Would you like to be able to tap into the true power of your mind, and explore different states of consciousness at will? Or perhaps you just want to be able to function at an optimal level – to sleep well, to think more creatively, or improve your memory?
Such abilities are now more accessible than ever, thanks to brain wave entrainment technology? Read on to find out what this involves, and how you can make it work for you.
What Is Brainwave Entrainment?
Brainwave entrainment is also sometimes referred to as brainwave synchronization (although this also refers to the synchronisation of the two hemispheres of the brain). It basically involves exposing the brain to a periodic stimulus, such as pulses of light or sound. If the stimulus has a frequency similar to the brain’s own natural frequency range, the brain will often tend to match that frequency – this is a natural phenomenon known as the ‘frequency following response’.
So, what’s the use of this? Different states of consciousness and mental abilities are associated with the production of brainwaves of particular frequencies. By using brainwave entrainment, it can be easier to cause your brain to match certain frequencies – and thus you can gain a lot of control over your mental state.
Brainwave entrainment may also lead to greater synchronization between the two hemispheres of the brain – something which occurs naturally in people who are functioning at optimal levels and demonstrating a high level of skill.
Before discussing the different methods of brainwave entrainment, let’s take a look at the different frequency ranges that your brain produces, and the various experiences and states that they’re associated with.
Brainwaves are measured in Hertz (Hz - cycles per second), and can be measured using devices such as an electroencephalograph (EEG) machine. The generally recognised frequency bands are as follows:
Delta brainwaves (> 4Hz)
Delta waves are produced during deep (dreamless) sleep, and the experience of a predominantly delta brain state while awake is rare among untrained people. Brainwave entrainment can make it easier to access the delta state while awake. Delta brain waves are linked with bodily healing and regeneration, as well as the experience of very deep trance and certain ‘altered’ states of consciousness.
Theta brainwaves (4 - 7 Hz)
Theta waves are produced during dreaming sleep and in the state between sleeping and waking. They’re also experienced by meditators in a trance state. The theta state is linked with some altered states of consciousness, as well as with the experience of insights and inner wisdom – perhaps because the subconscious mind may be more accessible in this state.
Alpha brainwaves (8 – 12 Hz)
Alpha waves are produced when we’re relaxed and not focusing on anything in particular. They may be associated with creative thought, and their production is a sign of physical and mental balance; people who are ill or suffering from anxiety, depression etc. may produce fewer alpha waves than normal.
Beta brainwaves (13 - ~25 Hz)
Beta waves are produced when we’re awake, alert, and highly focused. People who have trouble with focus and concentration may produce fewer beta waves than normal. However, excessive beta production is linked with anxiety and similar disorders.
Gamma brainwaves (< 25 Hz)
Gamma brainwaves are high frequency waves that are not well understood (and some researchers dispute their existence as a distinct type). However, they seem to be linked with the experience of unusual states of consciousness such as the transcendental state, with its feelings of moving beyond the limited sense of ‘me’, and becoming part of something greater.
Note that the divisions between these aren’t recognised by all experts, so the numbers given aren’t absolute, and there is some overlap.
Also, while the brain produces brainwaves of a variety of different frequencies simultaneously, waves of one frequency band usually dominate. So when we say that the brain is in the ‘alpha state’ for example, it means that alpha waves predominate – not that only alpha waves are being produced.
If you know that you want to experience a particular mental state or ability, and that this is associated with the production of brainwaves of a certain frequency, brain wave entrainment may help you to access this state more easily.
Light/sound machines on Amazon
Types of Brainwave Entrainment
Although the brain can entrain to just about any rhythmic stimulus of the right frequency, in practice, light and sound are the two most common types of stimulus that are used to induce brainwave synchronisation.
Stroboscopic light is one method of brainwave entrainment. Various devices may be used to produce a light that flickers or flashes at the desired frequency.
An early example of a light-based brain wave machine was the ‘dreamachine’, which was a cylinder with holes in the side that was placed over a record turntable. A light was suspended within the cylinder and when the cylinder was rotated, light would exit the holes at a frequency of between 8 – 13 cycles per second. By ‘watching’ the light though closed eyelids, the viewer could enter a trance state and possibly experience altered states of consciousness.
While it’s quite easy to construct your own dreamachine at home, there are more technologically advanced alternatives available today, including the so-called mind machine, which gives you the option to combine light with sound pulses.
Light & Sound
Mind machines may also be called light and sound machines. With mind machines, you can use sound, light or a combination of the two as a brainwave stimulator – this is known as audio-visual stimulation (AVS). Most mind machines consist of a control unit, into which you can plug headphones and goggles. They generally come with pre-loaded sessions, which target various brain frequencies, and the more modern types may also connect to the internet, so you can download new sessions as they become available. Some devices also allow you to create your own light and sound sequences.
Sound-based brainwave entrainment is also very effective and popular, and probably the most accessible method, as it’s much cheaper to buy a recording than a machine that handles light as well.
