I was recently asked a question by my nephew, regarding binaural beats. Because of my involvement with meditation and relaxation techniques, he felt comfortable asking about the safety of it and what it was, exactly. I provided him with some information that I felt would assist him in his choice, as to whether or not to listen, and I decided to do a little more research on the subject, in order to better educate myself. I know a little about the topic, but I wanted to know more about it.
Well, except for one reason: The power of suggestion. If I give you a music track and tell you that it will cure your headache, you're more likely to report that it cured your headache than you are to say "Well it didn't effect my headache, but it made my short-term memory better." An interesting experiment would be to buy a binaural track claimed to induce drunkenness, for example; play it for five friends without telling them the claim, and then ask how it made each of them feel. Give them multiple choices to select from. Chances are they're going to respond all over the map. If you have a friend who is a believer in binaural beats, I suggest going ahead and setting up this little test.
“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.”
Brainwave entrainment is also known as brainwave synchronization. According to Wikipedia brainwave entrainment is “any practice that aims to cause brainwave frequencies to fall into step with a periodic stimulus having a frequency corresponding to the intended brain-state (for example, to induce sleep), usually attempted with the use of specialized software.”
The phenomena of brainwave entrainment was first described in the scientific literature in 1973 by Gerald Oster in results published in an article in Scientific American entitled, “Auditory Beats in the Brain”. He showed that a specific brainwave could be induced when a person heard two separate, but closely related, sound frequencies, one in each ear. He discovered that when the frequencies heard by each ear differed by about 10 hertz, the brainwave pattern of the person hearing the sound would synchronize to the difference between the two frequencies. For example, if the person heard a 410 hertz sound in one ear and a 400 hertz sound in the other ear, their brainwaves would stabilize at the difference between the two, or 10 hertz. This technique is called binaural beats, and it is a fundamental principle of brainwave entrainment methods.
Some studies have found that binaural beats can affect cognitive function positively or negatively, depending on the specific frequency that’s generated. For example, a study of long-term memory found that beta-frequency binaural beats improved memory, while theta-frequency binaural beats interfered with memory. This is something for scientists to continue to examine closely. For people who use binaural beats, it’s important to understand that different frequencies will produce different effects.
But what would be the point of generating a beat that was at the same rate as a certain brainwave frequency? First, consider that these frequency bands relate to different states of awareness. Delta is seen in deep sleep, theta in lighter stages of sleep, alpha when we are relaxed with eyes closed, and beta when we are awake and alert. Second, the main idea behind using binaural beats to help a person relax and sleep is that of entrainment. Entrainment means that a biological process is matched to some external stimulus. For example, our circadian clock is entrained to the day/night light cycle and helps the body organize physiological processes in an appropriate way over the course of the day. A repetitive sound at the frequency of a certain brainwave band could theoretically cause the brain waves to be entrained to that frequency and thus help induce the state associated with that brainwave band. This could have therapeutic utility.
♥ I'm a tired law student always looking for a study boost. I like to put on the Alpha waves and mix this with classical music for research and writing. The "beats" help to drive the music and add a feeling of focus and energy even during slower/softer passages. If you get the levels matched properly, you never even hear them. Throw in a cup of coffee and you'll be ready to save the world. Cheers!
“When you play two separate frequencies in each ear, say 140 Hz and 149 Hz, the difference in frequency is 9 Hz. Your brain compensates for this difference, and a third tone of 9 Hz is experienced,” says Niraj Naik, founder of Trpynaural, a resource for binaural tracks. “This will result in your brain being raised or lowered and tuned into the desired frequency. This is how binaural beats are produced.”
For example if you play a tone of 200hz in the left ear, and a tone of 190hz in the right ear (with the difference being 10hz) a beating tone will be perceived at 10 hz which is the binaural beat. What ever the difference is between the tones coming into the ears (in this example the difference is 200hz-190hz=10hz) the binaural beat will be that difference.
