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.
Beta waves are the most common and most prevalent in the brain. These are the brain waves of alertness, dominating your normal waking state of consciousness. The Beta state relates to “fast” activity with neurons firing abundantly, in rapid succession, with attention focused directly towards cognitive tasks and the outside world. Beta activity is engaged in focused mental activity, problem solving, judgment and decision making. New ideas and solutions to problems flash like lightning into your mind.
For example, exercise and perusing a goal very ambitiously are both types of stress, except they ultimately benefit the body. Areas of the brain, including the hippocampus, amygdala and prefrontal cortex can pick up on positive stressful experiences and cause “stress-induced structural remodeling” of the brain, which means you experience alterations in behavioral and physiological responses to these positive events. The result is that in the future you’re better able to handle similar situations because you learn from them, associate them with a reward and stop perceiving them as threatening.
Your brainwave activity during sleep is largely distinct from your brain activity when you’re awake. (REM sleep is one exception to this—during REM, your brain is active in ways very much like when you’re awake.) During non-REM sleep, the slower, lower frequency theta and delta waves dominate, compared to the alpha and beta waves that are prominent when you’re alert and active.
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.
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.
A popular opinion in the brainwave entrainment community is that listening to isochronic tones without music produces a much stronger effect. However, in the study by Doherty, Cormac. “A comparison of alpha brainwave entrainment, with and without musical accompaniment” (2014), it was concluded that brainwave entrainment was equally effective for isochronic tones, both with and without music.
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Brainwaves, or neural oscillations, share the fundamental constituents with acoustic and optical waves, including frequency, amplitude and periodicity. Consequently, Huygens' discovery precipitated inquiry into whether or not the synchronous electrical activity of cortical neural ensembles might not only alter in response to external acoustic or optical stimuli but also entrain or synchronize their frequency to that of a specific stimulus.