Monday, January 14, 2008

No pulling legs. What is binaural music?

The urge to become better is natural for a human being.

What if I tell you that it is possible to reduce learning time?
Or sleep needs?
What if I tell you that it is possible to learn how to meditate?
And without exhausting trainings!
What if I tell you that all this can be achieved via simple proccess of music listening?

Am I nuts? ) Ok, here we go with facts:
(if you find the following text too difficult to understand - skip it, yes, you can, and go directly here - Effects caused by binaural music and then here - How to start..

The ability of human brain to follow and respond to external stimulus like flashes of  light and sounds was discovered in 1950-s. At that time the technology of EEG (electroencephalography) was still developing. In simple words, the technology is used to measure brain's electrical vibrations from the surface of the scalp. All that stuff led to invention of effective methods of brain stimulation.

The easiest way of applying stimulus to the brain is via ears and eyes. Since humans cannot hear sounds low enough to be useful for brain stimulation, special techniques must be used. One such special technique used is called binaural beats.

If the left ear is presented with a steady tone of 495Hz and the right ear a steady tone of 505Hz, these two tones combine in the brain. The difference, 10Hz, is perceived by the brain and is a very effective stimulus for brainwave entrainment. This 10Hz is formed entirely by the brain. When using stereo headphones, the left and right sounds do not mix together until in your brain. The frequency difference, when perceived by brain this way, is called a binaural beat.

So what?

Interest in binaural beats can be classified into two categories. First, they are of interest to neurophysiologists investigating the sense of hearing. Second, that binaural beats may influence the brain in more subtle ways through the entrainment of brainwaves and can be used to produce relaxation and other health benefits.
So, binaural beats may influence functions of the brain besides those related to hearing. This phenomenon is called frequency following response. Binaural beats have been credibly documented to entrain brainwave rhythms, according to the frequency following response, at various sites in the brain. Binaural beat stimulation has been used fairly extensively to induce a variety of states of consciousness, there has been some work done in regards to the effects of these stimuli on relaxation, focus, attention, and states of consciousness.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Brain waves frequencies and their description

When the perceived beat frequency corresponds to the delta, theta, alpha, beta, or gamma range of brainwave frequencies, the brainwaves entrain to or move towards the beat frequency. In other words, applying a stimulus to the brain will eventually bring the brain's state closer to the stimulus frequency.

Frequency             Name                         Usually associated with:

> 40 Hz                     Gamma waves           Higher mental activity, including perception, problem solving, fear, and consciousness
13–40 Hz                  Beta waves                Active, busy or anxious thinking and active concentration,  arousal, cognition
7–13 Hz                     Alpha waves              Relaxation (while awake), pre-sleep and pre-wake drowsiness
4–7 Hz                       Theta waves              Dreams, deep meditation, REM sleep
< 4 Hz                        Delta waves               Deep dreamless sleep, loss of body awareness

(The precise boundaries between ranges vary among definitions, and there is no universally accepted standard.)

For example, if a 315 Hz sine wave is played into the right ear and a 325 Hz one into the left ear, the brain is entrained towards the beat frequency (10 Hz, in the alpha range). Since alpha range is associated with relaxation, this has a relaxing effect or if in the beta range, more alertness.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Listening to binaural music - the way it works

The dominant frequency determines your current state. For example, if in someone's brain alpha waves are dominating, they are in the alpha state (this happens when one is relaxed but awake). However, also other frequencies will be present, albeit with smaller amplitudes.

The brain entraining is more effective if the entraining frequency is close to the user's starting dominant frequency. Therefore, it is suggested to start with a frequency near to one's current dominant frequency (likely to be about 20 Hz or little less for a waking person), and then slowly decreasing it towards the desired frequency.

Some people find pure sine waves unpleasant, so a pink noise or another background (e.g. natural sounds such as river noises) can also be mixed with them. In addition to that, as long as the beat is audible, increasing the volume is supposed not to improve the effectiveness, therefore using a low volume is usually suggested. One theory is to reduce the volume so low that the beating should not even be clearly audible, but this does not seem to be the case.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Effects caused by binaural music

Listening to binaural music can stimulate your brain in different ways! The only things you need are player, stereo head- or earphones and binaural music track of certain frequency. This topic describes some possible effects achievable by this.

Helping in meditation

While meditators have traditionally used several years to learn the techniques of meditation, you can here-and-now attain the same effect with brainwave entrainment. No special training or great discipline is required. Good meditation frequencies are in the alpha range, from 8Hz to 13Hz.

