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.

Stress: We all deal with it, yet we know how much better off we’d be — both physically and mentally — if we could only get it under control and find stress relievers that really work. While stress can be a positive, motivating factor at times (such as when you’re under pressure to perform well at work or to ace an important exam), more and more research shows that chronic stress impacts the body in ways similar to a poor diet, lack of sleep or sedentary lifestyle.

Beta brainwaves are next highest in frequency after alpha waves, occurring at 13 to 30 hertz. Beta brainwaves are what we experience every day as we are awake and using our analytic mind. Beta brainwaves are needed for concentrating on mental tasks, and when they are present for too long of a time, they lead to stress, anxiety, and even paranoia. Most people do not have trouble achieving beta brainwaves and in fact suffer from spending too much time in beta brainwave patterns. However, those with attention deficit disorder (ADD) who have problems focusing their attention can benefit from learning how to achieve and remain in beta brainwave states for longer amounts of time.

Just so, when you reach a state of meditation you don’t “keep digging”, so to speak. The hole has been dug. All that digging has done what it was meant to do. Once your technique has gotten you into meditation, STOP DIGGING! You’re there. If you keep digging you will frustrate your ability to remain in meditation for any significant period of time. Only resume your chosen technique if and when you slip out of the meditative state. If you’re human then you WILL slip out of that state again and again. Don’t worry about that. That’s how the process works for all of us mere mortals.

When your mind is all over the place, organizing your thoughts into a quick to-do list can help transfer the burden from your brain to paper. But for some people, seeing a long list of tasks can increase stress. Miller has another idea: a “stressor and action” sheet. “Fold a piece of paper in half length wise, and on the left column write ‘stressor’ and on the right hand column write ‘action,’” she says. “You will find as you write down thoughtful action steps to the things that are stressing you out, you regain authority over circumstance.” These are the signs you’re more stressed than you realize.

The mantra technique as taught by Michael at Project Meditation is an excellent example of an outward technique. Since the vast majority of people have somewhat active minds, this mantra technique is a good bet for most of us. Even mantra techniques have some differences. Some require rigid concentration while others are more relaxed, such as Michael’s technique. There are some that use chanting which is helpful for a person whose mind is hyperactive.
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.

Most of these websites give some brief explanation of entrainment. The example you hear most often is that of Dutch polymath Christiaan Huygens, who in 1665, hung two pendulum clocks next to each other on a wall. He noticed that the pendulums eventually matched each others' frequency, but always in antiphase, opposite to each other, as if canceling each other out. He'd try disturbing one or setting them in sync, but they'd always return to the same antiphase synchronization. Huygen's experience is widely touted on binaural beat websites as a demonstration of how systems can become spiritually connected through some energy field. However, they misunderstand what happened, and have not read the full story. Huygens also tried taking one clock off the wall, and as soon as they were no longer physically connected to one another via the actual wall, the effect disappeared. It was not the proximity of the clocks to one another that created the entrainment; it was their physical, mechanical connection to one another. As each pendulum swung it imparted an infinitesimal equal and opposite reaction to the wall itself. With two clocks on the wall, the system naturally sought the lowest energy level, according to the laws of thermodynamics; and both pendulums would thus swing exactly counter to each other, minimizing the system's total energy.
Fortunately, the recommendations for exercise in the role of stress management fit with the current health recommendations (12). The proposed physiological adaptations thought to improve the way the body handles stress and recovers from stress can occur with a regular moderate to vigorous aerobic exercise program (12,13,16), such as the recommendations of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise per week or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise per week. If an individual is using exercise as a time-out from stressors, shorter duration activity can serve the purpose, especially when lack of time or fatigue is a concern. Consider an individual who reports significant work-related stress. Breaking the exercise into two 10- to 15-minute sessions, one before work and one at lunch time when possible, can help combat stress throughout the day. Although there is not a lot of research with resistance exercise and stress management, resistance exercise can be used to provide a time-out from one’s stressors. Because resistance training produces different exercise adaptations compared with aerobic exercise, it might not affect the way the body physiologically reacts to stress as aerobic exercise does. However, the acute effect of a time-out to reduce stress can be beneficial. In addition, clients can receive the numerous health benefits associated with resistance training. The resistance exercise prescription for general health benefits of 2 to 3 days of exercise to target all of the major muscle groups performed at a moderate intensity of 8 to 12 repetitions can be recommended.
Entrainment is like priming the pump of meditation. It doesn’t “cause” meditation any more than pouring that little bit of water into the pump initially “causes” water to appear in the well. The water was already there. The conditions for the pump to do its job just needed to be set up. What entrainment does is to create the conditions and the internal environment typically associated with meditation. You could get to that point without entrainment, certainly, but the entrainment allows you to get there quicker, more consistently, and to remain there for longer periods of time than you would ordinarily be capable of doing on your own.
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While a practical understanding of brainwaves has been around for as long as people have been singing, chanting, and drumming, a scientific view of the electrical activity inside the human brain was not published until 1924 when German psychiatrist Hans Berger developed a machine for sensing and recording activity in the brain by attaching small electrical sensors to the scalp of his patients and recording the resulting electrical activity. Berger’s inventions and discoveries were built upon the earlier work of Richard Caton who published animal studies on brainwave oscillations in 1875.
15. Melville GW, Chang D, Colagiuri B, Marshall PW, Cheema BC. Fifteen minutes of chair-based yoga postures or guided meditation performed in the office can elicit a relaxation response. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med [Internet]. 2012 [cited 2012 June 27]; Available from: doi:10.1155/2012/501986.

... One of the possible explanation for insignificant results could be length of exposure to AVS. Our participants were exposed to it for 11 minutes, while some authors (Cruceanu & Rotarescu, 2013) suggest that at least 20 minutes is needed for the positive effects to take place. Furthermore, part of our reserach was also visualization of gymnastic skills, performed after AVS. ...

