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.
Synchronized brain waves have long been associated with meditative and hypnogogic states, and audio with embedded binaural beats has the ability to induce and improve such states of consciousness. The reason for this is physiological. Each ear is "hardwired" (so to speak) to both hemispheres of the brain (Rosenzweig, 1961). Each hemisphere has its own olivary nucleus (sound-processing center) which receives signals from each ear. In keeping with this physiological structure, when a binaural beat is perceived there are actually two standing waves of equal amplitude and frequency present, one in each hemisphere. So, there are two separate standing waves entraining portions of each hemisphere to the same frequency. The binaural beats appear to contribute to the hemispheric synchronization evidenced in meditative and hypnogogic states of consciousness. Brain function is also enhanced through the increase of cross-collosal communication between the left and right hemispheres of the brain.
A study published in Electroencephalography and Clinical Neurophysiology by Paul Williams and Michael West in 1975 examined the brainwave states of people experienced in meditation while using photic stimulation, and another study by Leonard, Telch, and Harrington in 1999 examined the successful use of brainwave entrainment techniques for attaining meditative states in subjects.
Theta brainwaves in the frequency range of 6 to 9 hertz are known as thalpha waves because of their proximity to alpha waves. They are seen during states of high suggestibility, during hypnosis, and during paranormal experience and are also connected to an increase in human growth hormone (HGH) levels and higher blood flow to the brain. Theta brainwaves sit between the realms of the subconscious and conscious mind, making them an especially useful brainwave state for developing creative thinking, working through emotional problems, and integrating subconscious and conscious experience.
Just as stress can increase the risk for chronic diseases and other health problems, dealing with chronic conditions and poor health can increase the amount of stress one experiences. Stress also influences behaviors that affect health. Diet choices, sleep habits, and drug use are behaviors that are often negatively affected by stress (3). The APA’s 2011 survey showed that 39% percent of respondents reported overeating or eating unhealthy food because of stress, and 29% reported skipping a meal (3). In addition, 44% reported lying awake at night because of stress (3). On a positive note, 47% of respondents reported walking or exercise as a way of managing stress (3).
Controlled or pre/post studies of the effects of BWE using auditory or visual stimulation were eligible for inclusion, provided pulses of light or tone were delivered at frequencies hypothesised to have a beneficial effect or in line with a protocol addressing clinical outcomes. Studies were required to report clinical or psychological outcomes (measured using standard methods or as deemed appropriate by peer review) and to report statistical analysis. Studies of outcomes such as electroencephalogram (EEG) response or neurotransmitter levels were not eligible. Case studies were excluded.
Eric Bartel is the creator of the Free Binaural Beats website and the sole creator of the audios found here. He specializes in creating binaural beats and isochronic tones along with relaxing ambient meditation music. From his home studio in the Black Hills of South Dakota, Eric is committed to bringing the healing power of binaural beats to anyone who wants to live a more peaceful, relaxed and fulfilled life.
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.
Brain Wave Entrainment is any procedure that causes one's brainwave frequencies to synchronize with a periodic stimulus (sound, vibration or light) having a frequency corresponding to the intended brain-state (for example, to induce a trance, dreams, sleep or relaxation.) It is also called the Flicker-response because of how staring at a campfire or the flickering of a burning candle can lull you into a state of calmness and serenity. There was an extensive article on this phenomenon by Gerard Oster in Scientific American in 1973. It may sound novel, but in many ways, this is old tech.
Go behind the scenes of brainwave entrainment technology creation with Joseph Kao, developer of the extraordinary meditation tool Journey to the Center of the Self. Here, in an interview with John Dupuy, CEO of iAwake Technologies, Joe describes the amazing complexity of the brainwave entraining soundscape he created to both accompany his deeply inductive, 30-minute, guided meditation on the first track of Journey, and also stand alone as a music-only track that holds you in a profoundly relaxed, still, yet clear place on the theta/delta border. To find out all that went into the making of the inductive guided meditation on the first track of Journey, see A Guide to Transpersonal Meditation: Journey to the Center of the Self, part I of this interview.
All brainwave frequencies are useful and beneficial at certain times – there is no brainwave that is intrinsically better than another. However, by deliberately choosing to attain a particular brainwave state, a corresponding mental state can be brought about at the same time. For example, a working person who has been in an overly alert beta brainwave pattern for many hours can quickly shift their mind and body into a relaxed state by listening to a few minutes of brainwave entrainment music for inducing alpha or theta brainwaves.
