It should be stated that if we are listening to LifeFlow and we are intentionally seeking to enter into meditation, the chances are good that we will do exactly that rather than just being in a daydream or some other pleasant state. It’s no guarantee, but the combination of meditation and brainwave entrainment raises the odds that we will accomplish our meditative goal.
Entrainment is a term originally derived from complex systems theory, and denotes the way that two or more independent, autonomous oscillators with differing rhythms or frequencies, when situated in a context and at a proximity where they can interact for long enough, influence each other mutually, to a degree dependent on coupling force, such that they adjust until both oscillate with the same frequency. Examples include the mechanical entrainment or cyclic synchronization of two electric clothes dryers placed in close proximity, and the biological entrainment evident in the synchronized illumination of fireflies.
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.
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The brain is composed of millions of specialized cells called neurons. Neurons send signals to other neurons using electro-chemical messengers called neuro-transmitters that attach to receiving sites located on the neurons themselves. There is a space between the end of the neuron and the receptor called the synaptic gap. As neuro-transmitter chemicals move across this gap, a small electrical charge is created.
When you play a tone with a slightly different frequency into your left and right ear — say, 200 hertz (Hz) in one and 210 Hz in the other — they travel separately to your inferior colliculus, the part of your brain that gathers auditory input. There, the tones “squelch” together into a so-called “beat” at a perceived new frequency. (In this case, it would be 10 Hz.)
In addition to understanding how exercise can help manage stress and the types of exercise to recommend for stress management, it is important to understand common barriers that might affect exercise participation in high-stress clients. Lack of time is the most commonly reported exercise barrier for individuals in general. A lack of motivation, fatigue, poor sleep habits, and poor dietary habits are factors associated with stress that can negatively impact exercise compliance and adherence (4). Common exercise barriers and stress-related health problems should be taken into consideration when developing an exercise prescription for high-stress individuals.
Move your focus to the sole of your right foot. Tune in to any sensations you feel in that part of your body and imagine each breath flowing from the sole of your foot. After one or two minutes, move your focus to your right ankle and repeat. Move to your calf, knee, thigh, hip, and then repeat the sequence for your left leg. From there, move up the torso, through the lower back and abdomen, the upper back and chest, and the shoulders. Pay close attention to any area of the body that causes you pain or discomfort.
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.
The group is loud and boisterous, cheering on their favorite team, jeering at the referees, complaining about bad calls, laughing at some of the terrible acting of the players as they writhe in agony on the ground in an attempt to get the referee to call a foul on another player, and then as soon as the call is made they spring to their feet and trot off, all memory of the agony of a moment before completely forgotten.
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.