Go behind the scenes of brainwave entrainment technology creation with Joseph Kao, developer of the extraordinary meditation tool Journey to the Center of the Self. Here, in an interview with John Dupuy, CEO of iAwake Technologies, Joe describes the amazing complexity of the brainwave entraining soundscape he created to both accompany his deeply inductive, 30-minute, guided meditation on the first track of Journey, and also stand alone as a music-only track that holds you in a profoundly relaxed, still, yet clear place on the theta/delta border. To find out all that went into the making of the inductive guided meditation on the first track of Journey, see A Guide to Transpersonal Meditation: Journey to the Center of the Self, part I of this interview.
Binaural beats require two separate tones from two sources that are combined inside the listener’s brain to form the target tone. The lower frequency sound is called the carrier tone, and it is combined with a higher frequency sound known as the offset tone. Because of this, binaural beats must be listened to with stereo headphones or the effect is lost. Binaural beats create a hypnotic effect, but they are not the most effective tool for brainwave entrainment, and binaural beats are often ineffective for people with hearing loss.
However, by listening to binaural music you can dramatically accelerate your progress with meditation, and achieve a far deeper, more relaxing state of mind than you would by practicing traditional meditation techniques. In fact, almost everyone discovers that uses binaural meditation music finds that they go deeper into meditation, faster, and with less concerted effort.
Binaural-beat perception originates in the inferior colliculus of the midbrain and the superior olivary complex of the brainstem, where auditory signals from each ear are integrated and precipitate electrical impulses along neural pathways through the reticular formation up the midbrain to the thalamus, auditory cortex, and other cortical regions.[6]
With regard to listening without headphones specifically, you might find it irritating if you are someone who suffers from motion sickness, depending on how the track is created. If you were listening to binaural beats, they really need headphones to work properly. If you are in a room and closer to one speaker you may not even hear binaural beats properly, and if sitting off centre in the room generally, that may have unsettled you if you have motion sickness as the tones try to form a beat in your head. If it was just a standard isochronic tones theta track that shouldn’t be irritating if you have motion sickness.
Therefore we are very receptive to new technology products that promise to improve our lives, or solve previously difficult problems, because of some new scientific or technological advance. This has created, in a sense, a marketplace of consumers that expect to be dazzled with technobabble they don’t understand, backed by assurances of legitimacy by the citing of research and association with professionals or professional institutions, and offering significant benefits. We are all, in a sense, waiting for that next product to improve our lives, and many of us like to feel we are on the cutting edge – getting an advantage over others by being savvy early adopters.
Isochronic tones have only been proven to have an effect while you are listening to them, that’s why you won’t find me claiming anywhere that there are potentially positive long-term effects. Once the tones stop, your brainwaves are no longer being stimulated by the sound and so they stop being in sync with the tone frequency. For you to think you are still feeling the effects after all this time and from such a short time listening to them, I think it may be linked to anxiety. I know that some people who are new to this type of thing can build up a strong feeling of anxiety, after worrying about the potential effects brought on by fear of the unknown. I suspect the problem may be psychological with you worrying about the potential effects and keep repeating the experience from memory in your head. When you keep going over the same thing in your head like that and worrying about it, it’s easy to then spot other potential side-effects like how your nostrils and body temp is feeling, then making links back to that experience and labelling that as the reason. I think the best way to overcome this is to realise that the side-effects you are mentioning are completely unrelated, so there is nothing to worry about. These tracks are literally listened to for millions of hours a month on YouTube across loads of channels. If the effects lasted for a long time people would just listen for 5 minutes and come back in a couple of weeks. But people keep coming back to listen because that’s the only way to feel the benefit and effects…while you are listening to them. If you are unable to stop thinking and worrying about this on our own, I recommend that you speak to your doctor about it or a specialist in dealing with anxiety issues. I hope that helps.
Studies have shown binaural beats may affect levels of dopamine, a hormone that plays a broad role in cognition and a particular role in creative thinking. This has scientists examining the possibility that binaural beats can be used to stimulate creativity. (If you’re looking to be more creative and innovative in your thinking, keep in mind that sleep itself is a powerful tool!)