When a certain brainwave state is experienced and practiced over a period of time, the brain will "learn" the state change and it will become easier to self-produce the desired brainwave state at will. Thus, using brainwave entrainment, you can expect to get some of its effects later even without any external stimulus.

Reducing learning time

The theta state (4Hz–7Hz) has been found to increase learning capabilities. In fact, children spend more time in theta state than adults, which probably explains the accelerated learning capabilities of children.

Alpha frequencies are also useful for learning purposes. You can play language cassettes, subliminal tapes, etc. during an entrainment session for a maximum effect.

Reducing sleep needs

Some people have found that half an hour a day of the Theta state binaural music can replace up to 4 hours of sleep.

Treatment of certain mental diseases

Entrainment by binaural music is used in treatment of depression, low self-esteem, attention deficit disorder, drug and alcohol addiction and autism, to name a few.

Brainwave entrainment has also been found helpful in alleviating headaches and migraines.

Note that willingness and ability to relax and focus attention affects how effective the binaural beat stimulus is for inducing state changes.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

More on effects of binaural beats

There are other alleged uses for binaural beats.

For example, that by using specific frequencies an individual can stimulate certain glands to produce desired hormones. Beta-endorphin has been modulated in studies using alpha-theta brain wave training, and dopamine with binaural beats.

Some people use them for lucid dreaming and even for attempting out-of-body experiences, astral projection, telepathy and psychokinesis. (Note that the scientific consensus is that telepathy and astral projection do not exist, and that out-of body experiences are purely internal mental phenomena. However, the role of alpha-wave activity in lucid dreaming is subject to ongoing research (consult Wikipedia on that matter) Alpha-theta brainwave training has also been used successfully for the treatment of addictions, for the recovery of repressed memories, but as with other techniques this can lead to false memories.

A trial of Delta binaural beat technology over 60 days has shown positive effect on self-reported psychologic measures, especially anxiety. There was significant decrease in trait anxiety, an increase in quality of life, and a decrease in insulin-like growth factor-1 and dopamine and has been successfully trialled to lessen hospital acute pre-operative anxiety.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

For History lovers (taken directly from Wikipedia)

Heinrich Wilhelm Dove discovered binaural beats in 1839. While research about them continued after that, the subject basically remained a scientific curiosity until 134 years later, with the publishing of Gerald Oster's article "Auditory Beats in the Brain" (Scientific American, 1973). Oster's paper was landmark not so much for its own new laboratory findings, but rather that in the way in which it identified and tied together the isolated islands of relevant research done since Dove, in a way that gave the subject fresh insight and relevance to scientific research.

In particular, Oster saw binaural beats as a powerful tool for cognitive and neurological research, addressing questions such as how animals locate sounds in their three-dimensional environment, and also the remarkable ability of animals to pick-out and focus-on specific sounds in a sea of noise (what is known as the "cocktail party effect").

Oster also considered binaural beats to be a potentially useful medical diagnostic tool, not merely for finding and assessing auditory impairments, but also (because they involved different neurological pathways than ordinary auditory processing) for more general neurological conditions. For example, Oster found that a number of the subjects he worked with that were incapable of perceiving binaural beats suffered from Parkinson's disease. In one case, Oster was able to follow one such subject through a week-long treatment of Parkinson's disease; at the outset the patient couldn't perceive binaural beats, but by the end of the week of treatment, the patient could hear them again.

Oster also reported (in corroborating an earlier study) that there were gender differences in the perception of beats. Specifically, women seemed to experience two separate peaks in their ability to perceive binaural beats that seemed to correlate with specific points in the menstrual cycle (one at the onset of menstruation, one around 15 days later), which led Oster to wonder if binaural beats could be used as a tool for measuring relative levels of estrogen.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

So, how to start enhancing myself? Where to get binaural music?

Well, it is quite easy!
Although you will need some soft to create binaural beats.

Here is the site of BrainWave Generator where you can get this nice program, that will allow you to generate binaural beats. It has quite a number of ready patterns for instant use!

There is also nice program of Russian origin called Mozgoprav, but, as I said, it is on Russian language only.

I have heard that it was possible to make different tones in left and right earphones manually with some program like GoldWave (early versions only). You may try to find them.

So, I am using BrainWave Generator to create some long binaural beat track for different purposes - to be relaxed, allert or to increase learning ability. 
Then I use WaveLab to add some background music and voila! 
The track is ready!
Put on headphones (or earphones - speakers can not help you!) and here we go!
Remember that you have to try to be as close to the desired state as possible - that will assure really great results!!