Some studies have found that binaural beats can affect cognitive function positively or negatively, depending on the specific frequency that’s generated. For example, a study of long-term memory found that beta-frequency binaural beats improved memory, while theta-frequency binaural beats interfered with memory. This is something for scientists to continue to examine closely. For people who use binaural beats, it’s important to understand that different frequencies will produce different effects.
Binaural beats are a type of brain entrainment technology. Entrainment, by the way, is a fancy way of saying "matching". The beats influence your brainwaves, which in turn alter the states of your consciousness. They were first discovered in 1839 by Heinrich Wilhelm Dove, but were considered a scientific oddity until 1973, when Gerald Oster published an article called, "Auditory Beats in the Brain". Oster's work offered new insights, as well as some laboratory findings, to Dove's research; hence, a revolution was started in the field of neurophysiology. Binaural beats are of interest to neurophysiologists investigating the sense of hearing.
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.
In one study, researchers had a group of participants relax alone in a quiet, low-light environment following an exercise session. They split the group in two — one spent 20 minutes listening to theta-frequency binaural beats while the other listened to a carrier tone and monitored their parasympathetic (rest and relaxation) and sympathetic (fight or flight) nervous system activity. Researchers found the group that listened to binaural beats experienced an increase in parasympathetic activity and a decrease in sympathetic activity, along with higher rates of self-reported relaxation.
"Given the popularity and effectiveness of meditation as a means of alleviating stress and maintaining good health, there is a pressing need for a rigorous investigation of how it affects brain function," says Professor Jim Lagopoulos of Sydney University, Australia. Lagopoulos is the principal investigator of a joint study between his university and researchers from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) on changes in electrical brain activity during nondirective meditation.
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.
I wouldn’t personally recommend listening to delta wave frequencies for depression, so I’m not sure who advised you to do that? People with depression usually have a higher ratio of theta and delta wave activity, so I would normally recommend listening to high alpha wave and low beta wave frequencies, to help balance things. I have some 10Hz alpha tracks for serotonin release, which you can try for free on my YouTube channel here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3NSUcuzpRcY&list=PLveg0IEcZWN6T86nhmSrdwG2kMQtcLRou. I also recommend you give these SMR (low beta wave) tracks a try: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HGTvBbrEwZQ&list=PLveg0IEcZWN7yaMaKr8F-eWHALk2_zGqY. I hope that helps.
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.
Binaural beats were discovered in 1839 by a German experimenter, H. W. Dove. The human ability to "hear" binaural beats appears to be the result of evolutionary adaptation. Many evolved species can detect binaural beats because of their brain structure. The frequencies at which binaural beats can be detected change depending upon the size of the species' cranium. In the human, binaural beats can be detected when carrier waves are below approximately 1000 Hz (Oster, 1973). Below 1000 Hz the wave length of the signal is longer than the diameter of the human skull. Thus, signals below 1000 Hz curve around the skull by diffraction. The same effect can be observed with radio wave propagation. Lower-frequency (longer wave length) radio waves (such as AM radio) travel around the earth over and in between mountains and structures. Higher-frequency (shorter wave length) radio waves (such as FM radio, TV, and microwaves) travel in a straight line and can't curve around the earth. Mountains and structures block these high-frequency signals. Because frequencies below 1000 Hz curve around the skull, incoming signals below 1000 Hz are heard by both ears. But due to the distance between the ears, the brain "hears" the inputs from the ears as out of phase with each other. As the sound wave passes around the skull, each ear gets a different portion of the wave. It is this waveform phase difference that allows for accurate location of sounds below 1000 Hz(9). Audio direction finding at higher frequencies is less accurate than it is for frequencies below 1000 Hz. At 8000 Hz the pinna (external ear) becomes effective as an aid to localization. In summary it's the ability of the brain to detect a waveform phase difference is what enables it to perceive binaural beats.
As to the second question raised in the above paragraph, audio with embedded binaural beats alters the electrochemical environment of the brain. This allows mind-consciousness to have different experiences. When the brain is entrained to lower frequencies and awareness is maintained, a unique state of consciousness emerges. This state is often referred to as hypnogogia "mind awake/body asleep."