Start by kneading the muscles at the back of your neck and shoulders. Make a loose fist and drum swiftly up and down the sides and back of your neck. Next, use your thumbs to work tiny circles around the base of your skull. Slowly massage the rest of your scalp with your fingertips. Then tap your fingers against your scalp, moving from the front to the back and then over the sides.

“Stress” is a commonly used term, and it is often used with different meanings. The standard definition for stress that will be used in this article is the disruption of the body’s homeostasis or a state of disharmony in response to a real or perceived threat or challenge (8). The threatening or challenging situation is referred to as a “stressor.” When a person encounters a stressor, the body prepares to respond to the challenge or threat. The autonomic nervous and endocrine systems respond by producing the hormones epinephrine, norepinephrine, and cortisol. The result of this hormone production is a cascade of physiological reactions that make up the stress response. Epinephrine and norepinephrine are involved in the initial changes that take place to prepare the body to react and to prepare for a challenge. These responses include increases in heart and respiration rates, blood pressure, perspiration, and energy production (8). There also is a suppression of immune function, production of β-endorphin (the body’s natural pain killer), and increased acuity of the senses. These changes make up the fight-or-flight response, which prepares the body to cope with the stressor. If the stressor is perceived as negative or more as a threat than as a challenge, cortisol production is increased. Cortisol is involved in energy production but also suppresses immune function.

Delta brainwaves are slow, loud brainwaves (low frequency and deeply penetrating, like a drum beat). They are generated in deepest meditation and dreamless sleep. Delta waves suspend external awareness and are the source of empathy. Healing and regeneration are stimulated in this state, and that is why deep restorative sleep is so essential to the healing process.


Delta (3hz – 0.2hz) – Deep, dreamless sleep. Intuition. Empathy. Brainwave expert Judith Pennington calls it the doorway to Universal Consciousness and “A radar that scans the environment and psychically picks up information and energy.” According to British physicist C. Maxwell Cade “There have been reports that delta waves appear at the onset of paranormal phenomena.” (More information can be found in Cade’s book The Awakened Mind)
Isochronic tones are basically just a single tone with the volume being turned on and off at regular intervals. When you apply the same effects to music or a noise, it’s usually referred to as amplitude entrainment effects (in Mind Workstation anyway). When you apply the on/off effect to music or noise it’s usually done by targeting a specific frequency range in the sound and only turning that part on/off, leaving the rest of the music/noise untouched. What that does is allow parts of the music/noise to play without being distorted/interrupted, making it sound more pleasant to listen to. It produces a kind of fluttering sound as I like to call it and you can adjust the level of intensity.

By simultaneously combining the sounds of two didgeridoos, a desired state of consciousness can be induced in the listener. For example, when one didgeridoo is played in the key of Bb (fundamental frequency of 58 Hz) and a second didgeridoo is played in the key of C (65 Hz), the difference between the frequencies is manifested as a subtle pulsing (in this case 7 Hz). The listener’s dominant brainwave state will sync with this pulsation in a frequency-following response known as brainwave entrainment.
Binaural beats must be listened to using headphones. You definitely should not use them while driving or operating heavy machinery as you will be in an altered state of mind. Brainwave entrainment is a form of meditation and designed to be very passive, in fact, all you need to do is sit back, put on your headphones and let the technology do the work for you. It is best to find a session that you find soothing to listen to, as binaural beats on their own are a very strange sound that can be disturbing to some listeners. This was actually what inspired me to invent Trypnaural as a way for brainwave entrainment to be more bearable to listen to for long periods of time.
This incredible app which you  not only has over 3 hours of meditations valued at $200, the technology utilized is unlike anything else on the marketplace. The heartbeat synchronization augmentation gives you a completely immersive experiencing, tuning in to your body’s natural rhythms. It gives you the best binaural music on the market. Fully customizable, you can base your meditation on your mood, goals and timeframe. This is the perfect app for a deep, introspective experience.
If you can't spend a full hour in meditation, try the 30 minute Theta Standalone Meditation. This track takes you a little deeper into exploring the Theta frequency than the first Theta track, so it can also be a progression if you have used the first Alpha/Theta combination. If you do have a full hour for Theta, use the 60 minute Theta Standalone meditation.
For a little variety, you can use the 60 minute Delta Ultra Deep Standalone Meditation which takes you down into Delta and holds you there for an extended period of time. If you can stay awake during this entire time, you will have some amazing meditative experiences. (If you fall asleep, don't worry! It's natural and with practice you will be able to stay awake more often.)

