If anybody would like to look over the scientific evidence concerning brainwave entrainment and isochronic tones, I’ve done a lot of research over the years which I’ve collected at the PubMed website of NCBI – a branch of the National Institute of Health – that provides access to a large library of medical journal articles. I’ve made my list public so you can look through the journal articles that were published concerning this topic. Here’s the link: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/sites/myncbi/1tmDFOl0XtyA4/collections/51531796/public/. Most of the collection only gives access to abstracts or summaries unless you’re at some kind of educational institution that has a subscription to the particular journal that article is in, but I actually find abstracts really helpful. So have at it, read away. And if your psychiatrist/therapist thinks you’re nuts for feeling better after listening to isochronic tones, just whip out your 82-page collection of scientific journal abstracts written by her peers and give it to her to read. 🙂
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.
Binaural beats change the frequency of your brainwaves, giving you control over which category you experience at any given moment. And because you’re in the driver’s seat — and producing specific frequencies to induce a specific state of mind — you can use binaural beats to boost performance, increase focus, get better sleep… the possibilities are endless. “There’s an infinite number of variations on how you could use this kind of technology,” says Bill Harris, Director of Centerpointe Research Institute and creator of auditory brainwave training program Holosync.
In addition, Western culture reinforces thought and communication styles associated with the left brain hemisphere, which controls logic, language, and linear thinking in a majority of people, as opposed to the right hemisphere which controls brain centers for emotional, intuitive, creative, and non-linear thought processes. Note that a significant minority of people has the opposite hemispheric dominance than the majority of people.
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.
But the question is: Does it have a special effect on the brain? A lot of people think so. The basic claim being made for binaural beats is "resonant entrainment". Entrainment, in physics, is when two systems which oscillate at different frequencies independently are brought together, they synchronize with one another, at whatever the combined system's resonant frequency is. Examples of entrainment occur in animals in nature; for example the chirping of crickets or the croaking of frogs. Synchronization of menstrual cycles in women is another example. Even people coming together and dancing with one another is a type of entrainment. The basic claim for binaural beats is that the perceived low-frequency beat will entrain your brain wave pattern, thus forcing your brain into some desired state.