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.
Gamma waves are the most recently discovered brainwave, a discovery made possible by digital EEG technology. Gamma is associated with the integration of information from different areas of the brain, and having a good memory is associated with having a certain baseline of 40 hertz gamma activity. Low gamma activity is associated with learning disabilities and poor memory.
Brainwave Entrainment is the process of synchronizing the brain to specific frequencies and patterns embedded in audio tracks. These frequencies correlate to specific emotions, feelings, and even energy levels. Using nothing more than sound, Brainwave Entrainment can enhance creativity, change moods, and even alter behavior like sleep and energy levels.
How does acupuncture work? Acupuncture is an alternative therapy that involves inserting thin needles into targeted areas of the body. Some believe that this balances a person’s vital energy, while others point to a neurological effect. Acupuncture may relieve pain and a range of other symptoms. Here, learn about uses, risks, and what to expect. Read now
... Several studies have looked at the possible effects of binaural beats within the alpha range on cognitive abilities. A significant improvement in cognitive processing, as measured by the Stroop Effect exercise, was found by a BB stimulation of 10.2 Hz frequency (Cruceanu & Rotarescu, 2013).Carter and Russell (1993)exposed 8 to 12 year old boys with learning disabilities to 8-week long 10 and 18 Hz BB stimulation sessions, and they found an improvement in Raven's progressive matrices and in a subtest of auditory sequential memory (Carter & Russell, 1993).McMurray (2006)assessed the effect of 7 and 11 Hz BB on alpha brainwave activity, working memory, and attention in healthy elderly people, who are known for experiencing gradual decrease in physiological alpha activity. The 2 minutes exposure to BB resulted in an altered electrical activity in the brain. ...
I wouldn’t personally recommend listening to delta wave frequencies for depression, so I’m not sure who advised you to do that? People with depression usually have a higher ratio of theta and delta wave activity, so I would normally recommend listening to high alpha wave and low beta wave frequencies, to help balance things. I have some 10Hz alpha tracks for serotonin release, which you can try for free on my YouTube channel here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3NSUcuzpRcY&list=PLveg0IEcZWN6T86nhmSrdwG2kMQtcLRou. I also recommend you give these SMR (low beta wave) tracks a try: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HGTvBbrEwZQ&list=PLveg0IEcZWN7yaMaKr8F-eWHALk2_zGqY. I hope that helps.
“In order to get into a flow state, you have to calm a part of the brain, the posterior cingulate cortex, which is the source of what brain scientists call the default state, which is the non-focused state,” says Harris. “At any rate, it turns out that Holosync [binaural beats], when you listen to it, [calms that part of the brain] and so does traditional meditation. It’s just Holosync does it faster and more easily and more effortlessly. It turns down the posterior cingulate cortex and it enhances the other part of the brain that, when it’s enhanced, you can easily go into a flow state.”
It might surprise you to learn that biological stress is a fairly recent discovery. It wasn't until the late 1950s that endocrinologist Hans Selye first identified and documented stress. Symptoms of stress existed long before Selye, but his discoveries led to new research that has helped millions cope with stress. We’ve compiled a list of the top 10 ways to relieve stress.
Hello Jason, this is an unusually thoughtful discussion. Thank you for all your expertise and your kind manner of presenting and moderating it. I’m wondering if you have any experience with this: ever since I’ve been exposed to theta wave music, without headphones, I have found it irritating. And this is in spite of the fact that when I was first handed a CD by someone I knew well and trusted he was so confident I’d love it It didn’t occur to either of us that I might not. This happened again recently, which is about 10 years later, when I heard it playing overhead at an acupuncture clinic. I felt restless and even irritated, unable to zone out, which is unusual for me, during the treatment. I realized that the quality of my irritation was similar to what I’d felt listening to that CD a decade ago.So I asked if it was theta wave music and she said yes. The acupuncturist said that some people, but a vast minority, really dislike the music. She said that the few people who dislike it are not simply neutral, but actively dislike it. And she also said, but most people like it a lot. I’m just wondering what kind of factors might be present that would make a person feel so irritated by this music?
So, in summary, binaural beats certainly do not work the way the sellers claim, but there's no reason to think they're any less effective than any other music track you might listen to that effects you in a way you like. If they make you sleepy (like they all do for me), use them to go to sleep. If they relax you or get you amped, use them for that. But don't expect them to be any more effective than regular music. If someone you know claims that they are, put them to the test, and bust the myth.
The reason this rule of thumb is so useful is because there is a huge market for simple answers. A genuine elegant solution (one that accomplishes more with less) is highly valuable in the marketplace. We are used to technology delivering new easy solutions to previously difficult tasks. While most improvements are incremental, there are occasional breakthroughs that transform our lives.
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.
