People who meditate regularly enjoy many benefits such as increased sense of well being, happiness, contentment, and far less anxiety that many other people. Some believe that this is due to both hemispheres of the brain being in sync with each other, which meditative practice can provide. Therefore, a goal of using technology to entrain the brain and align the frequencies of the brain hemispheres has become a very interesting avenue of science and experimentation.
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.
Are you someone who has turned to meditation or yoga as a way of relieving stress and improving your overall well-being? Yoga and meditation are time-proven methods, used for centuries, which restore mental, physical, and spiritual balance in people’s lives, and brainwave entrainment can be used in conjunction with these practices for even deeper levels of benefit.
Brainwave entrainment is a field of study and endeavor founded in the same physiological and psychological processes that make music, drumming, and chanting so powerful as methods for transforming the mind and spirit and aiding in healing of the body. These processes involve how the electrical energy in our brains synchronizes with sounds and visual stimuli, producing a particular brainwave frequency and its associated mental states.
That said, you achieve the best results when you listen to the tones in a relaxed, quiet environment, investing your complete attention to the tones and the effect they have on your inner self. Experts recommend that even isochronic tones be heard via headphones to cut out distractions from external noises. The best thing to do is give it your entire, undivided attention, so that you can experience the outcomes quickly and easily.
Beta brainwaves are further divided into three bands; Lo-Beta (Beta1, 12-15Hz) can be thought of as a 'fast idle', or musing. Beta (Beta2, 15-22Hz) is high engagement or actively figuring something out. Hi-Beta (Beta3, 22-38Hz) is highly complex thought, integrating new experiences, high anxiety, or excitement. Continual high frequency processing is not a very efficient way to run the brain, as it takes a tremendous amount of energy.
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?
Entrainment is a phenomenon seen is a wide variety of different natural circumstance. In the field of chronobiology, the study of biological rhythms in living organisms, entrainment is the synchronization of a circadian rhythm with the rhythm of an external pattern, such as the synchronizing of women’s menstrual cycles with the phases of the moon or with one another in a group.
This music encourages a state of alpha relaxation. The alpha state is a pleasant state of relaxed alertness. It’s a state that many people experience when they are waking up in the morning or when they are just beginning to drift off to sleep at night. While in a state of alpha relaxation, the mind is quite clear and receptive to information, learning is accelerated and one’s sense of creativity is enhanced. The mind is also very open to positive suggestions during this state.
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.
For a little variety, you can use the 60 minute Delta Ultra Deep Standalone Meditation which takes you down into Delta and holds you there for an extended period of time. If you can stay awake during this entire time, you will have some amazing meditative experiences. (If you fall asleep, don't worry! It's natural and with practice you will be able to stay awake more often.)
When we are mentally active various groups of neurons will be firing and the EEG will look like a jumble of different waves at different frequencies. When we are in a relaxed state, however, our brains settle into a steady rhythm – when fully awake this is the alpha rhythm, which as a frequency of 8-12 hz and other recognizable features. When drowsy our brainwaves slow to the theta range, 6-7hz, and when in deep sleep into the delta range, 4-5hz.
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.
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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.
Generally speaking, the brain will usually entrain to the strongest stimulus which would be isochronic tones over binaural beats. So when you see people add binaural beats at a different frequency to the isochronic tones, that would not produce additional brainwave entrainment at another frequency. If they are both at the same frequency I haven’t seen any research to indicate whether that would be beneficial or not, but my belief is that it would weaken the potential for entrainment. When you look at the waveform of an isochronic tone there is a distinct empty space between each beat, making it very pronounced and effective. When you add binaural beats at the same frequency it looks like this: http://www.mindamend.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/isochronic-tones-binaural-beats-combined-waveform.jpg. The depth of the waveform is now half as deep and less effective. This is before the binaural beats are formed inside your head, where the waveform is hard to determine and measure. From listening to that type of combination the beats sound much less pronounced, which has to make them much less effective in terms of a brainwave entrainment stimulus, compared to isochronic tones on their own.
