Generally, the established brain entrainment technology has been to use various static levels, lowering the carrier frequency of the binaural signals over time. By doing this, you basically increase the resonant power of the carrier frequency to resonate more deeply with the resonant frequency of the brain and the nervous system. This process pushes the nervous system over time. The limitation I find with this system is that it takes a static approach, in the sense that it gives the nervous system the same degree of stimulation day in and day out. The idea here is that if you keep whamming your nervous system with the same stimulation on a daily basis, it will eventually kick in and learn. Then your nervous system and your brain will jump to the next level.
Going back to the technology, the simple claim of brainwave entrainment is that, by listening to these audios, usually with stereo headphones and eyes closed, your brain will be naturally and effortlessly led into a specific brainwave state as designated by the maker of the audio (ie: it could be alpha, theta, delta, gamma, etc., depending on what the audio is designed to do.) The other most basic claim is that when listening to these audios, the right and left hemispheres of the brain synchronize and you experience whole-brain functioning.
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A study published in Electroencephalography and Clinical Neurophysiology by Paul Williams and Michael West in 1975 examined the brainwave states of people experienced in meditation while using photic stimulation, and another study by Leonard, Telch, and Harrington in 1999 examined the successful use of brainwave entrainment techniques for attaining meditative states in subjects.
Targeted hemispheric changes: Some speculate that specific alterations in brain waves can be made on an individual basis. In other words, you can target one frequency in one hemisphere (via the right ear) and another distinct frequency in the other hemisphere (via the left ear). The left ear affects the right hemisphere and right ear affects the left hemisphere.
Biofeedback enhancement: In 1981, researcher Arturo Manns discovered that 15 minutes of stimulation with isochronic tones enhanced biofeedback protocols for bruxism (grinding of teeth). They did this by increasing muscle relaxation superior than standalone biofeedback. Brainwave entrainment is different from biofeedback in that it does not allow the person to consciously control their brainwave state.
Let's check in with another expert, chemistry professor Thomas Taylor from the Texas A&M. Taylor hooked a load of students up to an EEG machine (like you see in the movies with the sticky plastic pads with wires stuck all over people's heads) in an attempt to analyse 'synthesis thinking' - which is basically a nerd's way of saying "find out how people come up with new and creative ways to solve a problem".
Brainwave entrainment also happens with the use of pulsating light, and visual and auditory stimuli are sometimes combined for additional effect and visual stimuli is used alone. Using brainwave entrainment techniques is safe for almost everyone, the exception being pregnant women and people who have seizure disorders who should check with their physician before using these methods.
Known as audio-visual brainwave entrainment, or AVE, this method involves the simultaneous flashing of light and audible, rhythmic tones using specialized equipment such as the Mind Machine. Also known as the Dream Machine or psycho-Walkman, this lightweight headset lets you experience a wide selection of audio and visual entrainment tracks while having complete mobility.
While visual entrainment is more powerful than audio alone for inducing desired brainwave states, more caution is needed when using visual methods. Between 0.3 and 3 percent of the population is susceptible to having seizures from flickering light stimulation, and for other people, flickering visual stimuli simply makes them uncomfortable. People with epilepsy have a greater chance of having a seizure from exposure to flickering light stimulation.
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I would like to start off by saying that many bold statements are made about this technology from people who have a self-interest in promoting or rejecting it. We have to face the truth by accepting that people are profiting from brainwave entrainment, and as a result of this other groups of people are being affected in a negative way (from a business point of view). This is a reason why you can find all kinds of claims from someone who has never used or tested the technology. Unfortunately I have found in my own personal journey of using brainwave entrainment that there are some great people out there making some great products, and there are also some irresponsible and untrustworthy people out there trying to grab a slice of the pie.
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By exposing an individual to repeatedly external stimulus which can be flashing lights and/or recurring sounds, the entrainment process consists in pushing the brain to adjust to match the frequency provided. Unlike other forms of neurotherapy which require the individual to actively respond to stimulus, entrainment creates an immediate neurophysical response which is instinctive and effortless for the person being provided with the light and/or sound combinations. The key outcome of the sensory stimulation is known as the ‘Frequency Following Response’.
Binaural beats are created from two different continuous tones, which when sent separately to each ear create a single beat inside your head. Isochronic tones are basically a single tone which is switched on and off at regular intervals. Imagine a single continuous tone playing on a stereo system and you’ve got your hand on the volume switch. Then once per second, you turn the volume off for half a second and keep doing that every second. For half a second the volume is off, for the other half a beat waveform is formed. The beat is cycling once per second per second, i.e. at a rate of 1Hz.
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I personally have been experimenting with binaural beats – both in and out of the float tank – for the past year or so and they have quickly and easily become one of my favourite go-to “hacks” for helping me achieve a desired state of being. From listening to a specific track right before going to sleep which helps put my mind and body in a state of relaxation and recovery to, on the flip-side, listening to a track that helps prime my brain-state for creativity and focus right before I sit down to do some work – like writing this blog! They are also an enjoyable and effective asset to try out and experiment with while in the float tank. For the reasons mentioned above, as well as the sound frequencies can resonate a subtle but noticeable vibration in the tank, water and your body making for quite the unique floating experience!
Brainwave entrainment can help you with this in a few different ways. First it has a tendency to help you relax very deeply. Just the act of relaxing daily will help to alleviate this stress and allow the body and brain to recoup. It also will stimulate the brain and body to produce more serotonin, dopamine, and melatonin, which will also help to improve your mood and keep you relaxed. But the greater benefit that comes from regular use of this technology is in its ability to enhance your awareness and perception. It can stimulate your brain and mind to have greater insights, greater flexibility and creativity in the decisions you make as you move through life, and this gives you a more resourceful means of finding your peace and resolving the problems and challenges you face in your life.
There basically are a few things that you can use to deduce whether you think these claims are true, and will work for you. A few manufacturers of this type of product have taken the time to hook up experienced meditators (like zen monks) to encephelographs, then fashion their audios to mimic what is occurring in these deep meditators’ brains. It would make sense then, to a large degree, that you could experience similar benefits from your brain undergoing this process.
Want to use it as a serious tool for self-development, long-term meditation support, etc.? Find a supplier that is in alignment with your own values and knows what they are doing. E.g. Holosync have decent entrainment technology, but make ridiculous claims and are very salesy and pushy... I have tried several and always come back to the Monroe Institute and their well tried and tested sessions, mainly from the gateway experience and lucid dreaming series.
Meanwhile, the therapeutic benefits of listening to sound and music is a well-established principle upon which the practice of receptive music therapy is founded. The term 'receptive music therapy' denotes a process by which patients or participants listen to music with specific intent to therapeutically benefit; and is a term used by therapists to distinguish it from 'active music therapy' by which patients or participants engage in producing vocal or instrumental music. Receptive music therapy is an effective adjunctive intervention suitable for treating a range of physical and mental conditions.