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.”


We can’t always control sources of stress in our lives, but we change how we react to them. The good news is this: The human body is actually designed to experience and handle stress, which is exactly why our bodies react to it so strongly. With some practice, we have the power to learn to use certain elements of stress to our advantage (for example, the fact that stress keeps us more alert and attentive), while better controlling other negative reactions (like digestion problems or giving in to cravings for unhealthy foods).

All brainwave frequencies are useful and beneficial at certain times – there is no brainwave that is intrinsically better than another. However, by deliberately choosing to attain a particular brainwave state, a corresponding mental state can be brought about at the same time. For example, a working person who has been in an overly alert beta brainwave pattern for many hours can quickly shift their mind and body into a relaxed state by listening to a few minutes of brainwave entrainment music for inducing alpha or theta brainwaves.

Women worry more than men do. A study of 166 married couples who kept stress diaries for six weeks found that women feel stress more frequently than men because women tend to worry in a more global way. Whereas a man might fret about something actual and specific—such as the fact that he's just been passed over for a promotion—a woman will tend to worry abstractly about her job, her weight, plus the well-being of every member of her extended family. Keep your anxiety focused on real, immediate issues, and tune out imagined ones or those over which you have zero control, and you'll automatically reduce stress overload.
All brainwave frequencies are useful and beneficial at certain times – there is no brainwave that is intrinsically better than another. However, by deliberately choosing to attain a particular brainwave state, a corresponding mental state can be brought about at the same time. For example, a working person who has been in an overly alert beta brainwave pattern for many hours can quickly shift their mind and body into a relaxed state by listening to a few minutes of brainwave entrainment music for inducing alpha or theta brainwaves.
Therefore we are very receptive to new technology products that promise to improve our lives, or solve previously difficult problems, because of some new scientific or technological advance. This has created, in a sense, a marketplace of consumers that expect to be dazzled with technobabble they don’t understand, backed by assurances of legitimacy by the citing of research and association with professionals or professional institutions, and offering significant benefits. We are all, in a sense, waiting for that next product to improve our lives, and many of us like to feel we are on the cutting edge – getting an advantage over others by being savvy early adopters.
“Like the pulses of vibration that produce sound on a guitar string, your brain also creates pulses of vibrations. These vibrations are electrical impulses,” continues Naik. “Their activity can be measured by using an EEG (electroencephalogram), which measures the frequency of these pulses [which is measured in Hertz]. Your brain actually has a predominant frequency at which it operates in any given moment; this can be associated with your state of mind.”
CBT focuses on challenging and changing your thoughts first and foremost, since the way you perceive an event (not the actual event itself) means everything in terms of how your body reacts. (10) Once you can identify the root thought pattern that is causing harmful behaviors, you can work on changing how you think about events and therefore react to them.

So, what we’re doing is combining these two parts, the awakening of complete stillness and deep relaxation with the rhythmic sounds, and embedding all frequencies within the music from right at the upper limits of human hearing to the lower limits. There is multi-level entrainment within Journey—I’ve layered in everything I know about audio brainwave entrainment into this track. 
Doing almost any routine, repetitive activity (like vacuuming, shredding paper or knitting), or reciting a word that represents how you wish you felt (such as calm) is a quick way to achieve a Zen-like state. Studies show the effects lower blood pressure and slow heart rate and breathing. The crucial elements are to focus on a word, your breathing or a movement and to bring your attention back to your task if your mind wanders or negative thoughts intrude. Or look to your faith for a mantra: A recent study published in the Journal of Advanced Nursing found that repeating phrases with spiritual meanings helped participants cope with a range of problems, from anxiety to insomnia.

