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.
Reading can be a wonderful (and healthy) escape from the stress of everyday life. Simply by opening a book, you allow yourself to be invited into a literary world that distracts you from your daily stressors. Reading can even relax your body by lowering your heart rate and easing the tension in your muscles. A 2009 study at the University of Sussex found that reading can reduce stress by up to 68%. It works better and faster than other relaxation methods, such as listening to music or drinking a hot cup of tea. This is because your mind is invited into a literary world that is free from the stressors that plague your daily life.
Entrainment is a physics principle in which one rhythmic system falls in synchrony with another rhythmic system. If you’ve ever found yourself moving your body to the beat of your favorite song, then you’ve experienced entrainment in its most basic form. Besides music, this principle can be found all around you, probably more than you realize. Here are a few examples:
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The phenomena of brainwave entrainment was first described in the scientific literature in 1973 by Gerald Oster in results published in an article in Scientific American entitled, “Auditory Beats in the Brain”. He showed that a specific brainwave could be induced when a person heard two separate, but closely related, sound frequencies, one in each ear. He discovered that when the frequencies heard by each ear differed by about 10 hertz, the brainwave pattern of the person hearing the sound would synchronize to the difference between the two frequencies. For example, if the person heard a 410 hertz sound in one ear and a 400 hertz sound in the other ear, their brainwaves would stabilize at the difference between the two, or 10 hertz. This technique is called binaural beats, and it is a fundamental principle of brainwave entrainment methods.
I have a strange reaction to Binaural beats, as well as isochronic beats, and anything similar. After listening, I often feel vey fatigued, nauseous, and sometimes quite depressed. This effect can last a few days. So I stay away from it now, as well as guided meditations that have such beats in the background. Have you heard of this kind of reaction before?
No, it isn’t, at least not in the way these people are thinking. Neither would any other entrainment product you could purchase for that matter. Part of the problem is the proliferation of utter nonsense about brainwave entrainment one can read all over the internet. There is one site in particular that comes to mind, and the contents of that site are often copied by other websites. It is a list of Hz frequencies with their corresponding (alleged) physical effects. The list runs on for many pages. I won’t bother with the link because you can Google it and find it for yourself if you feel the need for a good laugh, but here are some examples regarding meditation and brainwave entrainment from this site:
Other entrainment methods sometimes used include autopan modulation that moves sound in an 180º arc to create a desired tone. Harmonic box entrainment, invented by James Mann, uses a layering of binaural and monaural tones that alternate between ears, requiring headphones. Sound modulation and filtering, amplitude modulation, and pitch panning use diverse sounds to create rhythmic pulses matched to the desired brainwave frequency.
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.
Turns out, science says there is something to needing “fresh air”—even opening a window can help get more oxygen to your brain, soothing stress. “We live so much of our lives indoors, that when stress hits, one of my go-to techniques is to get outside or open a window,” Dr. Serani says. “Taking in a nice deep breath of crisp fresh air can immediately shift your neurochemistry.” If you’re overwhelmed with work, it can seem hard to take a break; but a quick step outside is even recommended by the American Psychological Association. When you come back, you’ll be recharged and ready to take on the challenge.
Isochronic tones work just the same in delta as they do in alpha, theta and beta and they are widely used in the brainwave entrainment community to help people sleep. Like you, I’ve also seen some websites saying they don’t work in delta, but it’s a bit like the game of Chinese Whispers, where someone makes a comment and then after it gets passed around and shared a lot the message gets distorted and appears to be a fact. I don’t know of any scientific reason why they wouldn’t work in delta. I remember some people talking about this on a brainwave entrainment forum many years ago. They were saying they found isochronic tones a bit too abrupt for using to help them sleep and they preferred binaural beats, as they thought they were a more soothing sound. That was just a personal preference shared by a couple of prominent forum members at the time and some people then took that as a fact for everyone. That’s where I think that belief originated from.
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.
