As you read this text, billions of brain cells are generating measurable electrical activity across your brain. Extensive scientific research has revealed how all our mind states (relaxation, focus, anxiety, sleep, meditation…) correspond to specific brainwave patterns. All the feelings, thoughts, and actions we engage in on a daily basis are somehow electrochemically rooted in neuron-to-neuron communication and so reflected in our ever-changing brainwave states.
Due to the tendency of our brains to synchronize with external stimuli, it is possible to use sound to influence the amplitude of our various brainwave frequencies. For example, as you listen to an alpha brainwave track, certain areas of your brain want to quite literally follow the rhythm and get synchronized to the speed of alpha waves. When that happens, you might feel the calm and open focus that is associated with alpha rhythms.
Thanks to neuroplasticity (the brain’s endless and amazing capacity to change, adapt, and reorganize itself), the more frequently you enter a state, the easier you are able to go back to it. Brainwave entrainment lets your brain calm down or speed up, depending on your needs. Let’s look at the various brainwave frequencies and states. Binaural beats were discovered in 1839 by a German experimenter, H. W. Dove, and first described by Oster in the early 70s. How exactly the brain produces the perception of these beats is unclear, but they are said to be produced as the olivary body of the brain tries to “locate” the direction of the sound in response to two different tones being presented separately to each ear – which, if you think about it, is not something that would happen in nature unless via technological aids. The resulting phantom frequency (which is not heard in the ordinary sense, as it’s created inside the cranium) equals the difference between the tones, and prolonged exposure to its beating has a marked yet still debated psychoacoustic effect: while they do not seem to significantly impact the thalamus (no measurable entrainment response), their relaxing, even hypnotic effects can tangibly affect mood and performance and are enjoyed by most listeners