Can you think of a time when the rhythms of music became irresistible, carrying you away into physical movement? Whether music inspires dancing, foot tapping, or just resonating inside, you probably know how it can change your mood and bring you a feeling of exhilaration or simple joy.
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...
Brainwave entrainment is a method to stimulate the brain and induce a specific state of mind by using special pulsing sounds, light, or electromagnetic field. The pulses align one’s own brainwaves with a desired brainwave frequency for the purpose of achieving the corresponding state of mind.
Read on and learn everything you need to know about brainwave entrainment and its benefits for personal development and healing
- The nature of brainwaves, how and when they were discovered, and their connection to brainwave entrainment.
- The differences between alpha, beta, gamma, theta, and delta brainwave states.
- The science behind brainwave entrainment and the three primary forms of this technique: binaural beats, monaural beats, and isochronic tones.
- The benefits of using brainwave entrainment techniques.
- The differences between audio and visual entrainment techniques.
- The history and scientific foundation of brainwave entrainment techniques.
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.
Our state of mind, mood, energy level, motivation, and overall well-being all emerge out of the electrical energy produced by our brains. Do you want more control of your moods and thoughts every day? If so, brainwave entrainment is a method which greatly assists many people in finding greater relaxation, better moods, and less anxiety in a way similar to how music uplifts and rejuvenates us, and brainwave entrainment techniques are available embedded into musical arrangements, giving you the benefits of both modalities.
Theta Brainwave Meditation Sample
PLEASE LISTEN WITH STEREO HEADPHONES!
While the physiological and psychological processes being uncovered by brain science in the study of brainwaves is sometimes complex and still being investigated, certain basic principles are well-established, easily understood, and helpful for achieving the most effectively use of brainwave entrainment when seeking relaxation, improved sleep, lowering of anxiety, or other goals.
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.
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.
Everyone has stress of some form in their lives, and many people struggle with finding ways of reducing stress using healthy and positive techniques. A person under continual stress has trouble letting things go, learning new skills, and opening his or her mind to new experiences and people.
In addition, Western culture reinforces thought and communication styles associated with the left brain hemisphere, which controls logic, language, and linear thinking in a majority of people, as opposed to the right hemisphere which controls brain centers for emotional, intuitive, creative, and non-linear thought processes. Note that a significant minority of people has the opposite hemispheric dominance than the majority of people.
Brainwave entrainment specifically addresses these discrepancies in brain hemispheric dominance by measurably synchronizing brainwaves in both hemispheres, supporting balance in thought, mood, and physical health whether a person has right or left hemisphere dominance.
In order to understand why brainwave entrainment is successful for achieving relaxation, reducing anxiety, and aiding in so many other ways, understanding brainwaves is essential.
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.
These myriad chemical interactions occurring all over the brain at the same time produces electrical waves of specific frequencies that can be detected at the surface of the skull and are called neural oscillations or brainwaves.
Brainwaves change and vary in frequency depending on what activities we are doing with slower waves being produced during sleep and faster waves occurring during periods of activity and mental focus. Everyone has all forms of brainwaves in different amounts and at different times.
While a practical understanding of brainwaves has been around for as long as people have been singing, chanting, and drumming, a scientific view of the electrical activity inside the human brain was not published until 1924 when German psychiatrist Hans Berger developed a machine for sensing and recording activity in the brain by attaching small electrical sensors to the scalp of his patients and recording the resulting electrical activity. Berger’s inventions and discoveries were built upon the earlier work of Richard Caton who published animal studies on brainwave oscillations in 1875.
With digital upgrades, Berger’s machine is still in use today, known as an electroencephalography machine, or EEG. Berger used his machine to study the brains of psychologically normal and abnormal people and discovered the first brainwave, called the alpha wave and also known as the Berger wave, along with the faster beta wave, which he observed suppressing the alpha wave when subjects opened their closed eyes.