The brain will entrain to the strongest stimulus. If you combine binaural beats with isochronic tones, your brainwaves will entrain to the isochronic tones. If anything, when you combine the two I believe it makes the track less effective because it makes it harder for the brain to decipher between the two and synchronise to a single beat. There are lots of websites with compelling marketing about the benefits of combining the two together in some funky way, but I haven’t seen any research or lots of anecdotal feedback even to suggest it’s effective to combine them.
The thing about conditioning is, it doesn’t matter whether the conditioned response is pleasant or unpleasant, desirable or undesirable. The process of conditioning works just as well both ways. You went looking for any indication you were getting an effect by using entrainment and you happened to have an unpleasant experience that you focused on. To the mind it is irrelevant whether it was pleasant or unpleasant. One way works just as well as the other. But the fact remains; it was your general expectations that resulted in a specific situation of conditioning.
Infra-Low brainwaves (also known as Slow Cortical Potentials), are thought to be the basic cortical rythms that underlie our higher brain functions. Very little is known about infra-low brainwaves. Their slow nature make them difficult to detect and accurately measure, so few studies have been done. They appear to take a major role in brain timing and network function.
Really great stuff here, man. Well done! Without taking anything away from the article it would have been great to have under one “roof” similar information about hypnotherapy and subliminals. I invested quite a lot in buying binaural cd’s but after reading your material I think that for short term effects isochronic tones rather than binaurals are the technology to go for now. For longer lasting and possibly permanent effects I’m not sure whether I should go for hypnosis or subliminals (or both). An article as well written and comprehensive as yours but focusing on hypnosis vs subliminals would have completed the circle for me. The stuff I’ve read so far on binaurals vs isochronics hasn’t really done it for me. Any chance you could give it a shot?
... These factors may be the specific frequency of BB; the targeted population-because it is known that older people have different quality of brainwave activity than, e.g., youngsters (Bazanova & Aftanas, 2008;Clark et al., 2004), and the tests used to detect the possible changes in working memory capacity. Based on the research showing a positive impact of alpha-range BB on cognitive functioning, specifically attention, auditory sequential memory, working memory, working memory storage, reasoning ability, cognitive processing and hemispheric synchronization, (Carter & Russell, 1993;Cruceanu & Rotarescu, 2013;Foster, 1990;Kennerly, 1994;McMurray, 2006) as well as on the wealth of research documenting the important role of alpha brain wave activity on vigilance, in-hibitory processes, attention, filtering out irrelevant information working memory, the visuo-spatial component of working memory, perceptual abilities and information processing speed (Braboszcz & Delorme, 2011;Clark et al., 2004;Engle et al., 1999a;Freunberger et al., 2011;Klimesch et al., 2007;Lachat et al., 2012;Oprisan, 2004;Palva & Palva, 2007;Rihs et al., 2007;Sauseng et al., 2009;Tuladhar et al., 2007;VanRullen & Koch, 2003), we believe that BB of a frequency that corresponds to the alpha range of brain activity has a temporary effect on working memory capacity. In our study, subjects were exposed to 9.55 Hz BB stimulation while we measured their working memory capacity through the Automated Operation Span Task (AOSPAN). ...
♥ I've beeen training in self-hypnosis for a while (under supervision and for a reason) and found that the 8-4 Hz beats put me very quickly in a deeply relaxed state. Definitely the thing! With the timer, I can shut them for the real self-hypnosis. I haven't tried the other beat generators yet, but this one works much better than I expected and clearly does the job. In a few words: I'm impressed!
There’s an aesthetic element to the music and there are a lot of drone-based sounds and time-stretched sounds, deep, rich bass sounds—there’s a spectrum of sounds within there—and what’s more, there’s a load of 3D processing that goes on to ensure that the mind doesn’t become habituated to them. There’s also a constant, subtle sense, a slow and gradual sense, of the sounds shifting around. And, there are layers of binaural beats.
Cory Allen [b. 1982] is a composer and mastering engineer living in Austin, Texas. His work focuses on the cultivation of human perception with the intent of altering the listener's state of consciousness. Allen's music is deep, patient, meditative, highly-conceptual and often composed by implementing self-organizing structures, rule-based performances, set pitch classes and a wide variety of instruments.
