Binaural Beats For Altered States Of Mind
Published in SF Yoga Magazine
Binaural beats are a specific type of sound that exist only in your head when you listen to them through stereo headphones. Binaural beats are currently being used with the aim of experiencing altered states of mind such as focus, relax or sleep (Barratt et al., 2022). How can binaural beats cause real changes in the way the brain operates? The human brain is an organic substance. Electrochemical energy is produced during brain activities. Brain cells use this electrochemical energy to communicate. Sound waves deliver information to the brain in the form of electrochemical energy. Scientists can monitor brain communication by using an electroencephalograph (EEG) to observe brain wave patterns (Abadin et al., 2021; Abhang et al., 2016). Brainwave patterns have been found to correspond to emotions and feelings. Certain brainwaves become dominant when a person is in a specific mental state such as sleep or anxiety (Abadin et al., 2021). Binaural beats can influence brainwave patterns and the feelings associated with them.
Binaural beats travel the binaural auditory pathways of the brain. Binaural hearing is used to locate auditory objects (van der Heijden, 2019). In early times, this was an important survival skill for locating food or running from a predator. Now, we use this skill to target a person speaking in the midst of a restaurant or cocktail party (Hawley et al., 2004). Binaural beats are now used therapeutically to influence our states of consciousness. Binaural beats also are reported to cause cross-hemispheric communication, which can lead to brain synchronization (Gao et al., 2014).
Some binaural beats users use this sound technology for that happy high feeling that can also come from psychedelic substances. This practice of using binaural beats as “digital drugs” is occurring in multiple countries worldwide. Some users report that they do so with the aim to connect with a higher consciousness, (‘something bigger than myself’), while others report listening to binaural beats in an attempt to experience effects similar to those caused by psychoactive substances (Barratt et al., 2022).
The mere existence of binaural beats being used in the place of drugs challenges broadly held assumptions about how to define a psychoactive substance. Can it be something that causes psychoactive effect without ingesting a substance into the body? Can digital experiences also be considered ‘drugs’?
Try using binaural beats technology to change your own brainwave patterns. There are 5 different basic brainwave states, delta, theta, alpha, beta and gamma. For example, delta brainwaves support a state of sleep (Jirakittayakorn et al, 2018). Alpha brainwaves cause relaxation. A person wishing to reach the alpha state can do so by listening to binaural beats of 8Hz to 12Hz (Gupta et al., 2016). Theta binaural beats formulas have been shown to be effective for relieving anxiety (Gantt et al., 2017). Beta and gamma brainwaves support focus and concentration (Kirk et al, 2019; Reedijk et al., 2013). Binaural beats are currently the subject of much scientific research and appear to be safe for use by adults. Always check with your doctor before trying any new product.
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Abadin, A. F. M., Imtiaz, A., Ahmed, M., & Dutta, M. (2021). A brief study of binaural beat: A means of brain-computer interfacing. Advances in Human-Computer Interaction, 2021. https://doi.org/10.1155/2021/6814208
Abhang, P. A., Gawali, B. W., & Mehrotra, S. C. (2016). Technological basics of EEG recording and operation of apparatus. In Introduction to EEG-and speech-based emotion recognition. 2nd national conference on innovative paradigms in engineering and technology. DOI:10.1016/B978-0-12-804490-2.00002-6
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Gantt, M. A., Dadds, S., Burns, D. S., Glaser, D., & Moore, A. D. (2017). The effect of binaural beat technology on the cardiovascular stress response in military service members with postdeployment stress. Journal of Nursing Scholarship, 49(4), 411–420. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnhum.2019.00425
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Kirk, U., Wieghorst, A., Nielsen, C. M., & Staiano, W. (2019). On-the-spot binaural beats and mindfulness reduces behavioral markers of mind wandering. Journal of Cognitive Enhancement, 3(2), 186-192.
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