A Brief Overview of Brainwave Entrainment:
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Research in the field of brainwave entrainment has revealed the remarkable potential for acoustic stimulus to bring about significant improvements to the overall functioning of the brain. In 1839 Heinrich Wilhelm Dove discovered binaural beats and published his findings in the scientific journal Repertorium der Physik. The subject remained little more than a scientific curiosity until 1973 when Dr. Gerald Oster published the article “Auditory Beats in the Brain” in Scientific American, reinvigorating interest in the potentials of binaural beat frequencies for research in neurophysiology. During this time, Robert Monroe of the Monroe Research Institute began conducting experiments using an EEG machine to monitor subjects brainwave patterns. From thousands of the experiments, he concluded that he could “entrain” subjects brainwave patterns using binaural beats. In addition, he noticed that he was able to get a response in not only the areas responsible for hearing, but observed a resonance throughout the entire brain in response to his acoustic stimulus. Binaural beats were able to bring about a resonance in the brain where frequency, amplitude, and phase become synchronous across both hemispheres of the brain, a condition later referred to as hemisphere synchronization.
In subsequent research, hemispheric synchronization and overall brain coherence has been shown to be associated with more integrative thinking and behavior, enhanced creativity, learning ability, emotional balance, moral reasoning, self-confidence and a sense of well-being. Put simply, scientists learned that the brain’s peak performance largely depends on its coherent functioning, and auditory stimulus is profoundly effective in bringing about this physiological condition.
More coherent brain functioning has also been shown to accompany a regular meditation practice. Often times, however, people struggle to begin a practice or to make progress in meditation, and with so many types of meditation out there, it can be a challenge to know where to start. Entrainment programs can be very useful supplemental tools to help beginning practitioners overcome the initial challenges of meditation and decrease the amount of time it takes to make progress, and be useful for advanced meditators to go even deeper with their practice.
Let’s take a look at the four main brainwave states and how to go about using them.
Using brainwave entrainment technologies doesn’t necessarily have to be about peak performance, cognitive or spiritual development. Many people use BEs to help them sleep, to unwind at the end of a busy days or to replace the afternoon cup of coffee with an energizing beta audio program.
The Four Basic Brainwave States:
There are four basic states of conscious associated with a particular brainwave frequency range. Beta, Alpha, Theta and Delta. (There are actually a few more i.e. gamma, lambda and epsilon but for now we’ll just focus on the main four)
Note: You’ll notice that we distinguish coherent states from incoherent states.This is because brainwave patterns themselves are either resourceful of unresourceful according to the quality of harmonic coherence present.
Beta 12-40Hz | Awake | Alert and Vigilant
Coherent beta is great for when we need to be on top of our game and respond quickly to situations. Beta focuses attention to get things done. Exercise, athletics, problem solving and activities that require a certain amount of technical skill are accompanied by beta brainwaves. Incoherent beta, however, leads to stress, anxiety, and decreased performance. Too little or incoherent beta is connected to attention deficit disorder and other learning and performance disabilities.
The goal of state training with beta is to overcome lethargy or brain fog. It’s helpful to listen to beta programs whenever we need an energetic boost. Listening to a beta entrainment program might help push you through late night fatigue during a study session, or get you from 0 to 60 right out of bed without any coffee. If you’re state training with beta you’ll notice that overtime, it will increase your capacity to remain at a high intensity pace, without cumulating the stress that tends to come with it. As the nervous system assimilates to coherent beta, we become more adept at dealing with stress and perform better in high intensity situations.
Alpha 7-12Hz Calm | Meditative | Relaxed Attentiveness
Coherent alpha is ideal for the creative process and promotes the felt sense of well-being, the feeling of being “dropped in” to the deeper place of ease. Where beta is active, alpha is more receptive. Open, curious, alert and grounded. The sense of awareness that serious meditators cherish as home base. Incoherent alpha can, however, feel scattered. There can be a sense of confusion, overwhelm or lethargy. Too little alpha might mean beta is running the show, contributing to undue stress and anxiety.
Theta 4-7Hz Trance | Deep meditation | Dreaming | Visions
Coherent theta is exceptionally therapeutic. Associated with the period between waking consciousness and sleep, in theta states the unconscious mind is more receptive to suggestions from self hypnosis. Theta has also been associated with the activation of the parasympathetic nervous system (secondary nervous system) allowing deep healing and change to more easily occur. The immune system as well as the mechanisms responsible for behavior, learning and past traumas are deeply connected to the parasympathetic functions making theta state training a powerful part of a holistic path of self healing and evolution. Too much or incoherent theta could, however, be connected to cognitive problems like ADHD and psychological disorders. Too little theta can be associated with sleep disorders.
Delta .05-4Hz Transcendental Meditation | Deep dreamless sleep
Coherent delta is powerfully rejuvenating. During intervals between REM sleep cycles the brain enters periods of inactivity, or rather activity that’s so slow that the brain is able to rejuvenate. Delta programs can be used as a sleep aid helping listeners get to sleep more quickly and rest more deeply, getting more out the sleep we get. Delta can however happen in tandem to higher or faster brainwave patterns. In fact, state training with delta allows practitioners to train the brain to stay awake even while strong delta waves are occurring. When this happens, it can have a profound impact introducing transcendental states of awareness and coordinating the bioelectromagnetic systems of the body a very high degree of harmonic coherence. Incoherent or too much delta can be associated with sleep disorders, mental and emotional imbalances and poor cognitive performance.
HOW TO DO STATE TRAINING WITH BINAURAL BEATS
All binaural beat frequency programs required stereo headphones. Also the quality of the headphones also plays a factor. Headphones that go around the ears are better to use because they can offer a more full experience of the lower frequencies and provide some insulation from the external environment.
State training differs from some of the more clinical uses for brainwave entrainment in that its focus is to bring about non-ordinary states of consciousness in order to catalyze spiritual development.
Theta and delta programs tend to have a more immediate impact when listeners are lying down. When the body is fully relaxed the brain can entrain to these patterns more easily. Listeners will want to lay down when using for theta states for self-hypnosis, shamanic journeying or creative visualization practices. Falling asleep is more likely while laying down, but for these purposes, falling asleep doesn’t necessarily take away from the experience. You might even want to allow sleep to become a part of the session. Exploring hypnogogic states for self healing or creativity is profoundly enriched by navigating the territory between the waking and sleep states.
A seated position:
Sitting up during meditation helps to keep awareness up and present as deeper slower brainwave patterns begin to occur.