Beating can also be heard between notes that are near to, but not exactly, a harmonic interval, due to some harmonic of the first note beating with a harmonic of the second note. For example, in the case of perfect fifth, the third harmonic (i.e. second overtone) of the bass note beats with the second harmonic (first overtone) of the other note. As well as with out-of tune notes, this can also happen with some correctly tuned equal temperament intervals, because of the differences between them and the corresponding just intonation intervals: see Harmonic series (music)#Harmonics and tuning.
In 1956, the famous neuroscientist W. Gray Walter published the results of studying thousands of test subjects using photic stimulation, showing their change in mental and emotional states. He also learned that photic stimulation not only altered brainwaves, but that these changes were occurring in areas of the brain outside of vision. In Walter’s words:
Exercise can be an effective component of a stress management program for many individuals and should be recommended to help those who are dealing with acute, acute episodic, or chronic stress. An advantage of incorporating exercise into a stress management program compared with other stress management techniques is the well-documented physical and psychological health benefits of exercise. However, it is important to remember that exercise is only one component of a stress management program, and there might be situations that require assistance beyond the expertise of a fitness professional, especially in working with individuals who are experiencing acute episodic or chronic stress. Although exercise might be effective in helping an individual feel calmer who is dealing with these types of stress, it will not solve the problem of major chronic or regular stressors. It may be necessary to refer these individuals to resources who can help them to address their stressors, such as a psychologist or other health care providers.
♥ I've suffered from patches of insomnia throughout my life, extending from a few days to dragging on for several weeks, and no amount of the usual proper "bedtime ritual" normally recommended, calms me, as my brain is overactive. Layering combos of the Binaural/Bilateral sounds right before sleep effectively resets me, allowing me to sleep like a normal human. I can't express enough gratitude!
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).
Isochronic tones work by influencing your brainwave activity and they can’t directly affect the body. That said, the brain does control the body, so sensations and feelings can sometimes be felt in the body after stimulating your brainwave activity. Some people who are new listeners of this type of audio can sometimes feel tingling sensations in their body. Not everyone feels this and these sensations usually stop once you get more used to using the audios. Isochronic tones are considered as a safe technology. However, sometimes they can leave you feeling temporarily fatigued, especially if you listen to them for an extended period (hours) when you first start using them. If you felt fatigued, I would recommend using them for a much shorter period while you are getting used to them and ensure you are well-hydrated.
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.
Set aside time in your daily schedule. If possible, schedule a set time once or twice a day for your practice. If your schedule is already packed, remember that many relaxation techniques can be practiced while performing other tasks. Try meditating while commuting on the bus or train, taking a yoga or tai chi break at lunchtime, or practicing mindful walking while exercising your dog.
When your thoughts start to spin out of control during a stressful moment, stop and reframe your thinking. “By your choice of perspective, you direct how your body will respond—in fight or flight, or in creative choices and solution-based responses,” says Lauren E. Miller, stress relief and personal excellence expert and the author of 5 Minutes to Stress Relief. If you’re stressed about something you fear happening, such as “I’m not going to get this project done and then my boss will fire me,” think instead of what a great opportunity it is to show your boss you’re a hard worker. “Resist the urge to cast yourself as the main character in dramas that have not even occurred,” Miller says. Also, instead of asking why something is happening, ask what you can do to fix it. “Asking ‘why’ pitches you in an endless loop of questions, whereas asking ‘what’ sets you into problem-solving mode,” says Deborah Serani, PsyD, award-winning author of Living with Depression and a psychology professor at Adelphi University. “Moving forward instead of being lost in the circle of worries and “whys” helps to reduce stress.” Try these simple mindfulness stress relievers.
And so we (not too surprisingly) begin to experience “symptoms” or “signs” of something that we do not ordinarily experience. Immediately, we associate these with the entrainment or the meditation. We wonder if this is something real or imagined so we often start asking others if they have experienced the same or similar things. We seek validation that our practices are producing tangible effects on us.
As strange as it may sound, vocal toning is a special technique that reduces the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol. Try sneaking off to a quiet place to spend a few minutes toning before a meeting with your boss and see how much more relaxed and focused you feel. It works by exercising the tiny muscles of the inner ear that help you detect the higher frequencies of human speech that impart emotion and tell you what someone is really trying to say. Not only will you feel more relaxed in that meeting, you’ll also be better able to understand what he’s trying to communicate.
Exercise and stress research has typically focused on aerobic exercise. There have been consistent findings that people report feeling calmer after a 20- to 30-minute bout of aerobic exercise, and the calming effect can last for several hours after exercise. Recently, there has been an increased amount of research on the role of mind-body types of exercise such as yoga or Tai Chi. Unfortunately, there is somewhat limited research on the role of resistance exercise in stress management.
