Back in 1839, Dr. Heinrich Wilhelm Dove, a Prussian physicist and meteorologist, discovered that when you introduce tones with certain frequencies into each ear, you could actually entrain the electrical patterns within the brain to resonate in very specific patterns, called brainwave states. The last two decades have seen an amazing amount of scientific interest in this world transforming field of study, laying the foundation for the hundreds of studies conducted since then, boosting the technology’s significance and importance immeasurably.
Since the beginning of this year, I’ve been doing meditation with the help of audio-beat technology from a well-known brand, which I thought was a bit expensive. But, at least it gave me an insight into how the mind could and would give me an edge in solving most of my problems. From February, I decided to double the dosage to that which was recommended by the firm as I was desperate for a cure.
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.
Brainwaves, or neural oscillations, share the fundamental constituents with acoustic and optical waves, including frequency, amplitude and periodicity. Consequently, Huygens' discovery precipitated inquiry into whether or not the synchronous electrical activity of cortical neural ensembles might not only alter in response to external acoustic or optical stimuli but also entrain or synchronize their frequency to that of a specific stimulus.
A binaureal beat is created by playing a different tone in each ear, and the interference pattern between the slightly differing frequencies creates the illusion of a beat. It's intended to be heard through headphones, so there's no cross-channel bleed across both ears. Listen to this, I'll play a simple binaural beat, and I'll slide the pan control back and forth from one ear to the other. You can see that there isn't actually any beat, it's just an acoustic illusion:
Do note the pre-sets slightly below to the right. Remember: Delta is for deep sleep. Theta is associated with dreaminess. Alpha is a blank or relaxed state of mind and Beta is when you’re active. Try to clear your mind of any thoughts and expectations, and set the volume to an acceptable level. You can play around, but try to give a minute or two for your state of choice. At first glance, you’d think this sounds like an alien spaceship, if not a microwave or a washing machine. Whatever it sounds like to you, if you give it an open mind you will notice there is something weird about this after all. Hopefully, your chosen frequency will have guided you towards the intended effect!
In the average person, the activity of one brain hemisphere is dominant over the other, called brain lateralization. This hemispheric imbalance leads us to experience the world in a black and white way, perceiving separation over connectedness. When brainwave entrainment is used to synchronize brainwave activity in both hemispheres simultaneously, a person can more easily integrate information from all parts of the brain and solve problems with greater intelligence and sensitivity.
^ Jump up to: a b Fox, Kieran C.R.; Nijeboer, Savannah; Dixon, Matthew L.; Floman, James L.; Ellamil, Melissa; Rumak, Samuel P.; Sedlmeier, Peter; Christoff, Kalina (June 2014). "Is meditation associated with altered brain structure? A systematic review and meta-analysis of morphometric neuroimaging in meditation practitioners". Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews. 43: 48–73. doi:10.1016/j.neubiorev.2014.03.016. PMID 24705269.
As a relatively new technology, fMRI has only recently been used to assess brain state changes during meditation. Recent studies have shown heightened activity in the anterior cingulate cortex, frontal cortex, and prefrontal cortex, specifically in the dorsal medial prefrontal area during Vipassana meditation. Similarly, the cingulate cortex and frontal cortex areas were shown to have increased activity during Zen meditation. Both studies comment on the possibility that these findings could indicate some state of heightened voluntary control over attention during mindfulness meditation. Review works by Cahn and Chiesa state that these results indicate consistency in meditation’s effect on these regions of the brain, citing a multitude of other studies spanning other meditative disciplines, but mention the need for further investigation with better controls.
The binaural-beat appears to be associated with an electroencephalographic (EEG) frequency-following response in the brain (3). Many studies have demonstrated the presence of a frequency-following response to auditory stimuli, recorded at the vertex of the human brain (top of the head). This EEG activity was termed "frequency-following response" because its period corresponds to the fundamental frequency of the stimulus (Smith, Marsh, & Brown, 1975). Binaural-beat stimulation appears to encourage access to altered states of consciousness.
Monaural beats have similarities to binaural beats, but the two separate frequencies are delivered through a pulse pattern and mixed before they reach the listeners ears, resulting in the advantage of being audible without stereo headphones. However, using stereo headphones intensifies the effectiveness of monaural beats and is recommended for the best effect.
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.
When two pure tones of slightly different frequencies are delivered simultaneously to the two ears, is generated a beat whose frequency corresponds to the frequency difference between them. That beat is known as acoustic beat. If these two tones are presented one to each ear, they still produce the sensation of the same beat, although no physical combination of the tones occurs outside the... [Show full abstract]
Belief and faith, argue believers, are larger than the sum of their brain parts: "The brain is the hardware through which religion is experienced," said Daniel Batson, a University of Kansas psychologist who studies the effect of religion on people. "To say the brain produces religion is like saying a piano produces music." At the Fuller Theological Seminary's school of psychology, Warren Brown, a cognitive neuropsychologist, said, "Sitting where I'm sitting and dealing with experts in theology and Christian religious practice, I just look at what these people know about religiousness and think they are not very sophisticated. They are sophisticated neuroscientists, but they are not scholars in the area of what is involved in various forms of religiousness."
Most of these websites give some brief explanation of entrainment. The example you hear most often is that of Dutch polymath Christiaan Huygens, who in 1665, hung two pendulum clocks next to each other on a wall. He noticed that the pendulums eventually matched each others' frequency, but always in antiphase, opposite to each other, as if canceling each other out. He'd try disturbing one or setting them in sync, but they'd always return to the same antiphase synchronization. Huygen's experience is widely touted on binaural beat websites as a demonstration of how systems can become spiritually connected through some energy field. However, they misunderstand what happened, and have not read the full story. Huygens also tried taking one clock off the wall, and as soon as they were no longer physically connected to one another via the actual wall, the effect disappeared. It was not the proximity of the clocks to one another that created the entrainment; it was their physical, mechanical connection to one another. As each pendulum swung it imparted an infinitesimal equal and opposite reaction to the wall itself. With two clocks on the wall, the system naturally sought the lowest energy level, according to the laws of thermodynamics; and both pendulums would thus swing exactly counter to each other, minimizing the system's total energy.