When we are mentally active various groups of neurons will be firing and the EEG will look like a jumble of different waves at different frequencies. When we are in a relaxed state, however, our brains settle into a steady rhythm – when fully awake this is the alpha rhythm, which as a frequency of 8-12 hz and other recognizable features. When drowsy our brainwaves slow to the theta range, 6-7hz, and when in deep sleep into the delta range, 4-5hz.
But the question is: Does it have a special effect on the brain? A lot of people think so. The basic claim being made for binaural beats is "resonant entrainment". Entrainment, in physics, is when two systems which oscillate at different frequencies independently are brought together, they synchronize with one another, at whatever the combined system's resonant frequency is. Examples of entrainment occur in animals in nature; for example the chirping of crickets or the croaking of frogs. Synchronization of menstrual cycles in women is another example. Even people coming together and dancing with one another is a type of entrainment. The basic claim for binaural beats is that the perceived low-frequency beat will entrain your brain wave pattern, thus forcing your brain into some desired state.
Jeffrey D. Thompson, D.C., B.F.A. Disclaimer: Nothing on this website is intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any medical condition of whatever nature, and shall not be construed to mean medical advice, implied or otherwise. Information on this site is intended for educational edification and use only. © Coyyright 1988-2018 – Center for Neuroacoustic Research - All Rights Reserved.
(Shannahoff-Khalsa, 1991; Webb & Dube, 1981). These naturally occurring shifts may underlie the anecdotal reports of fluctuations in the effectiveness of binaural beats. External factors are also thought to play roles in mediating the effects of binaural beats (Owens & Atwater, 1995). The perception of a binaural beat is, for example, said to be heightened by the addition of white noise to the carrier signal (Oster, 1973), so white noise is often used as background. "Music, relaxation exercises, guided imagery, and verbal suggestion have all been used to enhance the state-changing effects of the binaural beat" (Owens & Atwater, 1995). Other practices such as humming, toning, breathing exercises, autogenic training, and/or biofeedback can also be used to interrupt the homeostasis of resistant subjects (Tart, 1975).
If you happen to be someone who already knows about the physics of sound, then you’ll know that frequencies of 20 hertz or less cannot be heard by the human ear. So how on earth can we use sound to create frequencies as low as 0.1 hertz, and how will you be able to hear them? This is where the “magic” of binaural beats comes into action. Actually, it’s not magic at all...it’s more physics! If you are feeling a bit adventurous, then click on the following link to find out how binaural frequencies are created.
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.
It cannot be any wonder then that we are almost desperate to find some sign, some indication that meditation and brainwave entrainment is having tangible, definable effects. We seize on these odd little experiences like ‘flushing of the face’ or ‘seeing spirals of color’ when our eyes are closed, hoping these are signs suggesting the elusive relief we’ve been after is finally within our grasp. We ask others to validate our experiences so that we can reassure ourselves we’re on the right track at last.
2. The other thing you cannot afford to do is evaluate whether or not a technique is having an effect based upon having (or not having) any of those superficial, irrelevant, distracting phenomena discussed above, like face flushing, seeing light swirls, having sensations of this, that or the other thing, etc. Those kinds of phenomena will just lead you down the wrong path and steer you away from the true benefits of meditation. If you’ve already fallen into the trap of this sort of conditioning, using something like the Release Technique, the Sedona Method, or even EFT can be helpful in breaking established conditioned associations.
With almost 100 years of research validating the effectiveness of brainwave entrainment, it’s no wonder why it’s used by thousands of people all over the world. What does the future entail in this exciting field? With the adoption of smartphones, virtual and augmented reality, and advancements in technology reducing the cost of EEG and other forms of biofeedback devices, the entrainment possibilities are endless.
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 brain will entrain to the strongest stimulus. If you combine binaural beats with isochronic tones, your brainwaves will entrain to the isochronic tones. If anything, when you combine the two I believe it makes the track less effective because it makes it harder for the brain to decipher between the two and synchronise to a single beat. There are lots of websites with compelling marketing about the benefits of combining the two together in some funky way, but I haven’t seen any research or lots of anecdotal feedback even to suggest it’s effective to combine them.
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.
Entrainment is a term originally derived from complex systems theory, and denotes the way that two or more independent, autonomous oscillators with differing rhythms or frequencies, when situated in a context and at a proximity where they can interact for long enough, influence each other mutually, to a degree dependent on coupling force, such that they adjust until both oscillate with the same frequency. Examples include the mechanical entrainment or cyclic synchronization of two electric clothes dryers placed in close proximity, and the biological entrainment evident in the synchronized illumination of fireflies.