Brainwave Entrainment is an assisted form of meditation using pulses of sound. Entrainment is a process of synchronizing two different beats to become harmonious. Brainwave entrainment works by pulsing a different sound in each ear to stimulate the brain into altered states of consciousness. Examples including Binaural Beats and Isochronic Tones, which are best experienced with headphones to assist with relaxation, deep sleep and focus.
A study by Tina Huang, PhD, and Christine Charyton, published in the September 2008 issue of the journal, Alternative Therapies examined the results of twenty previous studies measuring the effectiveness of brainwave entrainment for improvements in cognitive dysfunction and deficits, stress reduction, pain management, migraine and headache control, pre-menstrual syndrome, and behavioral difficulties, and all showed significant improvement in symptoms using entrainment techniques.
In order to understand brainwave entrainment you first have to understand something about brain waves and electroencephalograms (EEG). Neurons are cells that communicate with each other through electrical conduction. When a neuron fires it creates a small electrical and magnetic field. These fields are far too small to measure by placing electrodes on the scalp, or even on the surface of the brain. The only reason we can detect the electrical fields of the brain is because many neurons are firing together – in synchrony. All brain waves that are measured by an EEG, therefore, represent a large group of neurons firing together.
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 you’re going to enter a state of meditation, a technique of some sort must be employed that takes you there. (Note – I am fully aware of references to “spontaneous enlightenment experiences”, but these are an entirely different category of phenomena than what is being discussed here and are outside the scope of this discussion. Perhaps another time.)
Consider the following analogy. Imagine a ballroom full of people dancing together. When the music changes to a faster tempo, the dancers move faster in response to this. When a slower piece of music is played, the dancers’ rhythm slows down as well. In a similar way, the frequency of your brain will change in response to the frequency of the binaural beat that it is exposed to. For example, a person who is in a state of very deep meditation may have a dominant brainwave frequency of 5 hertz, so by listening to a binaural beat with a frequency of 5 hertz you can entrain your own brainwaves to a similar state.
When the track is over you can continue to meditate without the help of the entrainment track. When you are ready to get up, thank your Higher Self for the experience and remove your blindfold, keeping your eyes closed. Stay seated with your eyes closed for a few moments, then slowly open them and take a moment to let your eyes adjust to your environment’s light.
There are many advantages and disadvantages with binaural beats. One of the major advantages is hemispheric synchronization. Since both hemispheres are required to create the beat within the brain, this method is an excellent way to create greater harmony between areas of the mind typically functioning independently. Binaural beats are also known to have effective hypnotic and relaxing effects.
On the other hand, if you’re a person who generally has their life together, and who is somewhat successful in your current coping strategies, even if they’re not perfect, then a little bit of additional quiet and relaxation may not seem so dramatic to you as it does to that burned out person. It will feel good, but the degree of difference between that and your normal way of life will not seem so extreme to you as it will to the burned out person. It is a relative experience.
One RCT (n=108) showed significant reduction in anxiety from a single session of alpha/delta therapy for day surgery patients. A crossover RCT of a single session of theta stimulation in four healthy adults reported significant improvement from the intervention in one of five measures. Five pre/post studies reported significant benefit from the intervention for 16 of 27 outcomes.
Subsequently, the term 'entrainment' has been used to describe a shared tendency of many physical and biological systems to synchronize their periodicity and rhythm through interaction. This tendency has been identified as specifically pertinent to the study of sound and music generally, and acoustic rhythms specifically. The most ubiquitous and familiar examples of neuromotor entrainment to acoustic stimuli is observable in spontaneous foot or finger tapping to the rhythmic beat of a song.