Summaries from recent reviews on yoga or Tai Chi clinical trial interventions indicate that these mind-body types of exercise can be effective in reducing stress (7,14,17). The authors of these reviews suggest that the results should be viewed with caution because study quality was varied (7,17). However, it should be noted that reductions in stress reported in one review were similar to or greater than reductions from other types of commonly used stress management techniques (7).
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There is a lot to like about this technology as a potential treatment for sleep problems. It’s low impact and non-invasive, it doesn’t rely on chemical drugs, it’s inexpensive and for most people likely easy to adopt and maintain. In this way, it’s similar to the other behavioral therapies for sleep that I like so much, including meditation and relaxation techniques, and other mind-body therapies.
The binaural-beat appears to be associated with an electroencephalographic (EEG) frequency-following response in the brain (3). Many studies have demonstrated the presence of a frequency-following response to auditory stimuli, recorded at the vertex of the human brain (top of the head). This EEG activity was termed "frequency-following response" because its period corresponds to the fundamental frequency of the stimulus (Smith, Marsh, & Brown, 1975). Binaural-beat stimulation appears to encourage access to altered states of consciousness.
While a practical understanding of brainwaves has been around for as long as people have been singing, chanting, and drumming, a scientific view of the electrical activity inside the human brain was not published until 1924 when German psychiatrist Hans Berger developed a machine for sensing and recording activity in the brain by attaching small electrical sensors to the scalp of his patients and recording the resulting electrical activity. Berger’s inventions and discoveries were built upon the earlier work of Richard Caton who published animal studies on brainwave oscillations in 1875.
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.
How does brainwave entrainment work? Consistent, precisely engineered audio frequencies in the form of binaural beats cause the brain’s frequencies to match the stimulus. Your brain perceives two beats with slightly different frequencies (which are inaudible to the ear) through your headphones. It takes the difference between the two, and matches its own frequency to it. This is called the “frequency following” response.
It sounds like your brain might have initial trouble adapting to the binaural beats. The same thing happened to me when I listen to the Beta frequency (I got a headache), but then I discovered that I had the volume turned up too loud. I would say experiment with these frequencies, but at a low volume. See how you go. And if you continue to have anxiety, by all means, stop listening. Also, not all binaural beats are created equally. Some are amateurish, but the ones from Binaural Beats Meditation (mentioned and linked to in this article), are professionally created and the ones that I personally listen to. I love them (especially the Theta/Delta ones)! I hope this helps. :)
People who meditate regularly enjoy many benefits such as increased sense of well being, happiness, contentment, and far less anxiety that many other people. Some believe that this is due to both hemispheres of the brain being in sync with each other, which meditative practice can provide. Therefore, a goal of using technology to entrain the brain and align the frequencies of the brain hemispheres has become a very interesting avenue of science and experimentation.
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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.
Most programs start at a work/life busy brain Beta frequency of twenty light flashes per second (20Hz) and slowly ramp them down to Alpha (relaxation and meditation) at 8-12 HZ, Theta (deep relaxation and dreaming) at 4-8 Hz) and Delta (dreamless deep relaxation) of .5-4Hz. We have taken measurements at Mass General with state of the art EEG equipment and have seen a slowing of the brain waves from Beta to Theta in two minutes and complete brain wave harmonization in the left, right, anterior, posterior and occipital regions of the brain.
^ Bittman, B. B., Snyder, C., Bruhn, K. T., Liebfreid, F., Stevens, C. K., Westengard, J., and Umbach, P. O., Recreational music-making: An integrative group intervention for reducing burnout and improving mood states in first year associate degree nursing students: Insights and economic impact" International Journal of Nursing Education Scholarship, Vol. 1, Article 12, 2004.