Today, EEG machines are used for diagnosing epilepsy and sleep disorders, for determining dosages for anesthesia, and measuring the brain activity of people in comas or suffering from brain trauma. EEG machines also continue to play a role in researching and understanding brainwave entrainment and developing new and better methods for delivering the benefits of this form of brainwave modification.
Brainwaves are the collective electrical signal of millions of neurons working together in a living brain, producing our sense of alertness – or lack thereof - and producing our experience of reality. As brainwaves change, so does our perception of the world and our inner perception of ourselves. By learning to control our brainwaves, we can achieve specific, desirable mental states, such as feeling more relaxed, less anxious, more creative, more focused, or sleepier.
Brainwave Patterns and Corresponding Mind States
Brainwaves frequencies are known by the names of Greek letters of the alphabet. From the lowest frequency, they are:
- Delta - 0.1 to 4 hertz
- Theta - 4 to 7.5 hertz
- Alpha – 7.5 to 12 hertz
- Beta - 12 to 30 hertz
- Gamma - above 30 hertz
Each of these brainwave types differs from the others in the frequency, or cycles per second of oscillation of the wave. Brainwave frequencies are measured in hertz, and one cycle per second is defined as one hertz. Our everyday, waking brain used for active intelligence operates at approximately 13 hertz, which is in the range of high alpha or low beta frequencies. People who have certain learning disabilities and problems with attention often have low levels of 13 hertz frequency brainwaves in crucial areas of the brain used for sequencing tasks and doing simple math calculations. This is one concrete example of how brainwaves are associated with thinking and behavior. Each identified brainwave frequency has a different effect on a person’s ability to think, act, and feel. 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. Here are details about each brainwave state and the states of mind associated with each:
Delta brainwaves have the slowest frequencies, ranging between 0.1 and 4 hertz, and these are the brainwave states associated with deep sleep, trance states, and unconsciousness. Few people can remain awake during delta brainwaves states, although this state is recorded in awake infants between ages of three months and one year and also in babies just before birth. Delta waves are also linked with increased production of HGH, DHEA, and the neuro-transmitter serotonin. When delta waves are present, our awareness of the external world decreases and shuts off. People with ADD have problems with delta waves occurring when they are trying to focus, and focus and attention become increasingly impossible with stronger delta waves. Studies show a reduction of anxiety, improvements in insomnia, and elimination of headaches when people engage in sessions of delta brainwave entrainment.
Theta brainwaves are next highest in frequency above delta and are especially important for many people using brainwave entrainment and meditation because theta waves are at a threshold, forming a link between wakefulness and the subconscious mind. Theta waves bridge between our awake self and the creative and insightful understandings from below our conscious awareness, and while they are not common in awake adults, they are normative for children under 13 years old. Theta waves have a frequency between 4 and 7.5 hertz, making them slower than more wakeful alpha but faster than the dreamless slumber of delta. Theta brainwaves are the frequencies of nighttime dreams and REM sleep when the brain goes through bursts of activity and eye movement. People also experience theta waves in a state of light sleep, deep relaxation, during meditation and prayer, and when daydreaming. Theta waves produce an experience of inward wakefulness where we become disengaged from the outside world while engaging in inner activity. At the lower frequencies of theta, sleeping states are experienced, and at the higher range of frequency, awake relaxed states are experienced. 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. 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. 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. People who suffer from anxiety or frequent periods of stress often find theta wave music an effective means for quickly relaxing and unwinding. At the slower frequencies, theta tuned sounds can induce sleep, bring on lucid dreaming, and provide a deeply relaxing and rejuvenating experience. Scientific studies of theta brainwaves find they are especially useful for reducing anxiety, inducing hypnotic states of mind, and entering the brainwave patterns associated with meditation.