The power and manifold benefits of meditation are well documented, its practice dating back to prehistory where it was used mainly for religious or spiritual purposes. With our growing knowledge and understanding of the functions of the brain it seems both logical and practical that we should develop ways of tapping into this power and using it to our advantage.
^ Bittman, B. B., Snyder, C., Bruhn, K. T., Liebfreid, F., Stevens, C. K., Westengard, J., and Umbach, P. O., Recreational music-making: An integrative group intervention for reducing burnout and improving mood states in first year associate degree nursing students: Insights and economic impact" International Journal of Nursing Education Scholarship, Vol. 1, Article 12, 2004.
This simple app doesn’t have tons of bells and whistles, but by being just a one-screen app it doesn’t drain your battery or interfere with other apps you might be running. The interface is straightforward and lets you input exactly what binaural beats frequency you want to achieve. This is a great app if you know exactly what you want and you don’t want anything to get in the way of that.
The Neuro Programmer website, as is typical, is full of testimonials and vague references to research. I tried to track down the research they referenced, but could not find anything published or peer-reviewed by the authors named or on the subjects indicated. For example, they cite one study by Thomas Budzynski, but the only thing published by him that is listed on Pub Med is a small study on biofeedback published in 1969. The 1999 study they reference is not listed. Also – Budzynski has connections to another company – Theta Technologies – which sells similar technology. (The exact nature of his connection is not clear, he was at least a consultant. He is also listed as the director of research for another company, Synchromed, LLC.) This looks like just another in-house worthless study to support the marketing of a product.
Listening to binaural beats is not something to be feared, however. In most situations, listening is safe and very enjoyable. Choosing a track from various websites online, as well as some videos on YouTube.com, can assist you in relaxing and can bring about a more restful sleep. Choosing a Beta entrainment can help with alertness and focus, while listening to an Alpha wave track can help you to relax and learn new information. Theta tracks can help to change some negative emotions, or to help you drift off to a sounder sleep. Delta waves will help to accelerate healing. To use them, you must use headphones or earphones, because each ear will hear a different frequency. You should make the commitment and listen daily; consistency is key in order to achieve maximum benefits. However, please don't listen to binaural beats twenty four hours a day; once daily for a short period of time is perfectly fine. You should also make yourself comfortable; either lying down or sitting in a comfortable chair will help you to relax. You can do them right before sleep, or right upon awakening. Listening during meditation or visualization exercises will help to improve and deepen your practice. If you feel a little blue or you need a break from the daily routine, you can pop a CD in and unplug completely. When you return to whatever you were doing, you will find that you are more refreshed and ready to take on whatever is before you.
From a brainwave entrainment effectiveness perspective, it’s my understanding that the response from isochronic tones stimulation starts to diminish over 30Hz and that 40Hz is about the limit for using them. So from what I’ve read on the topic a 100Hz beat wouldn’t work, probably because it’s too fast for the brain to process and synchronise with it.
In shamanic traditions, drums have long been used to transport the shaman out of his or her body into other realms of reality through the use of constant rhythmic vibrations. Researcher Melinda Maxfield, studying the Shamanic State of Consciousness, found that the steady rhythmic beat of the drum struck 4.5 times per second was the key to transporting a shaman into the deepest part of his shamanic state of consciousness. With the invention of the EEG (electroencephalograph) Biofeedback researchers discovered that theta brain waves oscillate at 4.5 beats, or cycles, per second. In direct correlation, we see similar effects brought on by the constant and rhythmic drone of Tibetan Buddhist chants that transport the monks and even other listeners into realms of blissful meditation.
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.
A more extensive study of over 100 participants who were undergoing general anesthesia for a day procedure, reported a decrease in pre-operative anxiety. The participants in this study listened to 30 minutes of binaural beats before surgery, but the researchers noted that people experiencing high levels of pre-operative anxiety could listen to binaural beats for up to 1 hour before anesthesia to reduce levels of anxiety.