These sounds in these musical tracks are presented through monaural beats, binaural beats, isochronic tones, or a mixture involving combinations of all three of these modalities, described in detail below. Choose alpha brainwave tracks for calming anxiety and relaxing body and mind, and choose theta tracks for help in getting to sleep and for bringing hidden feelings to the surface. Some people also report out-of-body type experiences when in theta brainwave states.
The brain has two hemispheres that operate somewhat independently from one another. The two hemispheric structures of the brain are connected by a large nerve, called the corpus callosum, which sends information back and forth between the two sides of the brain. In most people, the left hemisphere controls language, logical thinking, and analytic processes and the right side contains the centers for emotion, intuition, and non-linear creative thinking.
Different people have different requirements when it comes to frequency changes in the music and it's quite impossible for us to anticipate them all. We would need to produce so many different variants of all our music productions that it would be impractical to manage and confusing for our customers. For example, if we were to start raising the frequency from theta up to alpha between the 50-60 minute mark of a piece of music, this would be useless to someone who used the music for a guided meditation that was only 45 minutes long. In the early stages of the development of our brainwave entrainment music we had so many different requests from different people that we could only opt for the simplest solution, which is to use a consistent frequency throughout. It might not be the absolute "perfect ideal", but this is still a very effective technique and the feedback we've received on our brainwave entrainment music has always been exceptionally positive.
Exercises improves insulin sensitivity, can help someone become more aware of their hunger levels, improves confidence/self-esteem, and leads to better mental processing and a lower risk for depression. (2) Can’t sleep? Well, exercise can help with that too, which is very important considering quality sleep is needed to regulate hormones and help the body recover.
Gaia Meditation Gamma programs are specifically designed to: stimulate cognitive functions, help for higher learning and greater focus, improve IQ, expand consciousness and inspiration. The Dalai Lama meditates 4 hours every morning, which must stimulate his Gamma activity in a tremendous way. However, even if you have never practiced meditation, our Gamma waves programs will take you easily and rapidly to the Gamma brain state.
Take a hint from Taylor Swift and literally shake your body to release tension—but you probably want to do this one in private, or your coworkers might wonder what you’re up to! “In Africa and other cultures, shaking therapy is used for emotional healing—literally shaking off your perceived emotional threat of fear, self-doubt, or worry,” Miller says. “Next time you find yourself emotional because of a specific situation that side swipes you in life, imagine the irritation beading up on your body and start shaking it off from your feet all the way up to the top of your head.” Picture an animal shaking off after getting out of the water, and use the shaking as a release of the emotional attachments causing you stress. Plus, “most of the time when I use this technique, I end up flipping my frustration into laughter, which is always a great endorphin mood booster!” Miller says. Here are more proven ways to boost your mood.
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.
Any other things help you relieve stress? “Yoga is something I always return to. I find there is something about just reconnecting to my breath and surveying my body that allows me to be very honest about how well I am managing to maintain a sense of peace regardless of the chaos around me. On a daily basis, I find cooking to be a wonderful, sensory-rich, hands-on way to unwind from a busy day.”
Isochronic tones are the newest technological advancement in the field of brainwave entrainment. Isochronic tones are regular beats of a single tone. In fact, an isochronic tone is a tone that is being turned on and off rapidly at regular intervals, creating sharp and distinctive pulses of sound. This effect called “Amplitude Entrainment” tends to excite the thalamus and causes the brain to generate the same brainwave frequency (“frequency following response”) as the tone. The thalamus, vital structure lying deep within the brain, has multiple important functions: it is involved in sensory and motor signal relay, and the regulation of consciousness and sleep. Therefore, the use of isochronic tones is a very effective way to induce a desired brainwave state.
Acupuncture has increasingly been used to treat many stress-related conditions, including psychiatric disorders, autoimmune or immunological-related diseases, infertility, anxiety, and depression. Researchers have found that acupunture treatments result in changes in the cardiovascular and immune systems, increasing protective T-cell proliferation and helping with cellular immuno-responses. (8)
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.
This is not to say that entrainment cannot produce some physical effects, particularly negative ones. It is possible to induce epileptic seizures using entrainment, especially visual entrainment that employs flashing lights. That’s why people with seizure disorders are uniformly told to consult with their health care provider before using entrainment if they have a seizure disorder or some other serious medical condition.
You’ve heard me talk before about how sound can make a difference to sleep. Patients often tell me that they fall asleep to relaxing music, they seem to find it really helps them let go of active thoughts and quiet their mind—which, like yours probably does, tends to race from one thing to the next all day long (aka I can’t turn off my brain syndrome).