Alpha brainwaves are perhaps the most well-known brainwaves, being the first discovered and named by Berger, and also because they are commonly occurring brainwaves of a light, alert state of mind which our brains naturally rest at when awake, stress-free, and engaged with the world or our own thoughts. Oscillate at a frequency of 7.5 to 12 hertz, these are the brainwaves present when a person is relaxed and awake, occurring often at the time a person wakes up and is transitioning from asleep to awake and also present when a person is awake and engaged in creative thinking or action. 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. When alpha waves are dominant, a person often feels relaxed but engaged in the present, making it easy to breeze through tasks involving mental coordination and fluid creativity. Alpha brainwaves have these characteristics:
- Associated with the frontal cortex and strong occipital cortex activity, especially when eyes are closed.
- Linked to extroversion with introverted people having fewer alpha waves.
- Marked by an alert but not actively processing mind-state.
- Marked by a feeling of calmness, openness, and honesty.
At the lower end of the frequency range of 7.5 to 10 hertz, alpha brainwaves involve inner awareness and the tranquil mind-state often felt upon awakening. At the higher end of the frequency spectrum of 10 to 12 hertz, alpha brainwaves produce a more alert and externally focused mind-state present during relaxed, awake moments during the day. You can induce more alpha waves by closing your eyes and by breathing deeply and you can inhibit them by doing strenuous mental activity like solving difficult math problems. Brainwave entrainment is another method for easily and reliably creating alpha brainwaves states. Studies of the effects of alpha brainwave entrainment consistently show it is helpful for pain relief, decreasing anxiety and stress, achieving relaxation, improving memory, and as an aid for entering meditative states.
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. Beta brainwaves are associated with open eyes and are most likely to be present when a person is alert and attentive to their surroundings. When our eyes are open and we are thinking about a problem, making a judgment, analyzing a situation, or actively processing information, beta brainwaves are the result. There are differences between high (over 18 hertz), mid (15 to 18 hertz), and low range beta states (12 to 15 hertz). Low beta states are more relaxed while still being focused, making this a good range for many daily work related tasks like balancing a checkbook, making a shopping list, or driving to a new place. However, people with attention deficit disorder lack the mental focus for doing these types of activities, and studies have found people with ADD are often low in this range of beta brainwaves. Mid-range beta brainwaves are associated with focus on the external world and active mental problem solving, such as doing math equations. Mid-range beta waves can also be associated with agitation and anxiety. High-range beta waves are present during agitation and anxiety, but are also present in extremely focused mental problem solving. High-range beta is associated with a general activation of physiological functions such as heart rate and blood pressure. Studies of brainwave entrainment with different frequencies of beta demonstrate its helpfulness for improving academic achievement, raising verbal and reading skills, increasing attention and focus, and reducing fatigue.
Gamma brainwaves occur above 27 to 30 hertz. These are the fastest oscillating brainwaves and the ones often found in monks, nuns, and other spiritual practitioners when they are in deep meditation and prayer, although gamma waves also occur in average people in different amounts along with other brainwaves during the day. Gamma waves are the most recently discovered brainwave, a discovery made possible by digital EEG technology. Gamma is associated with the integration of information from different areas of the brain, and having a good memory is associated with having a certain baseline of 40 hertz gamma activity. Low gamma activity is associated with learning disabilities and poor memory. Gamma waves sweep back and forth across the brain at a rate of 40 times per second, influencing all areas of brain activity. Gamma wave states are connected to moments where a person is at peak performance and using their entire brain to solve or integrate a problem. Gamma brainwaves occur during creative thinking and processing of memory and language and in many learning activities. These brainwaves are not present at all when a person is under anesthesia, but return as soon as the person becomes conscious again. Multiple scientific studies have shown gamma brainwave entrainment to be helpful for reducing distractibility, improving short-term memory, improving motor coordination, and relieving migraine headaches.
Sensorimotor rhythm (SMR) is one final type of brainwave that has been studied. SMR, also known as low beta, is a type of brainwave, which occurs in the sensorimotor cortex, in the 12 to 15 hertz range when that area of the sensorimotor cortex is idle and immobile. The purpose of SMR brainwaves is not well understood, but some neurofeedback practitioners report training to increase SMR brainwaves can be beneficial for people with autism, epilepsy, ADD, insomnia, drug addiction, and as an aide to better manage stress.