Most programs start at a work/life busy brain Beta frequency of twenty light flashes per second (20Hz) and slowly ramp them down to Alpha (relaxation and meditation) at 8-12 HZ, Theta (deep relaxation and dreaming) at 4-8 Hz) and Delta (dreamless deep relaxation) of .5-4Hz. We have taken measurements at Mass General with state of the art EEG equipment and have seen a slowing of the brain waves from Beta to Theta in two minutes and complete brain wave harmonization in the left, right, anterior, posterior and occipital regions of the brain.
Deep breathing is an easy stress reliever that has numerous benefits for the body, including relaxing muscles and quieting the mind. Breathing exercises are especially helpful because you can practice them anywhere. Perhaps more importantly, they work quickly so you can de-stress in a flash. The karate breathing meditation is a great exercise to start with, and this basic breathing exercise can be done anywhere to help you reverse your stress response, get back to being more proactive (rather than reactive), and face stress with greater resilience.
They are not beyond what is “normal” but for most of us they are outside of what is “typical”. Whether we consciously seek them or not, somewhere in the back of our minds we hold beliefs that because meditation and brainwave entrainment are beyond our usual set of experiences, then the evidence that they are having some sort of effect on us must also be outside of our normal range of experiences.
Each of us is unique, and what works well for me might be totally useless to you. Generically speaking, there are three types of meditation techniques. There are techniques that take your awareness outwards, techniques that take your awareness inwards, and techniques that do a little of both. People with exceptionally busy minds tend to do better with techniques that take awareness outwards since their minds naturally head that direction anyway. People with more contemplative natures tend to do better with techniques that take you inwards. The combination techniques are a “maybe” for just about anyone, but are usually best used when a person has some experience with meditation under their belt.
There are five main categories of brainwave frequencies: Gamma (40Hz+), Beta (13 – 40Hz), Alpha (7 – 13Hz), Theta (4 – 7Hz), and Delta (<4Hz). Each category is associated with a different state of mind; so, for example, when you’re in a peak state of performance, your brain produces Alpha Waves, and when you’re in a deep sleep, your brain produces Delta Waves.
Entrainment is a phenomenon by which some external sensory stimulation synchronizes brainwaves differently than the native rhythm. The most obvious example of this is photic driving – during an EEG the subject will have a strobe light flashed before them at various frequencies. The purpose of this is to see if it will trigger seizure activity. In many normal subjects the brain wave rhythm in the occipital lobes, which is the visual part of the cortex, will match its frequency to the frequency of the strobe light. This specifically is called photic driving, but the phenomenon in general is called entrainment.
When stress attacks, it can feel like your whole world is crashing down. Remind yourself what’s good in your life with a quick gratitude round-up. “Studies show gratitude techniques like counting your blessings can be a significant stress reducer,” Dr. Serani says. “Gratitude research reports that those who utilize daily gratitude reflections have higher levels of positive emotions, life satisfaction, vitality, optimism, and lower levels of depression and stress.” Reminding yourself of the good things in life can put stress in perspective. “Studies show that cultivating an optimistic mindset can help you maintain a positive mood,” Whitaker says. “When you are positive and grateful, you are able to handle difficult situations better.” Just look out for these stress relievers that actually backfire.
Binaural beats were the first method discovered for brainwave entrainment and works by delivering tones of different audible frequencies to the two ears with the difference in frequency between the two tones being the frequency of entrainment. The difference in frequency between the two tones must be less than 30 hertz, and this resulting frequency is called a beat or the target frequency, and it is processed in a brain region called the olivary body. When listening to such tones with stereo headphones, the two hemispheres of the brain become synchronized at the target frequency.
While the physiological and psychological processes being uncovered by brain science in the study of brainwaves is sometimes complex and still being investigated, certain basic principles are well-established, easily understood, and helpful for achieving the most effectively use of brainwave entrainment when seeking relaxation, improved sleep, lowering of anxiety, or other goals. This important background information and scientific knowledge presented here includes:
However, very experienced practitioners of meditation are able to enter a Delta state and maintain consciousness at the same time. Yoga nidra or “yogi sleep” is a sleep-like state which yogis report during their meditations. This lucid sleeping state is among the deepest possible states of relaxation while still maintaining full consciousness (“super-conscious mind”). In this state, experienced yogis are able to regulate their body temperature and heart rate.
Recently developed entrainment software has been designed to correct specific imbalances in hemispheric activity associated with undesirable mind-states. For example, people suffering with depression often have more activity in the right hemisphere, and specially designed brainwave music decreases this activity while increasing activity in the left hemisphere, reducing depression.
^ Trost W. and Vuilleumier P., Rhythmic entrainment as a mechanism for emotion induction by music: a neurophysiological perspective. In The Emotional Power of Music: Multidisciplinary Perspectives on Musical Arousal, Expression, and Social Control, Cochrane T., Fantini B., and Scherer K. R., (Eds.), Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press; 2013, pp213–225.