Some people believe that using this stuff can be a replacement for meditation. While sitting passively and listening to something that can give you the same effect frequency-wise as meditation, there is still far more benefit to meditating than just entrainment. Meditation and mindfulness allow you to really understand yourself on a level far deeper than technology will bring you.
This can help develop the ability to see energy fields around people and in nature, and it will also make it much easier to stay awake during your meditations. When your eyes begin to close, you simply have to open them back up again. Doing the meditations with your eyes open is a serious step up in exercising your brain, so go slow with that technique at first.
That is generally where the science ends and the pseudoscience begins. A number of companies and individuals have then extrapolated from the phenomenon of entrainment to claim that altering the brain waves changes the actual functioning of the brain. There is no theoretical or empirical basis for this, however. Entrainment is a temporary effect on the synchronization of neuronal firing – it does not improve or increase brain functioning, it does not change the hardwiring, nor does it cure any neurological disorder. There is no compelling evidence for any effect beyond the period of entrainment itself.
One of my habitual ways to unwind, get into an easy meditative state, and let the stress of the day melt away is by listening to binaural beats from these guys. So please do try them out! Their work is of the highest quality. (Note: yes, our website does earn affiliate commissions from them, but I only recommend them because I personally use their music to help relax my mind and reduce nervous tension – and it works!)
Maybe a favorite popular song, a certain piece of Classical music, a raucous dance beat, the pulse of Reggae, Indian, or African drums, or the chanting of Gregorian or Tibetan monks, but you probably know how the sound of music, drumming, or chanting is capable of transporting you into an altered and joyous state of mind and uplifting your spirits.
The studies included in the recent reviews of Tai Chi and yoga indicate that sessions between 60 and 90 minutes performed 2 to 3 days per week were effective in reducing stress and improving feelings of well-being (7,14,17). A study conducted in a worksite environment showed that 15 minutes of chair-based yoga postures was effective in reducing acute stress when assessed by self-report and with physiological measures (e.g., respiration rate and heart rate variability parameters). This finding indicates that shorter duration sessions can be effective in reducing acute stress with this type of exercise (15).
Well, except for one reason: The power of suggestion. If I give you a music track and tell you that it will cure your headache, you're more likely to report that it cured your headache than you are to say "Well it didn't effect my headache, but it made my short-term memory better." An interesting experiment would be to buy a binaural track claimed to induce drunkenness, for example; play it for five friends without telling them the claim, and then ask how it made each of them feel. Give them multiple choices to select from. Chances are they're going to respond all over the map. If you have a friend who is a believer in binaural beats, I suggest going ahead and setting up this little test.
Gamma was dismissed as 'spare brain noise' until researchers discovered it was highly active when in states of universal love, altruism, and the ‘higher virtues’. Gamma is also above the frequency of neuronal firing, so how it is generated remains a mystery. It is speculated that gamma rhythms modulate perception and consciousness, and that a greater presence of gamma relates to expanded consciousness and spiritual emergence.
There are general recommendations for stress management that can be applied in most situations. However, keep in mind that there are individual differences and preferences, so a “cookie cutter” approach should be avoided when making recommendations. A comprehensive stress management program will include specific techniques prescribed on an individual basis, but general stress management recommendations are presented in Table 2.
Brainwave entrainment is used by millions of adults across the world with no negative effects. However, as with any treatment or therapy, individuals who are prone to seizures should avoid these tones. It is also not advised for pregnant women or very young children whose brain is still developing. If you are concerned about health impacts, discuss it with your health practitioner before you start using our brainwave entrainment products. It is also very important that you use the products in accordance with our instructions.
Sleep issues are becoming much more of a common problem. I think it's great to look at alternative ways to help with insomnia and other sleep related issues, especially when they don't involve the need to take medication. Something proved to be effective is 'Sleepstation' a UK based organisation who use CBT techniques to cure insomnia. Their online sleep therapy course is brilliant and very convenient as it's delivered online. Their website is definitely worth a look if you're having sleep issues
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.
Theta waves have another interesting characteristic. The Earth has a measurable resonance of 7.83 hertz known as the Schumann resonance. Because the Schumann resonance is a constant background frequency surrounding all life, it may play a special role in biological activity. The Schumann resonance frequency falls within the range of theta brainwaves and may have something to do with why these brainwave frequencies are so powerful.
Some research suggests that the benefits from brainwave entrainment can last a lot longer, and still be seen for some time after you've stopped using it. Study participants have still maintained improved test scores a few weeks after the stimulation had ceased. Research on the long-term benefits has so far been minimal though, so how long the effects last is still up for debate.