When you play a tone with a slightly different frequency into your left and right ear — say, 200 hertz (Hz) in one and 210 Hz in the other — they travel separately to your inferior colliculus, the part of your brain that gathers auditory input. There, the tones “squelch” together into a so-called “beat” at a perceived new frequency. (In this case, it would be 10 Hz.)
Delta brainwaves have the slowest frequencies, ranging between 0.1 and 4 hertz, and these are the brainwave states associated with deep sleep, trance states, and unconsciousness. Few people can remain awake during delta brainwaves states, although this state is recorded in awake infants between ages of three months and one year and also in babies just before birth. Delta waves are also linked with increased production of HGH, DHEA, and the neuro-transmitter serotonin.
Robert Monroe, a radio producer and executive published a popular book called Journeys Out of the Body about his out-of-body experiences when using brainwave entrainment. He later founded an original brainwave entrainment audio company, Hemi Sync. In 1981, the book Mega Brain by Michael Hutchison brought brainwave entrainment information, techniques, and terminology into the popular press.
Everyone experiences stress, and not all stress is bad. However, individuals who experience acute episodic and chronic stress are at increased risk for developing stress-related health problems. This article outlines the relationship between stress and health and discusses the role of exercise in managing stress. Exercise recommendations and stress management tips are provided.
Participants in the included studies were children and adults, either healthy or with conditions such as learning disabilities, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, migraine, stress, anxiety and myofascial pain. Interventions included single, alternating, ascending or descending frequencies of photic or auditory stimulation or audiovisual entrainment selected either by the participant or by the investigator. Nearly half the studies used single sessions and the rest used multiple sessions ranging from nine to 100. Length of session varied from 0.5 seconds to 60 minutes. Frequency of session varied from twice daily to weekly. Outcomes reported in the review included cognition (including verbal skills, performance skills, attention, memory and overall intelligence/achievement), short- and long-term stress, pain, headache/migraine, mood, behavioural problems and premenstrual syndrome (PMS).
The idea behind CBT is this: If you can reframe the way you think about events in your life — for example, instead of panicking over a job change you choose to embrace it, prepare as best you can and seize the opportunity to start fresh — you can literally reduce the stress you wind up feeling from the event. CBT is useful for training us to avoid internal causes of stress, such as “all-or-nothing” thinking, jumping to conclusions, pessimism, having unrealistic expectations for ourselves, always expecting the worst-case scenario, and feeling guilt or shame over events that are out of our control. (11)
Recent research at the University of Lisbon finally uncovered the reason for the 350 year-old mystery, finding that the resonance of sound is the mechanism for entrainment of swinging pendulums and ticking clocks, and it seems likely that the energy transferred by sound is also responsible for other observations of entrainment, including brainwave entrainment.
“…humans have always been intrigued by the possibilities for influencing mental functioning that emerge from combining rhythmic sound and rhythmic light stimulation. Ancient rituals for entering trance states often involved both rhythmic sounds in the form of drum beats, clapping, or chanting and flickering lights produced by candles, torches, bonfires, or long lines of human bodies passing before the fire and chopping the light into mesmerizing rhythmic flashes. From Greek plays to Western opera, our most popular entertainment forms have made use of combinations of lights and sounds. Some composers, such as the visionary Scriabin, actually created music intended to be experienced in combination with rhythmic light displays.”
Our brainwave states are natural. Guiding the brain into those states intentionally by using entrainment is just another way of experiencing those same natural states. Nothing “unnatural” is produced by the brain as a result of using entrainment. The only thing that is different is that when using entrainment we often go into the experience with either general expectations, or a well defined laundry list of specific expectations that we associate with entrainment. We have no such list going throughout our normal day when we’re not using entrainment.
Passively listening to binaural beats may not spontaneously propel you into an altered state of consciousness. One's subjective experience in response to binaural-beat stimulation may also be influenced by a number of mediating factors. For example, the willingness and ability of the listener to relax and focus attention may contribute to binaural-beat effectiveness in inducing state changes. "Ultradian rhythms in the nervous system are characterized by periodic changes in arousal and states of consciousness (Rossi, 1986).
Cortisol is an arousal hormone, stimulating alertness and attention. Cortisol levels rise and fall in connection to circadian rhythms—cortisol levels rise to their peak levels first thing in the morning, just in time for you to be active for the day. Too-high cortisol levels are associated with insomnia, as well as more time spent in light sleep, rather than deep sleep.
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.