WHAT IS BRAINWAVE ENTRAINMENT

Binaural beats and Isochronic tones are a method of producing Brainwave Entrainment. This is a process that causes brainwave frequencies to synchronize with a periodic stimulus (usually pulsing sound or light) having a frequency corresponding to the intended brain-state.

The pulses elicit a "frequency following response", a naturally occurring phenomenon where the human brain has a tendency to align its dominant frequency towards the frequency of a given beat.
The desired state can be achieved much faster than traditional meditation, which for most people is time-consuming and requires dedication and patience.

The neurons in our brains use electrical signals to create our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. When large numbers of neurons fire together with the same rhythm, this creates brain waves.
The 4 most common brainwaves are Beta, Alpha, Theta and Delta. Although all 4 brainwaves are active in the brain at all times, one of these patterns is usually dominant depending on whether you are busy, emotional, relaxing, sleeping etc. Your dominant brainwave pattern is responsible for your state of awareness at any given moment.

Our brain’s ability to become flexible and transition through various brainwave frequencies plays a large role in how successful we are at managing stress, focusing on tasks, and getting a good night’s sleep. Each serves a purpose to help us cope with various situations – whether it is to help us process and learn new information or help us calm down after a long stressful day.

Brainwave Types

The 5 types of brainwaves are categorised as follows

Delta (0.5 to 4 Hz)

These are the slowest recorded brain waves and are generated in dreamless sleep and deepest meditation. They are found most often in infants as well as young children. As we age, we tend to produce less delta even during deep sleep. They are associated with the deepest levels of relaxation and restorative, healing sleep. They have also been found to be involved in unconscious bodily functions such as regulating heart beat, digestion and the production of growth and anti-aging hormones. Adequate production of delta waves helps us feel completely rejuvenated after we wake up from a good night’s sleep.

Theta (4 to 8 Hz)

This frequency range is involved in daydreaming, dreams, deep meditation, hypnosis and stage 1 sleep. Theta waves are connected to us experiencing and feeling deep and raw emotions. Anytime you feel like you’re “in the zone”, you are in a Theta state. Theta has its benefits of helping improve our intuition, creativity and makes us feel more natural. Higher than average levels of Theta brainwaves are often found in highly creative individuals. They are also linked to the mechanisms of learning and memory and are involved in restorative sleep.

Alpha (8 to 12Hz)

When we begin to relax or to get drowsy, but are still awake and conscious we are at the Alpha level. This frequency range bridges the gap between our conscious thinking and subconscious mind. It helps us calm down when necessary and promotes feelings of deep relaxation. They are correlated with a generally tranquil, pleasant, almost floating feeling and are considered as the brainwaves of meditation. Alcohol and some drugs increase the level of Alpha waves. Alpha brainwave levels are found to be much higher in artists, musicians, and creative thinkers. If we become stressed, a phenomenon called “Alpha blocking” may occur which involves excessive Beta activity and very little Alpha.

Beta (13 to 30Hz)

These are commonly observed while we are alert and awake. They are involved in conscious thought, logical thinking, and tend to have a stimulating affect. Having the right amount of beta waves allows us to focus and complete school or work-based tasks easily. Beta levels are increased by coffee, energy drinks and various stimulants. Having too much beta may lead to us experiencing excessive stress and/or anxiety. These are the fast brain waves that most people exhibit throughout the day in order to complete conscious tasks such as: critical thinking, problem solving, writing, reading, and socialization.

Gamma (30Hz +)

Gamma waves largely play a supporting though integral role in the brain. From an EEG point of view, they will be present mostly while a subject is awake, but they will always be supported by other waves in the Beta, Alpha, Theta, or Delta ranges. They are involved in higher processing tasks as well as cognitive functioning. Gamma waves are important for learning, memory and information processing. It is thought that the 40 Hz gamma wave is important for the binding of our senses in regards to perception and are involved in learning new material. They have been noted at high levels during Buddhist meditation of compassion & music listening experiments.

Further Research

If you are interested in researching more about studies into brainwave entrainment there are a number of scientific papers click here

The difference between Binaural Beats and Isochronic Tones

Binaural Beats waveform

BINAURAL BEATSContinuous sound. Red lines indicate perceived beats

Isochronic tone waveform

ISOCHRONIC TONESPulses of sound

Binaural Beats

Binaural Beats work by playing a pure sine wave with a different frequency to the left and right channels. For example, if 200 Hz was played in one ear and 210 in the other, then the binaural beat would have an Alpha frequency of 10 Hz.
The brain produces a phenomenon where the combined simultaneous effect of these two frequencies produces an audible pulsating beat when listened to through headphones. The sensation of binaural beats is believed to originate in the superior olivary nucleus, the site where the electrical pulses of each ear meet.

