Audio and Neurological Aspects of Binaural Beats
Binaural beats are a scientifically proven brain entrainment process that slowly started to gain recognition after an article called, “Auditory Beats in the Brain”, by Dr Gerald Oster, was published in the October 1973 edition of Scientific America. However; binaural beats were initially discovered in 1839 by H. W. Dove, a German experimenter.
Binaural beats work by sending two different Hz frequencies, to each ear via stereo headphones. With headphones the brain instantly calculates the difference, causing the left and right brain hemispheres to work in unison to hear a phantom frequency or “third tone”, the centred Hz difference between the two tones. The Hz separation of the 2 frequencies produces a constant gentle beat and its pulse match the Hz separation per second.
For example, if a sine-wave tone is tuned to 438.5Hz and panned left, then another tone is tuned to 441.5 Hz and panned right. When the two constant tones are heard in the headphone environment, a binaural beat pulsating at 3Hz per second is perceived at the phantom tone of 440Hz.
Outside of headphones, this audio is heard as a phase separation, as the frequencies are combined in the air. A phase separation has a limited entrainment potential compared to a binaural beat, as there are no neurological calculations that lead to whole brain synchronisation. Binaural beats in the Alpha, Theta and Delta range could be described as a form of meditation and mind aerobics combined.
The binaural beat process can be used to stimulate altered states of consciousness by selecting binaural beat patterns to match a desired brainwave. After a few minutes of listening and calculating, the brain starts to match this binaural beat because of a process called frequency follow response (FFR). In reality, a binaural beat is not heard as true sound in the headphone environment. It is more like a neurological signal perceived within the brain by both left and right hemispheres working together in unison to produce the phantom tone.
The FFR is processed in the superior olivary nuclei, which are two centres located symmetrically on either side of the brain. These nuclei are the first centres to receive signals from both ears. The information is calculated and then sent to the reticular formation, which is the part of the brain that governs consciousness and awareness. The reticular formation then initiates changes in the thalamus and the cortex, thus enhancing our state of consciousness.
The phantom tone range with binaural beats is from 0.5Hz to just over 40Hz. Above 40Hz the two tones are no longer combined and are heard as two separate tones. However; this is not a limitation as that is the same range as all the primary brainwaves. Also; it is worth mentioning that binaural beat entrainment above 26Hz should only be done in short bursts between 8 to 16 seconds as this is entering the Gamma range and that is the nature of Gamma brainwaves.
People who meditate on a regular basis naturally produce more Gamma brainwaves and this has been linked to higher consciousness and increased flashes of insight. Furthermore; binaural Gamma entrainment is best done over Alpha or Theta binaural beats, so that the brain is already activated in regards to the constant binaural calculation. Gamma brainwaves are not produced when the brain is in a Delta state.
The neural synchronicity stimulated by binaural beats is a major aspect that assists the brain to function at a higher level. With regular use the brain becomes frequently more synchronised and this is an optimum state of mind. The brain continually forms new connections following new experiences. The quality and strength of neuronal connections can vary according to the input received by the brain.
Binaural beats in the Alpha, Theta and Delta range provide a continuous relaxed input and promote healthy rewiring through its audio neurological signal calculation. These new audio experiences in the brain trigger a burst of new connections between neurons. With repetition, these new neural pathways become fit, just like going to a gym, and it is the fittest connections in our brains that survive. The binaural beat process is faster, easier and more than just meditation. After several weeks of repeated listening the brain becomes more synchronised and starts to form permanent relaxed memories in both hemispheres.
By providing a new set of frequencies approximately every 2 to 3 months, the brain is provided with the optimum ratio between a new experience to trigger new connections and enough repetition for neuronal strength. The relaxing effects of binaural beats are usually felt within the first seven minutes. After regular listening the entrainment process happens sooner.