What is Brainwave Entrainment?
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.
In physics, entrainment is the process of two oscillating systems coming to assume the same periodic rhythm, such as is observed when two clocks slowly synchronize their ticking and tick together in harmony after some time. Pendulums also achieve this same synchronicity when swinging in close proximity to one another, a phenomenon first observed and written about in 1665 by Christiaan Huygens, a Dutch scientist.
Recent research at the University of Lisbon finally uncovered the reason for the 350 year-old mystery, finding that the resonance of sound is the mechanism for entrainment of swinging pendulums and ticking clocks, and it seems likely that the energy transferred by sound is also responsible for other observations of entrainment, including brainwave entrainment.
In bio-musicology, entrainment is the observed phenomena of human beings spontaneously clapping, chanting, or singing in rhythm with one another. No other animal is known to have this innate musical ability, but all humans everywhere display it, supporting the biological basis and importance of phenomena involving the resonance of sound.
Similar to these other forms of entrainment, brainwave entrainment is the process of bringing one’s own brainwaves into synchronization with a desired brainwave frequency for the purpose of achieving the corresponding state of mind.
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.
Since the 1970s, brainwave entrainment has been researched and written about in the scientific literature in hundreds of peer-reviewed studies. Brainwave entrainment has been found useful in the treatment of a wide range of problems, including learning disabilities, anxiety, depression, tinnitus, headaches, pain management, and sleep disturbances.
When the brain is exposed to auditory and visual stimulation delivered in a steady, rhythmic pattern of a certain frequency, the brain synchronizes its electrical impulses to that same frequency in a phenomenon known as the Frequency Following Response, or FFR.
While originally brainwave entrainment was achieved by using pure tones of sound, it is now possible to take these tones and blend them with music, rhythms, and natural sounds, such as the sounds of flowing water, bird sounds, or waves lapping on a beach, creating extended tracts of varied and intriguing brainwave entrainment music for everyday use.
Brainwave entrainment also happens with the use of pulsating light, and visual and auditory stimuli are sometimes combined for additional effect and visual stimuli is used alone. Using brainwave entrainment techniques is safe for almost everyone, the exception being pregnant women and people who have seizure disorders who should check with their physician before using these methods.
All physical, emotional, and mental activity is ultimately rooted in brainwaves. Everything we experience with our senses results in an electrical impulse inside the brain known as a Cortical Evoked Response, or CER. Brainwaves are the originating signals underlying everything we do, think, and feel.
Given that brainwaves control and connect such a vast range of human experience from thought to feelings to actions, it is easy to see how the deliberate control of brainwaves can affect mood, behaviors, motivation, and even physical health. Brainwave entrainment is a safe, simple, and scientifically proven method for quickly guiding the brain into a beneficial brainwave frequency to facilitate healthy sleep, lower stress, heal emotional problems, and improve physical health.
Music for Achieving Desired Brainwave States
When blended with musical sounds, brainwave entrainment frequencies induce specific states of mind, which are the result of those brainwaves, delivering them in pleasing and relaxing audio tracts for use with and without stereo headphones. For example, alpha and theta waves, because they exist at the borders between conscious and unconscious thought, are especially rich and useful for tapping into and stimulating subconscious processes.
Tracks that move from alpha to theta can be a perfect vehicle for transitioning from a hectic day into a relaxing and rejuvenating sleep. Beginning with alpha waves takes you into a light but still alert meditative mind state where the difficulties of the day can be resolved and put to rest. Later, theta waves go deeper into the unconscious, preparing you for sleep and dreams.
A common element in recordings incorporating alpha and theta frequencies is a steady but barely perceptible rhythm of the frequencies themselves. This subtle and calming pulse mixes with sounds of gentle breezes, distant bird songs, and the slow progression of deep synth notes. Underneath this, below the audible sounds at sub 16 hertz levels, other frequencies intermingle, deepening the merging of conscious and unconscious mind.
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.
