Have you ever thought about the complex effects of sound on your brain? What does your brain experience when listening to 50 Cent as opposed to Mozart?
Advances in modern neuro and cognitive sciences have revealed startling and controversial findings about the human brain and body, including the effects of sounds on humans.
Specifically, scientists have uncovered physical effects on the brain made by running closely related pure-tones (a single, constant frequency) into both ears through headphones. The tones are only slightly different than one another.
Defining and Describing Binaural Beats
Binaural beats are generated:
by playing two loud tones in each ear that are very close in frequency. The brain processes this by filling in the difference and creating a t.i.d.tone that is roughly the difference of the two. For instance, if you play a 400 Hz tone in one ear and 410 Hz tone in the other, your brain will create a binaural tone of 10 Hz. The theory behind this is that you can create specific audio clips that when played in your ears will stimulate your brain to produce a tone that corresponds with one of the naturally occurring brain states.
So, the brain creates and “hears” a beating tone that is generated by the two different, but closely related tones. The theory and research suggests that the binaural beating tone generated in the mind physically affects the state of the brain.
Mind sciences suggest that the interference wave created by binaural beats is capable of altering the mental state of an individual, creating positive results such as heightened: creativity, concentration, relaxation, focus, alertness, and problem-solving abilities.
The image above depicts binaural beats visually. The important frequency is the one in the middle created by the brain. This is the frequency that influences the brainwaves generated by the brain.
Mind states generated by binaural beats
Research performed by scientists measuring the brain in an fMRI show that changes in the thought processes of the brain occur when presented with binaural beats. Brainwave patterns change in response to the sound. The states reported by researchers include enhanced:
- Problem solving
Brainwaves are altered, indicating a change in mental state has occurred, produced by the influence of binaural beats.
Skepticism about the effects of binaural beats
Rightfully, skeptics question binaural beats, some claiming that the effects are placebo-like. Most of the skepticism is aimed at people who over extend the power and influence of the beats, suggesting that they can create drug-like results by stimulating the brain.Research does not support claims that binaural beats can produce highs similar to drugs, but many scientific studies support altered states of consciousness.
Much of the support for binaural beats are based on anecdotal support. I have personally used binaural beats to more effectively meditate, relax, and focus my thinking. The results I experience are consistent over time and profound enough for me to believe that the beats do influence the way I think.
My advice, if you are interested, is to try binaural beats for yourself to see if you experience the effects claimed by proponents.
Examples of binaural beats available on the web
You can easily test this out on your own. I include the YouTube file below along with the quoted instructions and information below, in case you would like to try out binaural beats.The beats in the following are to help induce a deep meditative state. Please read the information below before trying out the binaural beats program. The clip is of the binaural tones only, no video.
Uploaded on Sep 23, 2011
-DO NOT listen to Binaural Beats while driving, operating equipment, or any other task that requires concentration.
-DO NOT listen to Binaural Beats if you have experienced seizures in the past or have epilepsy.
-Those with heart disorders or taking mood-altering pharmaceutical drugs should consult a doctor before trying.
How It Works
When two tones of specific frequencies are played through headphones, the brain can become confused and produce its own, imagined toneâ€”a three-dimensional audio hallucination heard only within the head of the listener. The frequencies that produce this phenomenon are known as Binaural Beats.
What is happening is that the brain is not used to hearing frequencies in each ear so close together and with such intensity – these sounds do not occur in nature and so a mechanism in our brains has not evolved to understand them. Instead, the superior olivary nucleus, the area of the brain which controls aspects of three-dimensional sound perception, bridges the difference between the varying frequencies in Binaural Beats with a common “t.i.d.tone” in an attempt to normalize this audio into something we can understand. What’s weirder is that each person hears the “t.i.d.tone” differently: People with Parkinson’s disease can’t hear it at all; women will hear different tones as they move through their menstrual cycle.
NOTE: Use headphones while listening.
Binaural beats affect our brainwaves directly and can alter moods, behavior, even consciousness. A binaureal beat is created by playing a different tone in each ear, and the interference pattern between the slightly differing frequencies creates the illusion of a beat. It’s intended to be heard through headphones, so there’s no cross-channel bleed across both ears.
- LicenseStandard YouTube License
The other test that I recommend is an open source program that generates binaural tones through your computer. Because it is open source, the Gnaural program is available for free at SourceForge.Have some fun and do some scientific research of your own with this program.
Useful website: The Monroe Institute
Robert Monroe is a key scientist associated with binaural beats. He promoted the positive effects of the science behind the claims. He created The Monroe Institute which is now thriving online and is a great source of information for those interested in learning more about binaural beats and the mind.The Institute states this about their work:
- The Monroe Institute (TMI) is a non-profit research and educational organization dedicated to enhancing the uses and understanding of human consciousness.
â€¢ We are not affiliated with any religion, philosophy, or spiritual practice.
â€¢ We ask only that you consider the possibility that you are more than your physical body.
The ultimate binaural beat iPhone App
The best way to give these beats a try is through an iPhone app created by Banzai Labs, Inc. The app is called Brain Wave ™ – 30 Advanced Binaural Brainwave Entrainment Programs. The app costs $2.99, and in my opinion is worth the money to completely test the claims of proponents.If you click the logo or the name, it will take you to the app store link.
I hope you have positive results and enjoy the opportunity to test the limits of your brain and body. Question skeptically the claims made by others, discovering the truth for yourself.
Do you have experience with binaural beats that you could share with us? Or do you have thoughts on the science behind binaural beats? If so, please respond in the comment section below.