Synchronizing Brainwaves/Altering States of Consciousness
What is Brain Entrainment?
Long story short, brain entrainment is a technology designed to align an individual’s brain waves with a a periodic stimulus. The stimulus is thought to express a frequency and the idea is to induce/alter the person’s brainwaves to match the frequency of the stimulus. The assumption is that the human brain will change its frequency to match the dominant frequency.
The idea is to induce states of relaxation as one might experience when his or her brainwaves is at an alpha, theta, of delta state, or meditative states. (See my post on brain waves for an explanation of the states.) With that said any practice that induces brainwave frequencies to match a periodic stimulus with a frequency that corresponds to the intended brain state, would be in the category of brainwave entrainment. There are visual and technologies as well as technologies that combine both visual and audio that are designed with the hope of achieving this. The audio technologies use what is called binaural beats with isochoric tones. When the listener listens to the music or other sounds that have these beats and tones imbedded in them, it is believed that the brain waves match those frequencies and the desired brain wave state is achieved; resulting in a certain desired state of conscious awareness. Likewise visuals that are presented with a pattern are believed to achieve the same affect.
There is truly much more to be said about what Brain Entrainment is, and allot to explore related to the variety of modality through which a person might experience brain entrainment. This is merely an introduction to the activity as any ongoing discussion on mediation, or technologies for altering states of conscientiousness should include the topic of brain entrainment. Its popularity is becoming stronger as more and more people experiment with it.
There is some research completed that seem to show some positive outcomes, but they are not peer reviewed, and most are conducted by the companies that sell the brain entrainment products. That does not mean, however, that it is not effective. There are also articles debunking brain entrainment simply due to the fact that we do not yet have sufficient scientific peer reviewed research to determine its true level of effectiveness.
In all honestly, I like the idea and would like to see some research conducted to determine the level of relaxed state that it might induce, or if the brain waves truly match the frequency of the stimulus. If it does, that might possibly imply that the technologies would have a use for us within the world of mental health. For example, if we could induce the most effective state for acquiring or new thoughts by listening to replacement positive affirmations for the purpose of effectively overriding our negative thought patterns, this could be an effective cognitive behavioral change agent tool. Cognitive behavioral therapists work with their clients to identify negative thought patterns and teach them to replace those thoughts with positive thinking as part of traditional therapy. Perhaps brain entrainment does have potential to be used as additional tools to facilitate processes like this. I do believe that over time, we will see more research as the scientific, medical, and mental health community become more interested in this modality as an intervention. For now, I can only say that I tried it, and it is indeed a pleasurable and relaxing experience.
Does brain entrainment work? Is it an intervention for mood disorders like bipolar? Can brain entrainment help a person reduce stress or decrease feelings of depression? We don’t know. There just not been enough serious, scientific peer reviewed research to be able to report outcomes with confidence yet. As I mentioned, there is certainly allot written about in online. Below are two articles if you like to read further. One is an article debunking the claims of those who are marketing brainwave technologies and making what might be extreme claims. Another is a research article that does seem to show some positive results.
This is the one “debunking brainwave entrainment:
Here is a research article that I did find that seems to show some positive results:
Brain wave synchronization and entrainment to periodic acoustic stimuli
Neuroscience Letters, Volume 424, Issue 1, 31 August 2007, Pages 55-60
Udo Will, Eric Berg View Abstract
And we wait for the verdict as we wait for more rigorous research.
Photo by blondinrikard
Photo by blondinrikard
Bachmeier, D. (2015). Brain Entrainment. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 18, 2018, from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/bipolar-update/2015/05/brain-entrainment/