In relation to audio levels; it does not matter if one of the two separate signals is lower in volume in the left or right ear. As long as the two differently tuned frequencies are panned completely separate left and right in the headphone environment, the brain will hear a binaural beat. This also means if one ear has a slightly lower hearing threshold, the binaural entrainment processing will still be effective.
These binaural frequencies have been used to assist lucid dreaming, altered states and out of body experiences. With extended use the pineal gland is activated and positive energy directed to the pre-frontal cortex, making binaural beats a truly powerful tool for developing higher consciousness.
The brain doesn’t become dependent on binaural beats for relaxation. Over time, it actually becomes more resilient to stress. As this process continues to develop further, more binaural stimuli are received by the brain. With binaural entrainment, more traditional forms of meditation become easier to learn and implement without the many years of required practise as done by Buddhist Monks.
As the synchronised hemispheres and neurons develop, greater personal awareness and insight follows. The greater stress resilience makes binaural beat therapy a valuable tool in relation to personal development, counselling and other therapeutic settings.
The Therapeutic applications are more than just relaxation. Binaural beats are a powerful tool for resolving depression and other emotional problems. Unfortunately, because of a dominant pharmacology model to mental health, binaural beats are still a criminally overlooked tool, in the vast majority of mainstream medical setting.
Binaural beats can also provide immense support and neural regeneration for most neurological disorders.
However; binaural beats are not recommended for epilepsy.
Binaural beats provide the brain with energy. Epilepsy has problems with the discharge of energy within the brain. Binaural beats should not be used by people with epilepsy unless they first consult a physician or neurologist.
Binaural beat frequencies are a valuable tool for personal development and the management of physical and emotional health. However; these frequencies should not take the place of professional medical treatment for any serious medical issue.
Furthermore; do not listen to binaural beats whilst driving or operating heavy machinery.
|Brainwave||Frequency rate||Occurrence||One second EEG sample|
|Delta||0.5 – 4Hz||Deep Sleep||
|Theta||4 – 8Hz||During REM sleep||
|Alpha||8 – 12Hz||Awake & relaxed, pre-sleep & pre-waking||
|High Alpha (SMR)||12 – 16Hz||Focused & alert||
|Low Beta (SMR)|
|Beta||16 – 25Hz||Awake & alert, multi-tasking||
|Gamma (primary)||30 – 40Hz||Flashes of insight & higher processing||
|Gamma (total)||25 – 80Hz|
Alpha frequencies (Meditate with eyes open or closed)
Develop greater stress resilience and lower anxiety levels
Better focus, reading and study
Calming of the emotional and physical system such as heart rates
Improved creativity and meditation skills
Actual 1 second sample; 8Hz Alpha binaural beat display, from the Unisonic studio.
Theta frequencies (Meditate with eyes closed)
Support to the immune system and healing process
Deeper meditation and enhanced problem solving
Greater insight and creative flow
Consolidation of information from short to long term memory
Delta frequencies (Meditate with eyes closed)
Enhanced meditation and expanded awareness
Physical and emotional healing and regeneration
Increased feelings of connection and reduced opposition
Cleansing of sub-conscious blockage
Research shows that meditative states release and balance levels of many beneficial neurotransmitters.
|5-HT (serotonin)||Regulates mood & behaviour, sleep & appetite|
|Acetylcholine||Assists memory, perception, cognition and motivation|
|Dopamine||Regulates muscle control and balance; assists cognition;
also linked with reward and pleasurable feelings
|Endogenous Morphine (endorphins)||The body’s natural pain killers|
|Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA)||Induces relaxation & sleep|
|Melatonin||Regulates sleep patterns|
|DHEA||Produced by the adrenal glands, reduces the effects of stress related hormones, such as cortisol, linked to anti-aging. Enhances the immune system and neural connections|
|Human Growth Hormone (HGH)||Produced by the pituitary gland. Linked to anti-aging, has an important role in brain development, maturation and function|
People who meditate regularly have DHEA levels comparable to those 5 to 10 years younger.
Binaural beats make it easy to gain these benefits and take you “Beyond Meditation”