Benefits of Brainwave Entrainment
The use of brainwave entrainment techniques offers many benefits for overall health and well-being, including improved emotional stability, increased cognitive function, and a deepening of creative insight. Much of this benefit derives from the hemispheric synchronization occurring as a result of entrained brainwaves. This effect happens when the electrical impulses in both hemispheres synchronized to the same frequency being delivered through the entrainment source.
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.
In the average person, the activity of one brain hemisphere is dominant over the other, called brain lateralization. This hemispheric imbalance leads us to experience the world in a black and white way, perceiving separation over connectedness. When brainwave entrainment is used to synchronize brainwave activity in both hemispheres simultaneously, a person can more easily integrate information from all parts of the brain and solve problems with greater intelligence and sensitivity.
These discoveries of hemispheric synchronization were confirmed in the 1970s when neuroscientists studied people with years of experience in meditation and found that when they were deeply in a meditative experience, the activity in both hemispheres of their brains began to synchronize.
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.
Recently developed entrainment software has been designed to correct specific imbalances in hemispheric activity associated with undesirable mind-states. For example, people suffering with depression often have more activity in the right hemisphere, and specially designed brainwave music decreases this activity while increasing activity in the left hemisphere, reducing depression.
When the electrical energy is balanced throughout the brain in this way, the following are some of the most common benefits reported:
- Greater ease of relaxation and lower levels of overall stress and anxiety
- Improvements in memory
- Less fatigue
- Relief from headaches
- Faster, sounder sleep
- Improved immune system function
- Improved ability to use meditation and yoga techniques
- Lucid dreaming
- Improved athletic and sexual performance
- Improved focus and attention
- Improved learning abilities and metal performance
A 1981 study by Manns, Miralles, and Adrian reported the use of isochronic tones was effective in reducing myofascial pain and pain from TMJ syndrome.
Controlling brainwave states through the use of brainwave entrainment products is also associated with improved interpersonal communication and a deepening of the experience of empathy, allowing the person to improve their overall ability to function in all areas of life.
Brainwave entrainment music can be used almost anywhere and anytime, making this mood and self-improvement method versatile and flexible enough to do at work, while traveling, or at other times during the day. When used in the workplace during short rest periods, brainwave entrainment techniques can enhance concentration, communication, and work productivity.
Because the mind and body are a single system, changing our brainwaves and spending more time in harmonious, relaxed, and restorative mind-states also affects our physical health. Physical health then reinforces our mental-state, and a feedback loop of either positive or negative processes becomes established. Research studies have shown beneficial effects of using brainwave entrainment for treating migraine headaches, premenstrual syndrome, and for managing physical pain.
Years of scientific study combined with the personal testimony of thousands of people establish that using brainwave entrainment techniques positively affects the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being in a majority of users. You can easily take advantage of these powerful methods of personal self-help and self-improvement by downloading a variety of entrainment music right now.
History of Brainwave Entrainment
Methods for deliberately creating a particular brainwave frequency using sound, chanting, or drumming have been around since the earliest humans, and the ancients also noticed and recorded other observations about pulsing light and sound and how these can affect the human mind.
The Greek mathematician Ptolemy described spinning a wheel in front of the sun, the spokes producing pulses of sunlight and colors, patterns, and feeling of euphoria for Ptolemy.
More recently, the psychological researcher of traumatic memory, Pierre Janet, discovered that some of his patients improved from anxiety and depression when they were exposed to flickering lights, although he did not know why this was the case.
After Berger’s discovery of alpha waves in 1924, many other researchers began using EEG machines to study brainwaves. In 1934, Adrian and Mathews discovered that the alpha waves could be induced by light as well as sound.
Army electrician Sidney Schneider noticed radar operators who stared at flashing screens went into an altered and positive state of mind. He then developed a machine for simulating this effect known as the Brainwaves Synchronizer.
Another landmark study in the field of brainwave entrainment happened in 1956 when neuroscientist W. Gray Walter published studies of light stimulation on the reported mental state of test subjects. He noted a whole brain effect during these experiments, even though the source of stimulation was only in the visual cortex.
