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."
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.
Another uncontrolled study asked eight adults to listen to a binaural beat CD with delta (1 to 4 Hz) beat frequencies for 60 days straight. The participants filled out surveys before and after the 60-day period that asked questions about their mood and quality of life. The results of the study found that listening to binaural beats for 60 days significantly reduced anxiety and increased the overall quality of life of these participants. Since the study was small, uncontrolled, and relied on patient surveys to collect data, larger studies will be needed to confirm these effects.
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.
Delta (3hz – 0.2hz) – Deep, dreamless sleep. Intuition. Empathy. Brainwave expert Judith Pennington calls it the doorway to Universal Consciousness and “A radar that scans the environment and psychically picks up information and energy.” According to British physicist C. Maxwell Cade “There have been reports that delta waves appear at the onset of paranormal phenomena.” (More information can be found in Cade’s book The Awakened Mind)
Passively listening to binaural beats may not spontaneously propel you into an altered state of consciousness. One's subjective experience in response to binaural-beat stimulation may also be influenced by a number of mediating factors. For example, the willingness and ability of the listener to relax and focus attention may contribute to binaural-beat effectiveness in inducing state changes. "Ultradian rhythms in the nervous system are characterized by periodic changes in arousal and states of consciousness (Rossi, 1986).
Other research by Paul Ekman, of the University of California San Francisco Medical Center, suggests that meditation and mindfulness can tame the amygdala, an area of the brain which is the hub of fear memory. Ekman discovered that experienced Buddhists were less likely to be shocked, flustered, surprised or as angry as other people. Flanagan believes that if the findings of the studies can be confirmed they could be of major importance.
A good recording will also not immediately start with tones that produce the theta range, but will begin higher up, in the beta range (which is associated with anxiety, but also active concentration and other waking states of being), and gradually move down, through the alpha range (which is the ideal meditative wavelength, but is also associated with falling asleep) before moving into the final, theta, range. If you get a binaural beat that goes directly into the theta range, you might find yourself distracted or unable to sync up as easily.
It has been scientifically verified that if you consistently listen to binaural beats, for example, that are beating between 7hz-13hz, your brain will naturally tune in to that hz level and bring you to the alpha level (which as mentioned at the beginning is roughly between 7hz-13hz). This is called frequency following response or brainwave entrainment*. Taking it a step further, if you listen to binaural beats that are between 4hz-7hz your brain will adjust to the theta level, and you may experience deep meditation, or lucid dreaming (dreaming while conscious), or even astral projection (when you listen to the binaural beats daily, giving your brain time to build new neuro pathways). By listening to binaural beats that are below 4z you may totally zone out and lose all body awareness as you plung into the delta level. Or, to improve memory, binaural beats are made at about the 16hz-24hz range (well into the beta range). And so on and so forth.
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.
You can experiment with the length of time you listen to the binaural beats to find out what works for you. For example, if you’re experiencing high levels of anxiety or stress, you may want to listen to the audio for a full hour or longer. Remember, you must use headphones for binaural beats to work. You may also want to listen with your eyes closed.
You may recognize the "binaural recording" from ASMR, where the technique is often used. This explains why, if you search for "binaural" on YouTube, you get a mixture of two entirely different kinds of results: binaural beats and binaural ASMR recordings. It gets especially confusing in that there's some questionable and/or unexplored science surrounding each one.
“Like the pulses of vibration that produce sound on a guitar string, your brain also creates pulses of vibrations. These vibrations are electrical impulses,” continues Naik. “Their activity can be measured by using an EEG (electroencephalogram), which measures the frequency of these pulses [which is measured in Hertz]. Your brain actually has a predominant frequency at which it operates in any given moment; this can be associated with your state of mind.”
If you search the Internet for "binaural beats" you'll quickly find there's a whole industry built on the idea that listening to binaural beats can produce all kinds of desired effects in your brain. It can alter your mood, help you follow a diet or stop smoking, get you pumped up for a competition, calm you down, put you to sleep, enhance your memory, act as an aphrodisiac, cure headaches, and even balance your chakra. Binaural-Beats.com offers a $30 CD that they call the world's first "digital drug". They claim it can get you drunk without the side effects. I-Doser.com offers a range of music tracks that they say simulates a variety of actual pharmaceuticals, such as Demerol, Oxycontin, and Vicodin. Suffice it to say that no matter what superpower you're looking for, someone on the Internet sells a binaural beat audio file claimed to provide it.