Other entrainment methods sometimes used include autopan modulation that moves sound in an 180º arc to create a desired tone. Harmonic box entrainment, invented by James Mann, uses a layering of binaural and monaural tones that alternate between ears, requiring headphones. Sound modulation and filtering, amplitude modulation, and pitch panning use diverse sounds to create rhythmic pulses matched to the desired brainwave frequency.
Over the centuries people have discovered that repetitious rhythms such as the beating of a drum at a single tone, or chanting, or other methods for producing a single, repetitious rhythm, have been known to produce certain states of consciousness whether deep relaxation, trance, a state of meditation and so on. The rhythms used basically changed the brainwave state of the person listening as long as that person remains open and receptive to the rhythms.
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Since opening their online store in 2011, Binaural Beats Meditation has served “hundreds of thousands” of customers, according to James Matthews, the site’s customer happiness manager. “We continue to see an increase in interest… from individuals, but increasingly so from therapists using the music to help clients, health and wellness organizations, and businesses around the world.”
♥ When I learned about Binaural beats and found out how you can influence your state of mind, I utilized them for most of my college studies. I play 16Hz Beta waves behind my favorite study music. I've been using them for 3 years now and they help me stay focused longer. Just make sure you have quality headphones that can reproduce the frequencies accurately. 2Hz does make a difference with an EQ.
One of the first pieces of research into using binaural beats as a sleeping aid was In a paper called “Tests of the Sleep Induction Technique” published in 1975 by Dr Arthur Hastings. He noted the effects of subjects who listened to a tape containing binaural beats starting from beta slowly descending to delta. Using an EEG machine he was able to monitor the subject’s brainwaves as they listened to the tape, becoming increasingly relaxed before falling asleep. He concluded; “patterns in the various stages suggested that the tape was influencing the subject’s state”.
You’ve heard me talk before about how sound can make a difference to sleep. Patients often tell me that they fall asleep to relaxing music, they seem to find it really helps them let go of active thoughts and quiet their mind—which, like yours probably does, tends to race from one thing to the next all day long (aka I can’t turn off my brain syndrome).
Participants were experienced practitioners of Acem Meditation, a nondirective method developed in Norway. They were asked to rest, eyes closed, for 20 minutes, and to meditate for another 20 minutes, in random order. The abundance and location of slow to fast electrical brain waves (delta, theta, alpha, beta) provide a good indication of brain activity.
Entrainment is a phenomenon seen is a wide variety of different natural circumstance. In the field of chronobiology, the study of biological rhythms in living organisms, entrainment is the synchronization of a circadian rhythm with the rhythm of an external pattern, such as the synchronizing of women’s menstrual cycles with the phases of the moon or with one another in a group.
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.
Alpha: Alpha brainwave patterns are associated with a state of wakeful relaxation. Slower and lower in frequency (between 9-14 hertz), alpha waves are dominant when we’re calm and relaxed, but still alert. Alpha waves are associated with states of meditation (your yoga class probably puts you in an alpha state), and also with our ability to be creative.
Like many complementary therapies, the issue most people have about meditation is in its execution. Thanks to the rapid rise of technology in our lives, we seem to be busier than ever. Our minds are occupied during most of the time we are awake, and we only really shut off when we finally go to sleep at night, which means that finding the opportunity to meditate daily can be difficult.
A word to the purist here. This binaural beat generator offers ten carrier frequencies, but humans only have two ears! Therefore, carriers on this generator will produce amplitude-modulated beating patterns inside each ear canal. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as it increases the perception of the overall beating pattern, and helps our brain catch up with the binaural beat. This explains why this generator produces stronger beats than any other available. If you are looking for a pure binaural beat generator instead - one without any intra-aural interference but a weaker stimulus - try our Harmonic Binaural Beat Generator; its carriers have been set to distant frequencies, in order to suppress any amplitude modulation between carriers.