainment works is by observing the effect of a tuning fork on a guitar string,” says Naik. “Hit a tuning fork tuned to a particular sound frequency, such as the note C, and hold it close to the strings of a guitar. You will notice that the C string on the guitar starts to vibrate because it has entrained on to the same frequency of the tuning fork.”
Hi Et, In all the feedback and studies I’ve read and looked into over the years, I’ve seen lots of feedback from people talking about how they don’t like the sound of the tones, or they find them irritating in some way. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be any particular reason why one person likes it and the next doesn’t. It’s a bit like normal music, one person’s sweet symphony is another person pneumatic drill. It’s common for people to find it weird and maybe annoying at first, which is how I felt in the beginning. But usually after a few listens you can start to get used to it and appreciate the sound, and especially the feeling it gives you. Personally, I think it can help if you try to embrace the sound, psychologically speaking beforehand. It can also help to have the sound playing at a very low volume, to begin with, then building it up as you get more used to it.
Building on guided imagery, you can also imagine yourself achieving goals like becoming healthier and more relaxed, doing well at tasks, and handling conflict in better ways. Also, visualizing yourself doing well on tasks you’re trying to master actually functions like physical practice, so you can improve your performance through visualizations as well.
Controlled or pre/post studies of the effects of BWE using auditory or visual stimulation were eligible for inclusion, provided pulses of light or tone were delivered at frequencies hypothesised to have a beneficial effect or in line with a protocol addressing clinical outcomes. Studies were required to report clinical or psychological outcomes (measured using standard methods or as deemed appropriate by peer review) and to report statistical analysis. Studies of outcomes such as electroencephalogram (EEG) response or neurotransmitter levels were not eligible. Case studies were excluded.
Cortisol is the principle hormone (although not the only hormone) tied to our innate “flight-or-fight” response, which is how the body reacts to acute stress by either helping us run from the situation or stick around and fight our way through. When short spikes in cortisol/adrenaline happen over and over again nearly every day, they cause wear and tear on the body and speed up the aging process.
It is important to note that not all stress is bad. Everyone experiences a certain amount of stress on an almost daily basis, and it cannot be completely eliminated. Stress becomes a problem when too much is experienced, and it has a negative impact on behaviors, relationships, and health. The term “eustress” refers to positive stress that is associated with improved performance and productivity. “Distress” is negative stress that is associated with performance decrement and negative health consequences. The individual’s perception of the stressor and coping resources determine whether a situation is eustress or distress. College graduation is a stressor for most. The student who has a job or who has been accepted to a graduate program likely perceives the stress of graduation as eustress, whereas the student who has student loans and no immediate plans of a job or further education perceives distress.
You may have experienced Theta right before drifting off to sleep, during a lucid dream, or during a deep meditation. In Theta, you no longer sense the outside world, but you are aware and conscious of your internal world. All of your subconscious fears, hopes and judgments are hidden in the Theta state. Theta is a difficult state to achieve because you often drift out of it very quickly either becoming conscious in Alpha or moving on to the next deeper state. By staying in Theta, you can learn endless information about yourself and your consciousness.
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When your mind is all over the place, organizing your thoughts into a quick to-do list can help transfer the burden from your brain to paper. But for some people, seeing a long list of tasks can increase stress. Miller has another idea: a “stressor and action” sheet. “Fold a piece of paper in half length wise, and on the left column write ‘stressor’ and on the right hand column write ‘action,’” she says. “You will find as you write down thoughtful action steps to the things that are stressing you out, you regain authority over circumstance.” These are the signs you’re more stressed than you realize.
Brainwaves are the collective electrical signal of millions of neurons working together in a living brain, producing our sense of alertness – or lack thereof - and producing our experience of reality. As brainwaves change, so does our perception of the world and our inner perception of ourselves. By learning to control our brainwaves, we can achieve specific, desirable mental states, such as feeling more relaxed, less anxious, more creative, more focused, or sleepier.
What the Neuro Programmer does (as far as I can tell – access to much of the website requires the purchase of product) is present sound and visuals on the computer screen. The user is meant to passively view and listen to this while their brain is effortlessly programmed to solve whatever problem they are having or improve whatever performance they are interested in.
You’ve heard me talk before about how sound can make a difference to sleep. Patients often tell me that they fall asleep to relaxing music, they seem to find it really helps them let go of active thoughts and quiet their mind—which, like yours probably does, tends to race from one thing to the next all day long (aka I can’t turn off my brain syndrome).
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.
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There are many advantages and disadvantages with binaural beats. One of the major advantages is hemispheric synchronization. Since both hemispheres are required to create the beat within the brain, this method is an excellent way to create greater harmony between areas of the mind typically functioning independently. Binaural beats are also known to have effective hypnotic and relaxing effects.
♥ 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.
Exercise and stress research has typically focused on aerobic exercise. There have been consistent findings that people report feeling calmer after a 20- to 30-minute bout of aerobic exercise, and the calming effect can last for several hours after exercise. Recently, there has been an increased amount of research on the role of mind-body types of exercise such as yoga or Tai Chi. Unfortunately, there is somewhat limited research on the role of resistance exercise in stress management.
It may be that you had the volume too loud, but I would expect you to hear the effects of that straight after you’ve stopped listening, not on a day you haven’t used them. It might be something similar to muscle memory, where you suddenly remembered the sound and sensations it gives you as if you were hearing it again. I don’t know how long you’ve been using this type of thing for, but maybe it’s something that will settle down and disappear once you become more accustomed to the sound.
^ 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.