Although there is a general stress response pattern, there can be variations in the response according to the characteristics of the stressor (10). Individuals tend to respond differently based on the familiarity of the stressor. For example, the perceived level of stress and physiological response when giving a presentation to a group of work colleagues will likely be less than when presenting to an unfamiliar group. The stress response also varies depending on the level of perceived control one has over the stressor (10). If there is a way for one to actively cope with the stressor that is reasonable, then the individual usually perceives more control over the situation. Consider an individual who has to take a certification examination for work and has 6 months to prepare. He can adjust his schedule to accommodate study time. However, waiting for medical test results that show whether one has a serious illness does not allow a sense of control over the stressor, and the individual passively endures the stressor or may try to avoid the stressor. With this uncontrollable type of stressor, there is a more negative reaction with greater productions of cortisol, which can have damaging health effects because of the suppression of immune function (10).

According to a recent study published in the British journal Heart, slow or meditative music is a proven stress buster, so set your dial to a soothing station during your commute. And, if you're stuck in a traffic jam, sneak in this quick exercise: Grab your steering wheel and clench the muscles in your fingers, arms, shoulders and back. Do this until your muscles begin to tremble (about 45 seconds), then release. You'll produce a wave of relief in your upper neck and arms all the way down to your fingers. Just make sure your foot is on the brake when you let go of the wheel! (FYI: pink noise is the newest tool for reducing stress.)


Binaural beats were discovered in 1839 by a German experimenter, H. W. Dove. The human ability to "hear" binaural beats appears to be the result of evolutionary adaptation. Many evolved species can detect binaural beats because of their brain structure. The frequencies at which binaural beats can be detected change depending upon the size of the species' cranium. In the human, binaural beats can be detected when carrier waves are below approximately 1000 Hz (Oster, 1973). Below 1000 Hz the wave length of the signal is longer than the diameter of the human skull. Thus, signals below 1000 Hz curve around the skull by diffraction. The same effect can be observed with radio wave propagation. Lower-frequency (longer wave length) radio waves (such as AM radio) travel around the earth over and in between mountains and structures. Higher-frequency (shorter wave length) radio waves (such as FM radio, TV, and microwaves) travel in a straight line and can't curve around the earth. Mountains and structures block these high-frequency signals. Because frequencies below 1000 Hz curve around the skull, incoming signals below 1000 Hz are heard by both ears. But due to the distance between the ears, the brain "hears" the inputs from the ears as out of phase with each other. As the sound wave passes around the skull, each ear gets a different portion of the wave. It is this waveform phase difference that allows for accurate location of sounds below 1000 Hz(9). Audio direction finding at higher frequencies is less accurate than it is for frequencies below 1000 Hz. At 8000 Hz the pinna (external ear) becomes effective as an aid to localization. In summary it's the ability of the brain to detect a waveform phase difference is what enables it to perceive binaural beats.
Hello Jason, this is an unusually thoughtful discussion. Thank you for all your expertise and your kind manner of presenting and moderating it. I’m wondering if you have any experience with this: ever since I’ve been exposed to theta wave music, without headphones, I have found it irritating. And this is in spite of the fact that when I was first handed a CD by someone I knew well and trusted he was so confident I’d love it It didn’t occur to either of us that I might not. This happened again recently, which is about 10 years later, when I heard it playing overhead at an acupuncture clinic. I felt restless and even irritated, unable to zone out, which is unusual for me, during the treatment. I realized that the quality of my irritation was similar to what I’d felt listening to that CD a decade ago.So I asked if it was theta wave music and she said yes. The acupuncturist said that some people, but a vast minority, really dislike the music. She said that the few people who dislike it are not simply neutral, but actively dislike it. And she also said, but most people like it a lot. I’m just wondering what kind of factors might be present that would make a person feel so irritated by this music?

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. 

×