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:
Today, EEG machines are used for diagnosing epilepsy and sleep disorders, for determining dosages for anesthesia, and measuring the brain activity of people in comas or suffering from brain trauma. EEG machines also continue to play a role in researching and understanding brainwave entrainment and developing new and better methods for delivering the benefits of this form of brainwave modification.
As with meditation, mindful exercise requires being fully engaged in the present moment, paying attention to how your body feels right now, rather than your daily worries or concerns. In order to “turn off” your thoughts, focus on the sensations in your limbs and how your breathing complements your movement, instead of zoning out or staring at a TV as you exercise. If you’re walking or running, for example, focus on the sensation of your feet touching the ground, the rhythm of your breath, and the feeling of the wind against your face. If you are resistance training, focus on coordinating your breathing with your movements and pay attention to how your body feels as you raise and lower the weights. And when your mind wanders to other thoughts, gently return your focus to your breathing and movement.
In addition to potentially boosting sleep-promoting hormones, binaural beats may also reduce our perceptions of pain. A 2017 study found binaural beats used in combination with visual stimulation led to reductions in patients’ perception of acute pain. Other recent research showed binaural beats helped improve pain perception in patients with chronic pain.
Well … to understand the role entrainment plays in meditation, think of a water pump. Most of you have lived in areas where you have access to city water. You turn the knob on the tap, water comes out, end of story. If you grew up like I did, on a farm with a local well, then you probably know that in order to get the water flowing from a well you must first “prime the pump”. (Those of you who remember the days when cars all had carburetors rather than fuel injectors might also remember running out of gas and needing to prime the carburetor with a little gasoline. It’s the same principle.)
Our everyday, waking brain used for active intelligence operates at approximately 13 hertz, which is in the range of high alpha or low beta frequencies. People who have certain learning disabilities and problems with attention often have low levels of 13 hertz frequency brainwaves in crucial areas of the brain used for sequencing tasks and doing simple math calculations. This is one concrete example of how brainwaves are associated with thinking and behavior. Each identified brainwave frequency has a different effect on a person’s ability to think, act, and feel.
When people begin to believe these kinds of claims it is only half a step further for them to begin to attribute all of their own curious little experiences to entrainment. After all, they reason in the back of their minds, if 3.84Hz can cure an ovarian cyst, isn’t it just as reasonable that listening to a track at 8Hz might cause the room to appear to spin and change colors? There is an old saying that suggests that the more outrageous a claim is, the more people will be inclined to believe it. Don’t fall for outrageous, ridiculous claims. If you do you’re heading for disappointment, guaranteed.
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You may have experienced Theta right before drifting off to sleep, during a lucid dream, or during a deep meditation. In Theta, you no longer sense the outside world, but you are aware and conscious of your internal world. All of your subconscious fears, hopes and judgments are hidden in the Theta state. Theta is a difficult state to achieve because you often drift out of it very quickly either becoming conscious in Alpha or moving on to the next deeper state. By staying in Theta, you can learn endless information about yourself and your consciousness.
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.