  • Binaural beats are created inside the head. Requires listening with headphones for the effect to work

  • They are not effective above 30 Hz. The difference between the two frequencies must be small (less than or equal to 30 Hz) for the effect to occur; otherwise, the two tones will be heard separately, and no beat will be perceived. For Gamma entrainment use isoschronic tones.

  • The frequencies of the tones must be below 1,000 Hz for the beating to be noticeable.

  • Are considered more pleasant to listen to than Isochronic Tones and are hypnotic in nature. The volume of the binaural beats only needs to be just audible above the background sounds to be effective.

Isochronic Tones

Isochronic Tones work by emitting sound as a beat at the interval of the desired frequency. For example, to produce 10 Hz Alpha entrainment 10 beats will be produced each second. The sound is typically a sine wave but any continuous sound can be used. In addition to a sine wave Neuro Sequencer allows you to apply Isochronic modulation to any sound with a variable amount.

  • Can be listened to using speakers or headphones, although the effect is more pronounced with headphones.

  • Are considered to be more effective at creating entrainment.

  • May not be considered as relaxing to listen to as binaural beats.

  • Are not effective below 4 Hz. For Delta entrainment use binaural beats.

Pathway in a field leading to a tree

STARTING FREQUENCY

At the beginning of the session when the current brains state is close to the starting frequency it is faster to enter entrainment. For example if you are wide awake and your current brain state is in Beta and you want to entrain to Theta, starting in the Theta frequency it will be difficult for your brain state to transition directly. When you close your eyes and are relaxed your brain will naturally fall into the Alpha state so you could use a starting frequency of around 12 Hz. When the brain has tuned to the starting entrainment frequency it is then easier to gradually ramp up or down to another frequency range.

Questions and Answers

Is Brainwave Entrainment safe?

Yes, it is safe and is an area of science that has been researched over the past 100 years. Due to the brains natural tendency to entrain to any periodic stimulus you will already have experienced this yourself without realising. For example the rhythmic crackling and flickering of a fire, the sound of seashore waves rolling in, rythmic drumming and chanting.
The common warning that you find is for people who are epileptic or prone to seizures. This warning originated from photic brainwave entrainment (flashing lights). In fact one of the earliest discoveries was from Apuleius in 125 A.D. who found the flickering light produced by the rotation of a potters wheel could reveal a type of epilepsy.
Although there does not appear to be any scientific research suggesting auditory entrainment can cause a seizure if you are prone to them or are pregnant (in case you are prone to seizures and are not aware of it) it is recommend that you consult a doctor or medical professional before listening.

How to listen to Binaural Beats / Isochronic Tones

Make sure in are in a safe comfortable environment free of distractions either sitting or lying down. Do not listen while you are performing something that requires your full attention such as driving, operating machinery etc.
Most of the time you will want to listen with your eyes closed but if you are using them to help while studying it is perfectly fine to keep your eyes open as your Brain will be mainly in the Beta state.

How long should I listen for?

Really this comes down with what you are comfortable with but when you are starting out limit yourself to 15 minutes at a time. It also depends on the frequency range. In Beta or Gamma where you are causing high level activity 30 minutes may be enough but if you are relaxing with Theta then you could easily listen for over an hour.

How long do the effects of Brainwave Entrainment last for?

The most common way to use brainwave entrainment is for a short-term benefit, to help guide your brain into a particular mental state at the time you need it. The effects are strongest while you are listening to the tones because your brainwaves are synchronized and tuned into the frequency range you desire at that time. After you have stopped listening, the effects can still last for a while afterwards. The timescale will vary from person to person and be affected by what you do after you've stopped listening. For example, if you use a mediation session to deeply relax you, you might stay feeling chilled out for a few hours afterwards. But if you were to watch an action movie after listening, your brainwaves are going to be activated with beta and gamma waves.
There is a lack of consensus on whether long term effects exist although there does seem to be an accumulative effect. The more you experience the effect, the easier it is to self-produce the desired brainwave state at will.