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.
Regarding split hemisphere isochronic tones. Think of this as two separate isochronic tones tracks playing independently of each other, one playing in one ear and the other one in the opposite ear. Better still, imagine someone playing and recording a drum beat at a rate of 5 taps per second (5Hz – 5 cycles per second). Then a separate recording of a drum beat is made at a rate of 10 taps per second (10 Hz). You then make an audio track where the left ear/channel hears the 5 drum beats recording and the right ear/channel hears the 10 beat recording. With headphones on, each ear can only hear each respective drum beat and not the other. So you are hearing two different beat recordings at the same time, but it’s different in each ear. A split hemisphere isochronic tones track works just the same. You hear two beats at the same time, not two tones as with binaural beats that create a single beat, but two different speeds of beats in each ear. This is what enables you to stimulate and influence each side of the brain with a different frequency of beat. Binaural beats can only stimulate and influence a whole brain effect using a single beat.
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.
Slightly higher-frequency entrainment can lead to hyper suggestive states of consciousness. Still higher-frequency EEG states are associated with alert and focused mental activity needed for the optimal performance of many tasks. Perceived reality changes depending on the state of consciousness of the perceiver (Tart, 1975). Some states of consciousness provide limited views of reality, while others provide an expanded awareness of reality. For the most part, states of consciousness change in response to the ever-changing internal environment and surrounding stimulation. For example, states of consciousness are subject to influences like drugs and circadian and ultradian rhythms (Rossi, 1986; Shannahoff-Khalsa, 1991; Webb & Dube, 1981). Specific states of consciousness can also be learned as adaptive behaviors to demanding circumstances (Green and Green, 1986).
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.
Hi Et, In all the feedback and studies I’ve read and looked into over the years, I’ve seen lots of feedback from people talking about how they don’t like the sound of the tones, or they find them irritating in some way. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be any particular reason why one person likes it and the next doesn’t. It’s a bit like normal music, one person’s sweet symphony is another person pneumatic drill. It’s common for people to find it weird and maybe annoying at first, which is how I felt in the beginning. But usually after a few listens you can start to get used to it and appreciate the sound, and especially the feeling it gives you. Personally, I think it can help if you try to embrace the sound, psychologically speaking beforehand. It can also help to have the sound playing at a very low volume, to begin with, then building it up as you get more used to it.
Hi Jason, thanks for all the uploads to youtube. I’ve been using them in work recently to help me concentrate and relax. I like the music tracks that you’ve chosen to overlay the tones. A couple of times in the last 2 weeks I’ve experienced the wavy pulse like sound, similar to the tones in my left ear. I wasn’t listening to tracks at the time or that day. It doesn’t last but it feels a bit strange. I wondered if I might have been listening to the tracks too loudly and that it was almost like a type of tinnitus. I’m curious to know if anyone has been in touch with you in the past to say they’ve had a similar experience?
Beta brainwaves are typically those we experience when we are wide awake and full of energy. You can think of this frequency as the equivalent of taking stimulants like caffeine, Adderall, or various nootropics. The Beta frequency is good for generating a concentrated, focused, and analytical mind. In fact, the brainwave you probably possess while reading this is of the Beta frequency.
However, yoga and meditation take time to learn and master, and until the student becomes proficient, progress can be slow and frustrating, leading many people to abandon the effort before they see the benefits. Brainwave entrainment has the potential for helping a person enter the relaxing and rejuvenating mind-states brought about by yoga and meditation without the learning curve and time needed for mastering these other techniques. Brainwave entrainment may even facilitate learning other mindfulness methods by helping a person achieve success faster and more reliably.
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.
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.
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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.
The Frequency following response (FFR), also referred to as Frequency Following Potential (FFP), is a specific response to hearing sound and music, by which neural oscillations adjust their frequency to match the rhythm of auditory stimuli. The use of sound with intent to influence cortical brainwave frequency is called auditory driving, by which frequency of neural oscillation is 'driven' to entrain with that of the rhythm of a sound source.