When we are mentally active various groups of neurons will be firing and the EEG will look like a jumble of different waves at different frequencies. When we are in a relaxed state, however, our brains settle into a steady rhythm – when fully awake this is the alpha rhythm, which as a frequency of 8-12 hz and other recognizable features. When drowsy our brainwaves slow to the theta range, 6-7hz, and when in deep sleep into the delta range, 4-5hz.
Gamma was dismissed as 'spare brain noise' until researchers discovered it was highly active when in states of universal love, altruism, and the ‘higher virtues’. Gamma is also above the frequency of neuronal firing, so how it is generated remains a mystery. It is speculated that gamma rhythms modulate perception and consciousness, and that a greater presence of gamma relates to expanded consciousness and spiritual emergence.
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.
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.
"When these people talk of religious experience, they are talking of a meditative experience," said John Haught, a professor of theology at Georgetown University. "But religion is more than that. It involves commitments and suffering and struggle it's not all meditative bliss. It also involves moments when you feel abandoned by God." "Religion is visiting widows and orphans," he said. "It is symbolism and myth and story and much richer things. They have isolated one small aspect of religious experience and they are identifying that with the whole of religion."
Uses of audio with embedded binaural beats that are mixed with music or various pink or background sound are diverse. They range from relaxation, meditation, stress reduction, pain management, improved sleep quality, decrease in sleep requirements, super learning, enhanced creativity and intuition, remote viewing, telepathy, and out-of-body experience and lucid dreaming. Audio embedded with binaural beats is often combined with various meditation techniques, as well as positive affirmations and visualization.
(Shannahoff-Khalsa, 1991; Webb & Dube, 1981). These naturally occurring shifts may underlie the anecdotal reports of fluctuations in the effectiveness of binaural beats. External factors are also thought to play roles in mediating the effects of binaural beats (Owens & Atwater, 1995). The perception of a binaural beat is, for example, said to be heightened by the addition of white noise to the carrier signal (Oster, 1973), so white noise is often used as background. "Music, relaxation exercises, guided imagery, and verbal suggestion have all been used to enhance the state-changing effects of the binaural beat" (Owens & Atwater, 1995). Other practices such as humming, toning, breathing exercises, autogenic training, and/or biofeedback can also be used to interrupt the homeostasis of resistant subjects (Tart, 1975).
At the heart of the critique of the new brain research is what one theologian at St. Louis University called the "nothing-butism" of some scientists the notion that all phenomena could be understood by reducing them to basic units that could be measured. And finally, say believers, if God existed and created the universe, wouldn't it make sense that he would install machinery in our brains that would make it possible to have mystical experiences? "Neuroscientists are taking the viewpoints of physicists of the last century that everything is matter," said Mathew, the Duke psychiatrist. "I am open to the possibility that there is more to this than what meets the eye. I don't believe in the omnipotence of science or that we have a foolproof explanation."
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.
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.
As we start to fall asleep, we naturally pass through the relaxed, drowsy alpha state, dropping into the sleep states of theta and delta. Dreaming occurs in the theta state, but most of the time when we’re asleep in the theta state, we are unconscious, and unable to consciously control the dreams we experience. When we begin to wake up, our dominant brainwaves pass into the lower alpha wavelengths, but usually as this happens, we wake up out of our dreams. The key to lucid dreaming is to approach the alpha wavelength, but, before you fully wake up, move back down into the dreaming theta state. This way, your subconscious begins to wake up enough for you to take control of your surroundings, but you’re still asleep enough that those surroundings are a wonderfully malleable dream instead of reality.
This research investigates the brainwave entrainment process and aims to demonstrate the usefulness of such an approach within the framework of cognitive performance improvements. In the introductory part the theories regarding the neurophysiological structure and the psychological processing of the cognitive system are discussed, for each of their components that are considered to be relevant for this research. The hypothesis states that the stimulation with binaural beats and stroboscopic light, synchronized at 10.2 Hz frequency, will produce a positive change in cognition. The research variables are the cognitive performance (the dependent variable) and the brainwave entrainment (the independent variable). The brainwave entrainment program consists in the synchronized application of Alpha binaural beats and stroboscopic light, at a 10.2 Hz frequency, in a 30 minutes long session. The difference was made by the stroop effect based exercise that was used as a frame. There were 60 participants, divided into two independent samples. The two independent samples t test for the means differences was used in the statistical analysis. The obtained results by evaluations and by statistics confirmed this research's hypothesis, stating that the stimulation with binaural beats and stroboscopic light, synchronized at 10.2 Hz frequency, will produce a positive change in cognition.
^ 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.
Today we're going to put on our headphones, kick back in the beanbag, and get mellow to the soothing sounds of the latest digital drug: binaural beats. These computer generated sound files are said to massage your brain and produce all sorts of effects, everything from psychedelic experiences to behavior modification. Let's point our skeptical eye at the science of binaural beats, and especially at some of the claims made for them.