In 1973, biophysicist Dr. Gerald Oster published a famous article in Scientific American titled “Auditory Beats in the Brain”, which found that when two pure tones of varying frequencies were combined, a third rhythmic beat was created which he called binaural or monaural beats. According to Oster, monaural beats occur when two tones are combined and sent through a loudspeaker, while binaural beats occur when stereo headphones are used to deliver each tone separately to each ear. Oster concluded that monaural beats were a more effective form of brainwave entrainment.
This is an extreme example, naturally, but the idea holds true even in situations that are not as extreme. This ties in very closely with Point #4 above. When you’re wishing to combine meditation and brainwave entrainment, if you’re practicing a meditation technique but not really paying attention to what you’re doing, or perhaps you are performing the technique wrong, whilst allowing your mind to drift off to wherever it takes you, it should come as no surprise that the entrainment track is not helping you achieve a state of meditation. That’s because in fact you aren’t really trying to enter meditation or because you’re specifically engaging in activities that prevent you from getting there.
There is no single relaxation technique that is best for everyone. The right relaxation technique is the one that resonates with you, fits your lifestyle, and is able to focus your mind and interrupt your everyday thoughts to elicit the relaxation response. You may even find that alternating or combining different techniques provides the best results. How you react to stress may also influence the relaxation technique that works best for you:
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)
American Heart Association: "Four Ways to Deal With Stress."; PubMed Central: "Psychosocial and Psychophysiological Effects of Human-Animal Interactions: The Possible Role of Oxytocin."; NIH News in Health: "Can Pets Keep You Healthy?"; Cleveland Clinic: "Want a Healthy Heart? Laugh More!"; HelpGuide.org: "Laughter Is the Best Medicine."; Association for Psychological Science: "Power Posing: Brief Nonverbal; Displays Affect Neuroendocrine; Levels and Risk Tolerance."; Harvard Business School: "Power Posing: Fake It Until you Make It."; IZA.org: "The Effect of Sexual Activity on Wages."
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.
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.
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.
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.
If new stressors are challenging your ability to cope or if self-care measures just aren't relieving your stress, you may need to look for reinforcements in the form of therapy or counseling. Therapy also may be a good idea if you feel overwhelmed or trapped, if you worry excessively, or if you have trouble carrying out daily routines or meeting responsibilities at work, home or school.
Hi Sahil, it’s hard for me to speak about other people’s tracks and videos, as I don’t know how they created them either. If you’re interested in a particular track/video and unsure about it, try asking the creator a question or two about the track, what frequencies were used and for how long, what software they used etc. Then make your own judgement based on how they reply to you. Jason
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.