Today we're going to put on our headphones, kick back in the beanbag, and get mellow to the soothing sounds of the latest digital drug: binaural beats. These computer generated sound files are said to massage your brain and produce all sorts of effects, everything from psychedelic experiences to behavior modification. Let's point our skeptical eye at the science of binaural beats, and especially at some of the claims made for them.
With the binaural beats, this may be difficult to do since you need to listen to the twin frequencies and allow your brain to create a third one to bridge the gap. Ideally, you will be listening to these beats through headphones so carrying out other work may be challenge. However, with isochronic frequencies, the tone can be heard without headphones which means you can run the mp3 with a speaker and allow it to play in the background as you carry out your work. Of course, activities such as driving or operating heavy machinery should NOT be undertaken when you are listening to these tones because your attention is shared between the two tasks. Tasks like gardening or sewing or cooking can be done while your brainwave entrainment music is playing.
After fixation upon our phenomenon takes place, what started out as a random perception is now cemented into our experience of, and is conditionally associated with entrainment. We condition ourselves to relive the same experience associated with entrainment each time we use it. It isn’t random any longer. It is explicit conditioning, and it repeats as predictably as the sunrise using entrainment as its new trigger.
It might seem obvious that you’d know when you’re stressed, but many of us spend so much time in a frazzled state that we’ve forgotten what it feels like when our nervous systems are in balance: when we’re calm yet still alert and focused. If this is you, you can recognize when you’re stressed by listening to your body. When you’re tired, your eyes feel heavy and you might rest your head on your hand. When you’re happy, you laugh easily. And when you’re stressed, your body lets you know that, too. Get in the habit of paying attention to your body’s clues.
The functional role of neural oscillations is still not fully understood; however they have been shown to correlate with emotional responses, motor control, and a number of cognitive functions including information transfer, perception, and memory. Specifically, neural oscillations, in particular theta activity, are extensively linked to memory function, and coupling between theta and gamma activity is considered to be vital for memory functions, including episodic memory.