One of the earliest brainwave entrainment products was brought to the market in the 1960s when the sale of a device called the Dream Machine, a cylindrical drum with holes in it, rotating around a glowing light bulb, producing a mesmerizing, flickering effect and brainwave entrainment for the viewer.
Brainwave entrainment techniques also entered the medical field in the 1960s when M.S. Sandove first used visual entrainment stimulation for controlling the need for anesthesia during surgery.
In the 1980s, a researcher in Japan, Tsuyoshi Inouye described how light stimulation creates synchronization of brain hemispheres. Since then, other researchers have detailed the positive effects of hemispheric synchronization including a 1984 study by researcher Dr. Gene W. Brockopp stating that hemispheric synchronization resulted in improved intellectual functioning as well as improvements in long-term memory, and these effects are cumulative over time.
Robert Monroe, a radio producer and executive published a popular book called Journeys Out of the Body about his out-of-body experiences when using brainwave entrainment. He later founded an original brainwave entrainment audio company, Hemi Sync. In 1981, the book Mega Brain by Michael Hutchison brought brainwave entrainment information, techniques, and terminology into the popular press.
By the 1980s, entrainment technology had merged with advancements in microelectronics technology, making it possible to develop even more sophisticated audio and visual brainwave entrainment products for the marketplace. In the last two decades, a number of scientific studies have reported brainwave entrainment as an effective remedy for ADD, academic learning problems, and improving memory and cognition.
The last two decades have also been a time of increasing number of brainwave entrainment products becoming available for purchase by average people for personal self-improvement.
Audio Entrainment Techniques
There are three main methods for delivering audio brainwave entrainment. These are:
- Binaural beats
- Monaural beats
- Isochronic tones
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.
Binaural beats require two separate tones from two sources that are combined inside the listener’s brain to form the target tone. The lower frequency sound is called the carrier tone, and it is combined with a higher frequency sound known as the offset tone. Because of this, binaural beats must be listened to with stereo headphones or the effect is lost. Binaural beats create a hypnotic effect, but they are not the most effective tool for brainwave entrainment, and binaural beats are often ineffective for people with hearing loss.
There are other forms of brainwave entrainment which do not require headphones and which more successfully produce brainwave entrainment.
Binaural Bliss - A deep meditation from alpha to theta mind state
PLEASE LISTEN WITH STEREO HEADPHONES
Monaural beats have similarities to binaural beats, but the two separate frequencies are delivered through a pulse pattern and mixed before they reach the listeners ears, resulting in the advantage of being audible without stereo headphones. However, using stereo headphones intensifies the effectiveness of monaural beats and is recommended for the best effect.
Have you ever been at a club or concert and heard the pulse of electronic music that resonated so powerfully you could feel it in your whole body, making movement irresistible? If you have, you have likely felt the powerful effects of isochronic tones.
At its most basic, an isochronic tone is a sound that rapidly oscillates between on and off, creating a steady pulse. Most people consider it the most reliable entrainment method, producing audible, even sounds combined with a rapid pulse.
Because they use only a single tone delivered in pulses, headphones are not required. The brain also processes isochronic tones faster because there is only a single sound to process. Isochronic tones also work independently on each hemisphere of the brain, leading more quickly to hemispheric synchronization.
In the creation of isochronic tones, virtually every facet of the beat can be manipulated, creating a square waveform, a sine wave, or another type of waveform. These tones can be mixed together to create chords, the intensity or depth of the wave can be modulated, and harsh effects found with other entrainment methods are eliminated.
Most isochronic tone music tracts can be enjoyed without the use of headphones, although there are some that use different sounds in each ear and these do require headphones, and headphones improve the effect.
Other Audio Entrainment Techniques
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 not only achieved through sounds: It can also be induced with visual stimuli. The human brain is highly developed for the visual sense, and a large number of brain cells are involved in visual processing. This makes visual brainwave entrainment methods stronger and potentially more intense than auditory stimulation alone.
