Besides scientific literature, some authors have written of the promising research on meditation in books targeted for general audiences. One such book, Buddha’s Brain by Rick Hanson, PhD shares the current scientific research and investigations into meditation. Hanson, a neuroscientist and researcher, explains to readers the scientific studies in plain language and discuss the impact of the results. Hanson’s main argument is that positive emotions, like love can be strengthened through meditation in a neuroplastic manner, citing dozens of scientific studies to support this claim. Hanson’s viewpoint is representative of a larger popular movement to study and embrace Eastern phenomena including meditation in the Western world.
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.
When you listen to binaural beats/tones, you are actually listening to two slightly different pitched frequencies. Each frequency goes to each of your ears independently. When this happens your brain responds by creating a third tone, making up the difference between the two frequencies. This shift in frequency then shifts your brain’s consciousness and changes your state.
Because the brain filters and interprets reality in a split-brained way, we tend to see things as separate and opposed, rather than as connected and part of the oneness spoken of by the great spiritual teachers (and, in the last few decades, by quantum mechanical physicists). Thus, at a deep level, the dual structure of our brain, in conjunction with brain lateralization, predisposes us to see and experience ourselves as separate from, and often in opposition to, the rest of the world—instead of experiencing the elegant interconnectedness between us and everything else. Our childhood associations and programming build on this inborn tendency by training us to seek this and avoid that, to move toward pleasure and away from pain, to do good and not bad, and so on. The greater the lateralization in the brain, the greater the feelings of separation—and the greater the feelings of separation, the greater the fear, stress, anxiety, and isolation.
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.
Your brain cells reset their sodium & potassium ratios when the brain is in Theta state. The sodium & potassium levels are involved in osmosis which is the chemical process that transports chemicals into and out of your brain cells. After an extended period in the Beta state the ratio between potassium and sodium is out of balance. This the main cause of what is known as "mental fatigue". A brief period in Theta (about 5 - 15min) can restore the ratio to normal resulting in mental refreshment.
The Alpha state is an intensely pleasurable and relaxed state of consciousness, essential for stress reduction. Alpha is associated with deep physical and mental relaxation, but not quite meditation. Alpha waves instill a sense of mild euphoria, calm your body, reduce Cortisol levels, strengthen your immune system and counteract the negative effects of stress. Alpha waves also increase the production of Melatonin to greatly improve the quality of your sleep.
So using the example track above, the right ear is sent a 20Hz beat, compared to a 10Hz beat in the left ear. As the right ear receives the higher frequency of beat, this works to increase the speed of the ‘left' brain hemisphere, which can be helpful for people with conditions like ADD, who are often found to have an abundance of slow wave activity in the left brain.
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.
The pitch frequency measures and describes what a beat sounds like, i.e. does the isochronic beat have a deeper bass sound, or is it high pitched and sharper sounding? The beat waveform frequency describes how many times the beat is repeating per second, i.e. how fast it is beating. You don’t really need to concern yourself about the pitch frequency, as that doesn’t have a direct influence on brainwave entrainment and doesn’t play a part on the measurement on an EEG. I only mentioned it because you were referring to humans not being able to hear below 20Hz. I change the pitch frequency just to suit the mood of the track. For tracks that are to be relaxing, for meditation or sleep, I tend to use a lower pitch frequency so it sounds deeper and more relaxing and I never have that lower than 100Hz. For an energizing, high focus track I might use a more higher pitched 200Hz isochronic tone, because that is sharper sounding and less likely to make you feel sleepy. That’s all you really need to know about the pitch frequency.
Meditation and its effect on brain activity and the central nervous system became a focus of collaborative research in neuroscience, psychology and neurobiology during the latter half of the 20th century. Research on meditation sought to define and characterize various practices. Meditation’s effect on the brain can be broken up into two categories: state changes and trait changes, respectively alterations in brain activities during the act of meditating and changes that are the outcome of long-term practice.
Brainwave entrainment through binaural beats is a powerful way to alter your brainwaves and induce deep sleep. Perfect if your mind is full of thoughts, you’re suffering with any anxiety or you just want to get to sleep fast. And unlike sleep medication, they’re completely natural and the quality of your sleep is likely to increase with use, not decrease.
Brainwave Entrainment is an assisted form of meditation using pulses of sound. Entrainment is a process of synchronizing two different beats to become harmonious. Brainwave entrainment works by pulsing a different sound in each ear to stimulate the brain into altered states of consciousness. Examples including Binaural Beats and Isochronic Tones, which are best experienced with headphones to assist with relaxation, deep sleep and focus.
People who meditate grow bigger brains than those who don't. Researchers at Harvard, Yale, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have found the first evidence that meditation can alter the physical structure of our brains. Brain scans they conducted reveal that experienced meditators boasted increased thickness in parts of the brain that deal with attention and processing sensory input.
Using new scanning techniques, neuroscientists have discovered that certain areas of the brain light up constantly in Buddhists, which indicates positive emotions and good mood. "We can now hypothesize with some confidence that those apparently happy, calm Buddhist souls one regularly comes across in places such as Dharamsala, India, really are happy,"
A 2008 study at Hofstra University played two different binaural beats and a control sound (a babbling brook) to patients with high blood pressure. There was no difference between the groups. In one small study from Japan that was published in the Journal of Neurophysiology in 2006, they played various binaural beats to nine subjects, and observed the resulting EEGs. They found great variability in the results. Their conclusion was that listening to binaural beats can produce activity on the human cerebral cortex, however the cause was more likely a conscious auditory reaction and was not correlated to the frequency of the binaural beat. However, a 2005 study published in Clinical Neurophysiology found that they were able to induce a desired frequency in the EEG matching the phantom beat frequency encoded in a binaural beat, however this was with a single subject and was neither blinded nor controlled.