These recordings typically use digitally produced sounds of specific frequencies. The most common types are binaural beats, monaural beats and isochronic tones.
Binaural beats are the oldest and most extensively researched form of aural entrainment technique, and are probably still the most popular. They were originally identified in 1839, by Heinrich Wilhelm Dove, investigated by various people throughout the 20th century, and first seriously examined in the 1970s, by Gerald Oster.
Binaural beats are tones that originate within the brain, when two pure sounds of differing frequencies are played through headphones (with one sound going to each ear). These two tones must have frequencies below 1000 - 1500Hz, with a frequency difference between them of around 30 Hz or less. For example, is you listen to a 200Hz tone in your left ear, and a 212 Hz tone in the right, the brain will process the sounds and an 12Hz tone will be perceived. The brain will then entrain to this tone, producing brain waves which have a similar predominant frequency. Sometimes pink noise, ambient music, running water or similar sound may be used to masked the two tones to some extent.
Although binaural beats are so widely used that they're almost synonymous with brainwave entrainment in many people’s minds. However, they're not necessarily the most effective method.
Monaural beats differ from their binaural counterparts in that the two sine waves are mixed together before entering the ear. In this way a third sound is produced, but the brain does not have to do the work of synthesising it. Many people believe that this results in monaural beats being easier on the brain than binaurals. They may also be more effective, since the monaural waveform is more clearly defined, producing a stronger entrainment effect.
Headphones aren’t required to listen to monaural beats may be played with or without headphones, although it is best to use them is possible, as they help to reduce distractions.
Isochronic tones are newest of the three methods, and seem to be the most effective in most cases. With isochronic tones, a single sound of a specific frequency is played at clearly defined intervals – so there is a distinct gap in between each sound pulse. This is in contrast to monaural beats in that monaurals consist of a single pulsed sine wave, whereas isochronics feature completely separate pulses. The discrete nature of isochronic pulses is extremely effective at entraining the brain to the desired frequency.
Like monaural beats, isochronic tone recordings don’t require the use of headphones, although again, they’re recommended if possible.
Which Are Best – Binaural Beats, Monaural Beats or Isochronic Tones?
People have had great success with all three methods. However, isochronic tones seem to produce a more efficient entrainment effect, so if you only use one type, isochronics are the way to go.
However, you should be aware that some people have found that monaural beats and isochronic tones don’t work so well for entraining the brain to frequencies in the delta range, and prefer to use binaural beats for delta work. As always, it’s best to experiment to see what works well for you.
Creating Your Own Binaural Beats, Monaural Beats and Isochronic Tones
Most people prefer to start their experiments with brainwave entrainment by using some of the many pre-recorded sessions that are available online and on CD. However, once you get a bit of experience you might want to start creating your own sessions. There are various software programs available for this purpose; these include:
This is a shareware program that has been used by brainwave meditation enthusiasts for many years.
This allows for both sound and light-based entrainment, as
features 125 in-built sessions that are completely customisable, as well as
allowing you to generate completely original sessions (pro version only). Supports
binaural beats, monaural beats and isochronic tones. I use Neuro-Programmer 2 myself, and really like it.
A free program that allows you to generate binaural beat sessions.
Isochronic Tone Recordings
Uses and Benefits Of Brainwave Entrainment
We’ve already touched on some of the uses of brainwave entrainment, and really they’re pretty much unlimited. If there’s a mental state you want to achieve, chances are this technology might be able to help you to reach it more efficiently. Some of the most common purposes that people use this technology for include:
Exploring altered states of consciousness
These include astral projection (out of body experience), lucid dreaming, developing psychic powers such as telepathy, clairvoyance, remote viewing etc, achieving a shamanic state of consciousness, manifestation, getting in touch with your spirit guide, past life regression, self-hypnosis, improved meditation and more.
Improving your physical and mental health & functioning
It’s not all weird and wonderful stuff however; people also use brainwave entrainment for more everyday purposes such as overcoming anxiety, better sleep, improved memory, increasing your motivation, enhancing your creativity, enhancing the body’s healing mechanisms, getting into the right frame of mind for losing weight, overcoming addictions and similar purposes.
All of these things are possible without brain entrainment, but what it does is basically make the whole process a lot quicker and easier. For example, you might spend years learning to meditate and achieve the kinds of deep trance states that are linked with various altered states – but brainwave entrainment may help you to experience these without the years of practice.
Is Brainwave Entrainment Safe?
Sound-based brainwave entrainment is generally considered to be safe, although as with anything of this nature you need to accept that the may be some small risk of an undesirable experience. Although it has been studied quite extensively, its use for purposes such as developing psychic abilities, astral projection etc is still somewhat ‘unexplored territory’ from a scientific perspective, so you should be aware of this before experimenting.