Looking for an even more impactful way to feel the benefits of exercise? Do so while listening to uplifting music. Research findings indicate that music listening positively impacts the psycho-biological stress system, helps activate the parasympathetic nervous system, improves recovery time, and has benefits for hormonal balance and brain functioning overall. (4)


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. :)
Since opening their online store in 2011, Binaural Beats Meditation has served “hundreds of thousands” of customers, according to James Matthews, the site’s customer happiness manager. “We continue to see an increase in interest… from individuals, but increasingly so from therapists using the music to help clients, health and wellness organizations, and businesses around the world.”

These sounds in these musical tracks are presented through monaural beats, binaural beats, isochronic tones, or a mixture involving combinations of all three of these modalities, described in detail below. Choose alpha brainwave tracks for calming anxiety and relaxing body and mind, and choose theta tracks for help in getting to sleep and for bringing hidden feelings to the surface. Some people also report out-of-body type experiences when in theta brainwave states.
This is an extreme example, naturally, but the idea holds true even in situations that are not as extreme. This ties in very closely with Point #4 above. When you’re wishing to combine meditation and brainwave entrainment, if you’re practicing a meditation technique but not really paying attention to what you’re doing, or perhaps you are performing the technique wrong, whilst allowing your mind to drift off to wherever it takes you, it should come as no surprise that the entrainment track is not helping you achieve a state of meditation. That’s because in fact you aren’t really trying to enter meditation or because you’re specifically engaging in activities that prevent you from getting there.
To get a full answer you should really get in touch with the owner of the app, because it does really depend on how their track is constructed and how they intend it to work. I have one 50-minute sleep track which takes you down into delta (http://www.mindamend.com/shop/sleeping-and-dreaming/sleep-induction-isochronic-tones/) and that is designed to just get you to sleep, so you just let play until the end. If you played that track on repeat it might make you jump and wake you up, as the track begins at a higher frequency. I have another 8-hour sleep track which is meant to be played all throughout the night (http://www.mindamend.com/shop/sleeping-and-dreaming/deep-sleep-8-hour-sleep-cycle/). So it does depend on the individual track you are using.

“Stress and sleepless nights are closely linked,” Buenaver says. “If you’re in pain, tend to worry, or are coping with a difficult situation in your life, you may have more stress hormones than usual circulating in your body. A poor night’s sleep adds even more. And those hormones may never be fully broken down. It’s like running an engine in fifth gear all the time.”


There isn’t really a one-size-fits-all track or frequency range which is right for all kids while doing homework. So that does make it difficult to recommend one thing in particular, and why I have a number of tracks for studying and focus. If they have already learnt and understood the information, but are just trying to commit it to memory for a test, then I would recommend an alpha track, like the Memorization Study Aid product I have with the 10.4Hz frequency you referred to. If they are still trying to fully understand what is being taught in a workbook, then I would recommend a track that is mainly beta frequencies, like my Study Focus tracks. In the middle, I have a number of tracks which use a combination of beta and alpha wave frequencies, like Study Booster, Study Enhancer and Cognition Enhancer. The last 3 use similar frequencies but deliver the tones and brainwave entrainment effects in different ways. As we are all wired a little differently it does sometimes take a bit of trial and error, to see what method or frequency range works best for the individual. These types of tracks are made for a general audience. In an ideal world, you would hook up to an EEG and see in real time exactly what a person responds to best, depending on the goal and current state of mind.
(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).

Most of all, don't feel bad if you fall asleep. Your brain is still receiving many of the benefits of entrainment while you sleep through the audio tracks. In fact, many people report better, more restful sleep when they use brainwave entrainment to help them fall asleep. However, I recommend that you do not go to sleep with your brainwave track set to repeat, as that can be too much stimulation for the brain.

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.

Aside from Brain Evolution, this is another good resource for brainwave entrainment products that I recommend. They have binaural beats and isochronic tones for many different applications. The nice thing is that they are inexpensive, so you can experiment with different types and find ones that work for you. They also have a membership plan that makes experimenting even more affordable. It’s probably the best bang for the buck that I can find for brainwave entrainment.

