What Is It and Does It Work?
The short explanation is that brainwave entrainment (BWE) is a scientifically proven way of inducing altered states of consciousness through the use of sound waves or visual stimuli.
Here’s what it’s all about…
Your Brainwaves Determine Your State of Mind
The human brain is a network of billions of neurons (or nerve cells) connected to each other by synapses. Through these synapses, electrochemical signals are sent via the nerves throughout the brain and nervous system.
When large numbers of neurons show synchronized activity (vibrate at the same frequency), electrical fields, called brainwaves, are generated. We know this because brainwaves can be measured using EEG (electroencephalography).
Why is this relevant?
Because research has shown that certain states of consciousness are connected to certain specific brainwave frequencies.
Brain Wave Frequencies and States of Consciousness
Delta Brainwaves 0.5 – 3 Hz: deep dreamless sleep, very deep meditation, healing and recuperation
Theta Brainwaves 4 – 7 Hz: deep meditation, dreaming, creativity, inspiration, insight, enhanced memory
Alpha Brainwaves 8 – 13 Hz: accelerated learning, heightened creativity, deep relaxation, relaxed focus, visualization
Beta Brainwaves 14 – 40 Hz: high focus, concentration, wakefulness, analyzing and assimilating information rapidly, complex mental processing (cannot be sustained indefinitely)
Gamma Brainwaves 40 Hz and higher: heightened perception, euphoria, improved IQ, increased cognition, joy …
So how Does Brainwave Entrainment Work?
The positive effects of BWE are the result of the natural tendency of the brain to change its own EEG frequency towards the frequency of a dominant external stimulus.
Simply put, if the brain is exposed to a rhythmic external stimuli, be it through visual cues (flashing lights) or sounds (beats) it will change its own frequency to fall into step with the frequency of the outside stimulus.
This phenomenon is called the “Frequency Following Response” of the brain.
The use of brainwave entrainment is nothing new. Ancient healing practices like the use of Tibetan Singing Bowls or Shamanistic drum rituals are based on the same principals as today’s most popular brainwave entrainment products.
Only now they use binaural or monaural beats, isochronic tones and other audio pulses and rhythmic tones that cause the brain to fall into step with them.
Binaural beats work by broadcasting two different frequencies into each ear. The brain will then compensate for the difference between the two and produce a third frequency. Playing a frequency of 205 Hz in one ear and 200 Hz in the other makes the brain produce a frequency of 5 Hz.
Isochronic tones are evenly spaced pulses of a single tone. They are designed to evoke a frequency following response and harmonize with the brain quickly and efficiently.
Brainwave entrainment is so effective that it doesn’t require any effort to use. All you need to do is listen, let go, and you can simply tune into the frequency you want.
Want to increase alertness and focus?
Listen to Beta Waves.
Need some help meditating?
Theta Waves will get you in the right state of mind.
Feeling stressed and overwhelmed?
Alpha Waves will help you relax and solve problems.
Tune Into the Frequency of Joy!
When you start using BWE, not all brain areas will resonate sympathetically with the outside stimulus (binaural beats, isochronic tones, etc.). Over time, however, larger parts of the brain begin to tune into the same frequency. The result is a balancing effect between the left and right brain hemispheres where each resonates to the same frequency.
This creates a remarkable state called hemispheric synchronization.
Studies reveal that people with balanced brain wave activity tend to be cheerful, confident, and emotionally stable. It is also a brainwave state found in people who meditate regularly and who are generally joyful.
Can You Really Rewire Your Brain?
Yes! Countless studies have demonstrated that frequent use of brainwave entrainment has an unquestionable, immediate and lasting effect. This might sound lofty, but I have personally experienced the benefits.
The human brain is an amazingly flexible organ. Research confirms that it can create new neural pathways and connections at any age.
Just like you can train a muscle in your arm, you can train your brain ‘muscle’. This phenomena is based on something called neuroplasticity.
This means you can change your ideas, beliefs, thoughts AND your brainwave patterns, no matter how old you are.
Brainwave entrainment has the potential to create big changes because, as it turns out, our brain is always eager to try new things.
Studies & Further Reading
Patrick, G. J., 1996. “Improved neuronal regulation in ADHD: An application of fifteen sessions of photic-driven EEG neurotherapy.” Journal of Neurotherapy. 1, 27-36.
Lane, J. D., Kasian, S. J., Owens, J. E. and Marsh, G. R., 1998. “Binaural auditory beats affect vigilance performance and mood.” Physiol Behav. 63, 249-252.
Rosenfeld, J. P., Reinhart, A. M. and Srivastava, S., 1997. “The effects of alpha (10-Hz) and beta (22-Hz) “entrainment” stimulation on the alpha and beta EEG bands: individual differences are critical to prediction of effects.” Appl Psychophysiol Biofeedback. 22, 3-20.
Morse, D. R. and Chow, E., 1993. “The effect of the Relaxodont brain wave synchronizer on endodontic anxiety: evaluation by galvanic skin resistance, pulse rate, physical reactions, and questionnaire responses.” Int J Psychosom. 40, 68-76.
Ossebaard, H. C., 2000. “Stress reduction by technology? An experimental study into the effects of brainmachines on burnout and state anxiety.” Appl Psychophysiol Biofeedback. 25, 93-101.
Joyce, M. and Siever, D., 2000. “Audio-Visual Entrainment (AVE) Program as a Treatment for Behavior Disorders in a School Setting.” Journal of Neurotherapy. 4, 9-25.
Padmanabhan, R., Hildreth, A. J. and Laws, D., 2005. “A prospective, randomised, controlled study examining binaural beat audio and pre-operative anxiety in patients undergoing general anaesthesia for day case surgery.” Anaesthesia. 60, 874-877.
Wahbeh, H., Calabrese, C. and Zwickey, H., 2007a. “Binaural beat technology in humans: a pilot study to assess psychologic and physiologic effects.” J Altern Complement Med. 13, 25-32.
Wahbeh, H., Calabrese, C., Zwickey, H. and Zajdel, D., 2007b. “Binaural beat technology in humans: a pilot study to assess neuropsychologic, physiologic, and electroencephalographic effects.” J Altern Complement Med. 13, 199-206.
Vichitvejpaisal, P., 2012. “The Effect of Binaural Beat Audio on Operative Anxiety in Patients Undergoing Local Anesthesia for Ophthalmic Surgery.” (Publication in a peer-reviewed journal is forthcoming)
K., and Siever, D., 2009. “A controlled comparison of audio-visual entrainment for treating Seasonal Affective Disorder.” Journal of Neurotherapy 13.3 (2009): 166-175.
Budzynski, T., Jordy, J., Budzynski, H., Tang, H. and Claypoole, K., 1999. “Academic Performance Enhancement with Photic Stimulation and EDR Feedback. Journal of Neurotherapy.” 3, 11-21.