Brainwave entrainment technology that uses light is also generally thought to be safe for most people, but there is a risk that the use of light might trigger epileptic seizures and other issues in susceptible people. Brainwave entrainment shouldn’t be used by people with physical or mental illnesses, and it’s best to consult a health professional before using brainwave stimulation recordings or other devices if you have any doubts or concerns.
Does Brainwave Entrainment Work For Everyone?
Although many people have had some very dramatic results using brainwave entrainment, it’s not guaranteed to work for everyone. Some people seem to be resistant to its effects, and even in those who are not, it’s not something that will magically transport you to a different state without any effort at all on your part. You still need to focus on the light/sound, and it may take consistent practice with a particular program before you begin to experience the desired results.
Getting The Most From Brain Wave Entrainment
To get the most from your brainwave synchronisation recordings or device, you should:
- Practice regularly – you won’t necessarily experience the state you want the first time you listen/watch. Commit to practising daily for a few weeks before deciding it doesn’t work for you.
- Practice in a suitable environment – it’s vital that you’re undisturbed while listening. You should also wear comfortable clothing and find somewhere comfortable to sit or lie down (sitting may be better, as many people fall asleep when lying down).
- Use high quality recordings – if you use sound-based entrainment (which I recommend, at least to start with), you should use a high quality recording that’s designed for the purpose you have in mind.
Where To Start With Brainwave Entrainment Audio
There are many different brainwave recordings and devices available – so where do you start? I would recommend starting off with a brainwave entrainment audio recording, as these are easy to use and inexpensive – but are still be very effective if you get a good quality recording.
You can choose from binaural beats, monaural beats or isochronic tones – as we saw earlier, isochronic tones are generally considered to be the most effective type (except perhaps for delta work), so you might want to start with these. It’s always a good idea to try all three methods for yourself however, so you can find what works well for you.
Brainwave entrainment is generally considered very safe, but its use may cause adverse reactions in some people, including pregnant women, people with epilepsy and other seizure-related disorders and people with other physical and mental illnesses. You use it at your own risk, and should consult your medical practitioner if you have any concerns.
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SamCat7 (author) on July 11, 2013:
Sorry for the delay in approving your comment. I've been away for a while.
I don't really feel qualified to answer your question. I would probably be wary of using any kind of brainwave entrainment if I had experienced seizures in the past, just to be on the safe side. But hopefully others with more direct experience in this area might be able to chime in.
Perhaps a regular meditation recording without the brainwave entrainment (or another type of meditation practice) might help with the insomnia?
xbowtiesarecoolx on April 28, 2013:
Are there any recorded cases of anyone having a seizure from these or is this just a precautionary warning? I have been interested in trying these for a while now, but now I'm finding things that say they could be unsafe. There are many different types of seizures and many people have different triggers. I don't know of that many besides my own, except that I know some have ones that are triggered by flashing lights, etc. and they should stay away from light-based ones (which I wasn't going to try just to be safe even though I don't have that kind). Are there certain individuals who have seizures triggered by music or sound? Because I'm curious how the pulsating beats are any different from listening to music, etc. that they would be problematic.
I have never had any problems with going to concerts, dancing in a club or elsewhere (to pulsating dance beats or latin music which is heavily laced with drumbeats and other such rhythms), or being in close proximity to drums, when singing (in one band, the drummer was pretty much directly behind my head and we practiced in a very small space, so I was quite close to the sound) in or listening to friends' and family's bands.
Are the people who might have seizures from listening to this, people
who would likely have problems with the above? I've known other people with seizure issues that are different from mine, but I've never even heard of seizures caused by sounds before, so I need more info on this if anybody knows anything more about it.
I have seen it recommended to ask your doctor. Most neurologists are not holistic, and don't believe in this sort of thing in the first place, so they are not likely to have any opinions on whether it is "safe" or "unsafe", you'd probably just get a nod and a smile or laughed at like you're crazy (and many neurologists also work in psychology/psychiatry, so you have to be careful what you say in front of them! lol.)
My seizures are controlled by medication and I haven't had one since about January 2006 or so if that makes a difference to any of this. I mention that because I know a lot of peoples' are not controlled by medicine. Mine have primarily been triggered by stress and/or insomnia and apparently the brainwave entrainment is supposed to be good for these things and therefore, I thought they might be beneficial for me.
However, I also saw a warning about being on any sort of medication and I do take anti-seizure meds and sleeping pills (for the aforementioned insomnia. But if I could use these and get some sleep naturally, I could quit taking those! :( )
I would appreciate any information anyone could give me on this. And it would be great if anyone who can answer even some of these queries could post them here as I am sure I am not the only one with these concerns.
Thanks in advance for any help you can provide.
Also, I have never had any problems from video games either. I saw that mentioned on another site in reference to this, so if that's any indication of if I'd be ok with this...??
Christin Sander from Midwest on July 01, 2011:
This article did an excellent job of explaining how these technologies work. I enjoyed reading it. I listen to a variety of different recordings and I really feel they do help, particularly for stimulating creative thought.