Business executive and radio producer Robert Monroe started experimenting with brainwave entrainment and has a series of powerful out of body experiences using it. In 1971 he published his cult classic “Journeys Out of the Body” sharing his experiences. He later created one of the first audio entrainment companies called Hemi Sync, alongside the Monroe Institute of Applied Sciences.
The idea behind CBT is this: If you can reframe the way you think about events in your life — for example, instead of panicking over a job change you choose to embrace it, prepare as best you can and seize the opportunity to start fresh — you can literally reduce the stress you wind up feeling from the event. CBT is useful for training us to avoid internal causes of stress, such as “all-or-nothing” thinking, jumping to conclusions, pessimism, having unrealistic expectations for ourselves, always expecting the worst-case scenario, and feeling guilt or shame over events that are out of our control. (11)
None of our formulas contain gluten. The pure Italian wheat-based grain alcohol we use leaves all gluten behind when distilled, and comes with a gluten-free test certificate. The only other grain used in any of the formulas is Milky Oats, which is sustainably harvested and sorted in a botanical house. It is not processed with, or contaminated by, other grains.
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.

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).
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.
Some studies have found that binaural beats can affect cognitive function positively or negatively, depending on the specific frequency that’s generated. For example, a study of long-term memory found that beta-frequency binaural beats improved memory, while theta-frequency binaural beats interfered with memory. This is something for scientists to continue to examine closely. For people who use binaural beats, it’s important to understand that different frequencies will produce different effects.

So to summarize their claim, they're saying that entrainment means that a binaural beat will cause your brain's electroencephalogram to match the pattern of the phantom beat. Well, if it did, entrainment certainly doesn't apply and would not be part of the equation, so we can scratch that off the list. But it doesn't make the claimed observation wrong. We do know that certain electroencephalogram waveforms are often associated with certain kinds of activity. For example, physical activity or REM sleep often produces an electroencephalogram with a sine wave of between 4 and 8 Hz, which we term a theta pattern. Waking relaxation with eyes closed often produces a pattern from 8 to 12 Hz, which is called an alpha pattern. There are only a few characterized patterns, and pretty general descriptions of what kinds of activities go with them. The claim made by the binaural beat sellers depends on much more granular and specific matches. For example, the claim that a binaural beat with a frequency of X produces the same effect in your brain as Vicodin is wholly implausible. Such claims presume that we know the exact frequency of the electroencephalogram in each of these desired conditions, and the fact is that brain waves don't work that way. It is wholly and absolutely implausible to say that desired brain condition X will occur if we get your EEG to read exactly X Hz.

Many people experienced in using alpha brainwave entrainment report that the state of mind associated with alpha waves is a time when they feel most consciously connected to their subconscious mind. The intense experience of hypnagogic sleep, reported by some people as a feeling of being awake and asleep at the same time, is also associated with alpha brainwaves.
When explaining this to others they frequently respond with something like, “But I had no expectation or even any idea that my face might experience flushing. I didn’t even know that was possible. Now every time I listen to a particular entrainment track that specific face flushing occurs. If it is a specific phenomena, and it only happens when I use one certain entrainment track, doesn’t that prove it is the entrainment causing it?”
You are already far beyond the need for using an entrainment product as a meditation aid. Those who sincerely believe this to be the case would not have come searching for a meditation site such as Project Meditation to help them learn and practice meditation and brainwave entrainment. They would probably not even bother with using an entrainment aid; hence this entire discussion would be irrelevant to them. The fact that you are here, reading this, seeking to benefit from incorporating meditation and brainwave entrainment to aid in your existing meditation practice suggests you are not one of these folks whose development is so advanced that entrainment is of no use to you.

A therapy that slows brainwave activity, helping to produce low-frequency waves, is likely to aid relaxation and sleep. But it’s not only lowering brainwave frequency that binaural beats may offer to sleep and relaxation. A small study (19 people) has found that exposure to binaural beats is associated with changes to three hormones important to sleep and well being:

♥ ← This set of tones with the bird calls from Aotearoa is keeping me awake while I finish an essay I've been working on for the past four days. Focus beats + sounds I associate with morning = wakefulness. Still craving the bed, but at least I'm not falling asleep at my desk. Thanks myNoise, without you I'd probably be listening to music and distracted.
In addition, Western culture reinforces thought and communication styles associated with the left brain hemisphere, which controls logic, language, and linear thinking in a majority of people, as opposed to the right hemisphere which controls brain centers for emotional, intuitive, creative, and non-linear thought processes. Note that a significant minority of people has the opposite hemispheric dominance than the majority of people.

Deeper Meditation • Near The Stage Of Sleep • Vivid, Dreamlike Imagery • Creative Visualization • Feel More Open & Connected • Advanced Problem Solving • Super Creativity • Insight • Intuition • Inspiration • Deeper Subconscious To Super-Conscious Mind • Trance-like • GABA • Immune System • Serotonin • Endorphins • Acetylcholine • Lower Cortisol • Deeply Relaxed • Sleep Better • Emotional Intelligence
Years of scientific study combined with the personal testimony of thousands of people establish that using brainwave entrainment techniques positively affects the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being in a majority of users. You can easily take advantage of these powerful methods of personal self-help and self-improvement by downloading a variety of entrainment music right now.
The activity of neurons generate electric currents; and the synchronous action of neural ensembles in the cerebral cortex, comprising large numbers of neurons, produce macroscopic oscillations. These phenomena can be monitored and graphically documented by an electroencephalogram (EEG). The electroencephalographic representations of those oscillations are typically denoted by the term 'brainwaves' in common parlance.[4][5]