Known as audio-visual brainwave entrainment, or AVE, this method involves the simultaneous flashing of light and audible, rhythmic tones using specialized equipment such as the Mind Machine. Also known as the Dream Machine or psycho-Walkman, this lightweight headset lets you experience a wide selection of audio and visual entrainment tracks while having complete mobility.
AudioStrobe is another simple technology - a method of making LED glasses compatible with brainwave entrainment software to add a visual effect to audio tracks.
While visual entrainment is more powerful than audio alone for inducing desired brainwave states, more caution is needed when using visual methods. Between 0.3 and 3 percent of the population is susceptible to having seizures from flickering light stimulation, and for other people, flickering visual stimuli simply makes them uncomfortable. People with epilepsy have a greater chance of having a seizure from exposure to flickering light stimulation.
Do not use visual entrainment techniques if you:
- have a history of epilepsy,
- are pregnant,
- have a history of headaches induced by bright light,
- are someone with a pacemaker.
If you take a prescription for a psychotropic medication, talk to your health care provider first. Do not use any form of brainwave entrainment while operating a vehicle or machinery.
Other recommendations for safely using visual entrainment technology are:
- Most visual entrainment technologies use visual stimulation on closed eyelids. Keep your eyes closed.
- Use a protective shield between the light source and your eyes when using LED lights.
- Use a filter with LED lights to avoid damage to retinas.
- Alternating visual stimulation between eyes can produce nausea.
Light color can also affect the outcome of visual brainwave entrainment.
- White light is helpful for exercises in visualization.
- Blue is calming and relaxing and increases alpha brainwaves. Blue interferes with melatonin production, needed for sleep, so avoid using blue colored visual entrainment before bed.
- Green light is also relaxing, like blue light.
- Yellow and orange are stimulating and enhance beta brainwave activity.
- Red light is also stimulating, but it can be dangerous for people with susceptibility to seizures.
Using Brainwave Entrainment Products
To get the best benefit from using a brainwave entrainment technology, take these steps:
- Find a distraction-free time and place.
- Set aside at least 20 minutes.
- Whether you use headphones or not, be sure the volume is set at a mid-level without being too loud or too soft, and while headphones are not always required, they always produce a deeper and more effective entrainment experience.
- While listening to brainwave entrainment products, you can engage in other relaxing tasks such as reading, yoga, drawing, or meditation techniques, but do not drive or operate machinery.
There are many studies supporting the effectiveness of brainwave entrainment for improving physical, mental, and emotional well-being. A few important and noteworthy ones not already mentioned are:
A study by Tina Huang, PhD, and Christine Charyton, published in the September 2008 issue of the journal, Alternative Therapies examined the results of twenty previous studies measuring the effectiveness of brainwave entrainment for improvements in cognitive dysfunction and deficits, stress reduction, pain management, migraine and headache control, pre-menstrual syndrome, and behavioral difficulties, and all showed significant improvement in symptoms using entrainment techniques.
A study by Joyce, Michael, and Siever titled, “Audio-visual entrainment program as a treatment for behavior disorders in a school setting” was published in the Journal of Neurotherapy in 2000 showing the effectiveness of entrainment for treating behavioral problems in children at school.
Graham Patrick also published work in the same scientific journal in 1996 on the improvements in ADHD symptoms in test subjects when exposed to 15 sessions of photic brainwave entrainment stimulation.
Multiple studies by Patrick, T. Budzynski, Ruth Olmstead, and others have confirmed the usefulness of BWE in improving cognitive abilities in learning disabled children and academic performance in adults and children.
Two studies published in the journal Neuroscience in 2001 and 2006 conducted by Jonathan Williams demonstrated improvements in recognition memory in older people using 10 hertz flickering light entrainment.
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.
Many other studies done in the past confirm that brainwave entrainment is a safe and effective method for improving many areas of mental, emotional, and physical health. New studies and advancements in the future will certainly expand, enhance, and deepen the healing scope of brainwave entrainment science and technology.
Ramon Valenzuela on 30 August 2016