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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.
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.
Slightly higher-frequency entrainment can lead to hyper suggestive states of consciousness. Still higher-frequency EEG states are associated with alert and focused mental activity needed for the optimal performance of many tasks. Perceived reality changes depending on the state of consciousness of the perceiver (Tart, 1975). Some states of consciousness provide limited views of reality, while others provide an expanded awareness of reality. For the most part, states of consciousness change in response to the ever-changing internal environment and surrounding stimulation. For example, states of consciousness are subject to influences like drugs and circadian and ultradian rhythms (Rossi, 1986; Shannahoff-Khalsa, 1991; Webb & Dube, 1981). Specific states of consciousness can also be learned as adaptive behaviors to demanding circumstances (Green and Green, 1986).
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.
Resonant entrainment of oscillating systems is a well-understood principle within the physical sciences. If a tuning fork designed to produce a frequency of 440 Hz is struck (causing it to oscillate) and then brought into the vicinity of another 440 Hz tuning fork, the second tuning fork will begin to oscillate. The first tuning fork is said to have entrained the second or caused it to resonate. The physics of entrainment apply to bio-systems as well. Of interest here are the electromagnetic brain waves. The electrochemical activity of the brain results in the production of electromagnetic wave forms which can be objectively measured with sensitive equipment. Brain waves change frequencies based on neural activity within the brain. Because neural activity is electrochemical, brain function can be modified through the introduction of specific chemicals (drugs), by altering the brain's electromagnetic environment through induction, or through resonant entrainment techniques.
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.
A newer alternative to binaural beats is isochromatic tones. These are tones that are interspersed with periods of brief silence, creating a similar effect to binaural beats but without the two frequencies playing in different ears. Because isochromatic tones do not need headphones, they are gaining popularity as the newest method of brainwave entertainment.
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.
The effects are strongest while you are listening to the tones because your brainwaves are synchronized and tuned into the frequency range you desire at that time. After you've stopped listening the effects can still linger for a while afterwards. The timescale will vary from person to person and be affected by what you do after you've stopped listening.
Business executive and radio producer Robert Monroe started experimenting with brainwave entrainment and has a series of powerful out of body experiences using it. In 1971 he published his cult classic “Journeys Out of the Body” sharing his experiences. He later created one of the first audio entrainment companies called Hemi Sync, alongside the Monroe Institute of Applied Sciences.
In Philadelphia, a researcher discovers areas of the brain that are activated during meditation. At two other universities in San Diego and North Carolina, doctors study how epilepsy and certain hallucinogenic drugs can produce religious epiphanies. And in Canada, a neuroscientist fits people with magnetized helmets that produce "spiritual" experiences for the secular. The work is part of a broad new effort by scientists around the world to better understand religious experiences, measure them, and even reproduce them. Using powerful brain imaging technology, researchers are exploring what mystics call nirvana, and what Christians describe as a state of grace. Scientists are asking whether spirituality can be explained in terms of neural networks, neurotransmitters and brain chemistry.
In the last two posts, I discussed some unusual ways in which some people respond to certain very ordinary sounds. In the case of ASMR, sounds like tapping, tearing, and popping can lead to tingling sensations associated with relaxation and even drowsiness. In the case of misophonia similar sounds, like swallowing and lip-smacking, can also cause a tingling sensation, but one accompanied by disgust and even rage. Binaural beats are a different kind of sound and many people report finding certain of them relaxing and even conducive to falling asleep. Other people do not like them and after hearing them once never want to hear them again.
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.
Of course, meditation is actually quite a simple procedure, and one that can be practiced anywhere and at any time. There are no special requirements other than the need to have peace and quiet in a distraction-free environment for a few minutes. The trick is being able to switch off from whatever is going on around you and let your meditative state begin.
Pure tones played together interfere with each other when they are close in pitch but not identical. When each tone is sent to a different ear, there will not be any physical interaction between the waves, yet your brain still creates an interference inside your head: the so-called binaural beat. In order to create a binaural beat, each ear must receive its dedicated signal. Therefore, binaural beats only work through headphones.