I have a strange reaction to Binaural beats, as well as isochronic beats, and anything similar. After listening, I often feel vey fatigued, nauseous, and sometimes quite depressed. This effect can last a few days. So I stay away from it now, as well as guided meditations that have such beats in the background. Have you heard of this kind of reaction before?
Brainwave entrainment is a method which utilizes frequencies of the brain in order to bring about specific desired thoughts and behavior. In other words, brainwave entrainment is used to induce different brainwave states related to: enhanced focus, relaxation, sleep induction, meditation, etc. With the help of a specific stimulus, aural (audio), photic (visual) or the combination of the two, we naturally induce the brain to respond by synchronizing with the stimulus frequency; this is called the “frequency following response”. The assumption is that the human brain has a tendency to change its dominant Electroencephalography frequency (recording of electrical activity along the scalp) towards the frequency of a dominant external stimulus. This is why we also talk about “brainwave synchronization”.
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.
All of this is entirely understandable, even somewhat predictable. Unfortunately, it quickly becomes counter-productive. Such experiences, while having a certain feeling of solidity to them, are largely the product of our desires and expectations. Did your face get flushed? One look in the mirror confirms it did. Was this caused by the entrainment? No, it was not. It was the result of what was sought after and what was expected or even hoped for.
In 1956, the famous neuroscientist W. Gray Walter published the results of studying thousands of test subjects using photic stimulation, showing their change in mental and emotional states. He also learned that photic stimulation not only altered brainwaves, but that these changes were occurring in areas of the brain outside of vision. In Walter’s words:
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)
It should be stated that if we are listening to LifeFlow and we are intentionally seeking to enter into meditation, the chances are good that we will do exactly that rather than just being in a daydream or some other pleasant state. It’s no guarantee, but the combination of meditation and brainwave entrainment raises the odds that we will accomplish our meditative goal.
Beta brainwaves are typically those we experience when we are wide awake and full of energy. You can think of this frequency as the equivalent of taking stimulants like caffeine, Adderall, or various nootropics. The Beta frequency is good for generating a concentrated, focused, and analytical mind. In fact, the brainwave you probably possess while reading this is of the Beta frequency.
It’s not easy to remember to use your senses in the middle of a minor or not so minor crisis. At first, it will feel easier to just give into pressure and tense up. But with time, calling upon your senses will become second nature. Think of the process like learning to drive or play golf. You don’t master the skill in one lesson; you have to practice until it becomes second nature. Eventually you’ll feel like you’re forgetting something if you don’t tune into your body during challenging times. Here’s how to make it habit:
Cory Allen [b. 1982] is a composer and mastering engineer living in Austin, Texas. His work focuses on the cultivation of human perception with the intent of altering the listener's state of consciousness. Allen's music is deep, patient, meditative, highly-conceptual and often composed by implementing self-organizing structures, rule-based performances, set pitch classes and a wide variety of instruments.
A common element in recordings incorporating alpha and theta frequencies is a steady but barely perceptible rhythm of the frequencies themselves. This subtle and calming pulse mixes with sounds of gentle breezes, distant bird songs, and the slow progression of deep synth notes. Underneath this, below the audible sounds at sub 16 hertz levels, other frequencies intermingle, deepening the merging of conscious and unconscious mind.
Making time for connecting with the people around you, spending time outside and doing things you love with family, friends and your spouse are all stress relievers that are good for your health in many ways. Social connection is tied to longevity, since it helps people feel like they’re a part of something larger than themselves and helps give them perspective. Being outdoors has some similar effects, reminding people that they’re one piece of a much larger universe, lifting their moods and making it easier to get good sleep. (12)
“Chronic stress,” however, is not so easily resolved. This type of stress is associated more commonly with negative health concerns. Chronic stress results when there are constant multiple stressors or major life stressors present (4). Money, work, and the economy were the most commonly reported factors contributing to chronic stress in the American Psychological Association’s (APA) 2011 Stress in America™ survey (3). Additional significant stressors include relationships, family responsibilities, family and personal health problems, job stability, and personal safety (3). Major events, such as the death of a loved one, divorce, and moving also can produce chronic stress.
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.
Another very useful application for the Theta & Delta frequencies is to keep your eyes open while listening to the entrainment recordings. Simply pick a spot on the wall and look beyond it as if you were looking at the view beyond the wall. Keeping your eyes open while in Theta and Delta brainwave states stimulates connections between the visual information processing centers of your brain and the "dream vision" centers that normally only function with the eyes closed.
The final suggestion I have to offer is that you make your practice a regular, consistent habit. You don’t have to be perfect but you do need consistency. Like any other skill, entering meditation will develop in direct proportion to the consistency of your practice. Missing a session occasionally is not going to derail all your progress. But frequently skipping or blowing insincerely through practice is not going to produce any noteworthy results. There isn’t any hard and fast rule from frequency of practice that always applies to everyone, but most of us will instinctively know whether or not we’re giving our practice the time and effort it requires.
It's a scenario played out every evening all over the country: Come home from work and start venting to your spouse or roommate about your day. Instead of creating a negative atmosphere the minute you walk in the door, try starting off the evening with your family or friends by exchanging good news. Something good every day, you just need to recognize it.
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.
Alpha: Alpha brainwave patterns are associated with a state of wakeful relaxation. Slower and lower in frequency (between 9-14 hertz), alpha waves are dominant when we’re calm and relaxed, but still alert. Alpha waves are associated with states of meditation (your yoga class probably puts you in an alpha state), and also with our ability to be creative.
The pitch frequency measures and describes what a beat sounds like, i.e. does the isochronic beat have a deeper bass sound, or is it high pitched and sharper sounding? The beat waveform frequency describes how many times the beat is repeating per second, i.e. how fast it is beating. You don’t really need to concern yourself about the pitch frequency, as that doesn’t have a direct influence on brainwave entrainment and doesn’t play a part on the measurement on an EEG. I only mentioned it because you were referring to humans not being able to hear below 20Hz. I change the pitch frequency just to suit the mood of the track. For tracks that are to be relaxing, for meditation or sleep, I tend to use a lower pitch frequency so it sounds deeper and more relaxing and I never have that lower than 100Hz. For an energizing, high focus track I might use a more higher pitched 200Hz isochronic tone, because that is sharper sounding and less likely to make you feel sleepy. That’s all you really need to know about the pitch frequency.
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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).
When signals of two different frequencies are presented, one to each ear, the brain detects phase differences between these signals. "Under natural circumstances a detected phase difference would provide directional information. The brain processes this anomalous information differently when these phase differences are heard with stereo headphones or speakers. A perceptual integration of the two signals takes place, producing the sensation of a third "beat" frequency. The difference between the signals waxes and wanes as the two different input frequencies mesh in and out of phase. As a result of these constantly increasing and decreasing differences, an amplitude-modulated standing wave -the binaural beat- is heard. The binaural beat is perceived as a fluctuating rhythm at the frequency of the difference between the two auditory inputs. Evidence suggests that the binaural beats are generated in the brainstem's superior olivary nucleus, the first site of contra-lateral integration in the auditory system (Oster, 1973). Studies also suggest that the frequency-following response originates from the inferior colliculus (Smith, Marsh, & Brown, 1975)" (Owens & Atwater, 1995). This activity is conducted to the cortex where it can be recorded by scalp electrodes.
Monaural beats have similarities to binaural beats, but the two separate frequencies are delivered through a pulse pattern and mixed before they reach the listeners ears, resulting in the advantage of being audible without stereo headphones. However, using stereo headphones intensifies the effectiveness of monaural beats and is recommended for the best effect.
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.