Everyone experiences stress, and not all stress is bad. Individuals who experience acute episodic or chronic stress are at increased risk for developing stress-related health problems. Research supports the idea that exercise can improve the way the body handles stress, and it can provide a time-out from stressors. Exercise programs meeting the current recommendations for health included within a stress management program can be effective in stress reduction. However, it is important to consider the client’s stressors and physical activity barriers, activities the client will enjoy, and the exercise setting. Prescribing exercise for clients seeking stress management is recommended, but fitness professionals should recognize that some clients will need additional assistance for managing stress and major life stressors.
“When you play two separate frequencies in each ear, say 140 Hz and 149 Hz, the difference in frequency is 9 Hz. Your brain compensates for this difference, and a third tone of 9 Hz is experienced,” says Niraj Naik, founder of Trpynaural, a resource for binaural tracks. “This will result in your brain being raised or lowered and tuned into the desired frequency. This is how binaural beats are produced.”
Second, brainwave entrainment is a workout for your brain. This means you have to gently ease your way into the process. I recommend that you begin with the 30 minute Alpha Light Meditation for a few days as your meditative component. Also listen to IQ Increase and Beta Relaxed Focus one time each during your day as you work, commute, run errands, etc.
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.
The huge problem will all such studies is that there is a clear placebo effect on any kind of mental performance whenever the subject is observed. Do any intervention, then measure performance, and the intervention and measurement are likely to cause an increase in effort and attention which will increase performance. This generic “placebo” effect needs to be factored out of any such study by proper blinding and controls in order for the results to have any meaning at all.
Yoga has been shown to have similar benefits, reinforcing the “mind-body connection,” improving how people (especially women) feel about their bodies, helping with sleep and controlling anxiety. A review of over 35 clinical trials that tested the effects of regular yoga on stress levels and health found that, overall, yoga offers significant improvements in various physical and psychological health markers for the majority of people. (3)
You might not realize it, but when you’re stressed, every muscle in your body tenses up. Taking a moment to recognize this and actively relaxing each part of your body can help. According to Whitaker, common stress-storing places are the jaw, neck, shoulders, back, and stomach. “The Instant Relaxation Technique is a deliberate tightening of the entire body, starting from the toes to the head region, and letting it go instantly,” Joshi says. “This is an effective way to become self-aware of our muscles and letting go of stress very quickly.” While you do this, picture all the negative emotion and tension leaving your body. Look out for these 8 silent signs stress is actually making you sick.
When people begin to believe these kinds of claims it is only half a step further for them to begin to attribute all of their own curious little experiences to entrainment. After all, they reason in the back of their minds, if 3.84Hz can cure an ovarian cyst, isn’t it just as reasonable that listening to a track at 8Hz might cause the room to appear to spin and change colors? There is an old saying that suggests that the more outrageous a claim is, the more people will be inclined to believe it. Don’t fall for outrageous, ridiculous claims. If you do you’re heading for disappointment, guaranteed.
With regard to listening without headphones specifically, you might find it irritating if you are someone who suffers from motion sickness, depending on how the track is created. If you were listening to binaural beats, they really need headphones to work properly. If you are in a room and closer to one speaker you may not even hear binaural beats properly, and if sitting off centre in the room generally, that may have unsettled you if you have motion sickness as the tones try to form a beat in your head. If it was just a standard isochronic tones theta track that shouldn’t be irritating if you have motion sickness.

Stress levels and a proper diet are closely related. When we’re overwhelmed, we often forget to eat well and resort to using sugary, fatty snack foods as a pick-me-up. Try to avoid sugary snacks and plan ahead. Fruits and vegetables are always good, and fish with high levels of omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to reduce the symptoms of stress. A tuna sandwich really is brain food.


Experts haven't figured out why having your body pressed and prodded works wonders, but they know that it does. Studies suggest massage can speed up weight gain in premature babies, improve lung function in asthmatics and boost immunity in men with HIV. If you can't indulge in regular full-body massages, treat yourself to the occasional pedicure, manicure or facial—all nurturing, hands-on treats that offer some of the mind-body benefits of massage. 

Joe:             The Journey  soundscape took a lot of work. I wanted to bring in the very best of what I knew about brainwave entrainment and to make the best brainwave entrainment product—with the best entrainment technology—that I possibly could. So, there are all sorts of things going on in Journey  to provide a sound bed to support the experience of expansiveness and also communicate elements of the heart-based work I talked about earlier. (See part I of this interview, A Guide to Transpersonal Meditation.)


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.
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