The mechanism for this is that when your eyes or ears are exposed to a particular frequency of pulses or beats, the thalamus first distributes this information to the entire brain, including the visual and cerebral cortex where neural activity begins to synchronize to the incoming frequency, producing hemispheric synchronization and a balance of brainwave activity across the brain.
It may be that you had the volume too loud, but I would expect you to hear the effects of that straight after you’ve stopped listening, not on a day you haven’t used them. It might be something similar to muscle memory, where you suddenly remembered the sound and sensations it gives you as if you were hearing it again. I don’t know how long you’ve been using this type of thing for, but maybe it’s something that will settle down and disappear once you become more accustomed to the sound.
I am fortunate to be working with Deepak Chopra, M.D., and Dr. Rudy Tanzi, co-authors of the bestselling book Super Brain, on a technology called Brain Wave Entrainment. Deepak is very well known, but Rudy is an amazingly interesting person as well. He is the Kennedy Professor of Neurology at Harvard Medical School and Vice-Chair of Neurology at Mass General Hospital. Rudy co-discovered three of the four original Alzheimer's genes and today runs the Alzheimer's Genome Project. He also plays the keyboards, including, at times, for Aerosmith. He is kind of a real life "Buckaroo Banzai."
Sound and light are the most popular methods to entrain the mind, yet there are a few other options in our toolbox. Using vibrational energy from sources such as magnets and electricity has been proven to help overcome addictions, depression, and even treat neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s. In this section, we cover these alternative forms of brainwave entrainment.
Looking for an even more impactful way to feel the benefits of exercise? Do so while listening to uplifting music. Research findings indicate that music listening positively impacts the psycho-biological stress system, helps activate the parasympathetic nervous system, improves recovery time, and has benefits for hormonal balance and brain functioning overall. (4)
The body responds in essentially the same way to made-up imagery as it does to real experiences. Positive, relaxing images can be an effective tool for relieving stress. Try it for yourself with this Guided Imagery podcast from our Founder and Director Dr. James Gordon, or check out Dr. Gordon’s book Unstuck: Your Guide to the Seven-Stage Journey Out of Depression for dozens more techniques, including scripts for guided imagery exercises.
Writing or talking about the things that prey on you—in a diary, with friends, in a support group or even a home computer file—helps you feel less alone and helpless. One study, published in The Journal of the American Medical Association, looked at people who had either rheumatoid arthritis or asthma— conditions known to be stress-sensitive. One group chronicled in a perfunctory manner the things they did each day. The other group was asked to write daily about what it was like, including fears and pain, to have their disease. What researchers found: People who wrote at length about their feelings had far fewer episodes of their illness.
You can practice visualization on your own or with a therapist (or an app or audio download of a therapist) guiding you through the imagery. You can also choose to do your visualization in silence or use listening aids, such as soothing music or a sound machine or a recording that matches your chosen setting: the sound of ocean waves if you’ve chosen a beach, for example.
I enjoy this one called: Cognition Enhancer For Clearer and Faster Thinking – Isochronic Tones (Electronic) … I seem to enjoy it. Any harm in just listening to this one every day for 30 minutes as a routine daily thing, just like brushing your teeth and making your bed. I would just use it at times when I’m working at my desk, maybe even reading the online news etc…Thoughts?
Theta waves also have been observed in moments when a person recalls information from the past, and this may be what links them also to improvement in learning ability. We also experience theta waves when we go into automatic pilot mode, such as when doing a repetitive task like driving a familiar route where the mind become disconnected while you still drive safely toward your destination.
If brainwave entrainment leaves you with unwanted side-effects (see below) or discomfort, you’re probably encouraging a range of brainwaves that are already excessive in some area of your brain. The way around this is to get a brain map to see what your brain’s strengths and weaknesses are, and see what (if any) brainwaves could use some encouragement.