Stress Relief Music: Entrain Your Brain

There is an old saying that goes “Music doth soothe the savage beast”, or something to that effect. It turns out there is more truth to that adage than you might expect. Scientist, through extensive studies into brain wave management, have shown that certain frequencies can be combined to create stress relief music. Utilizing this technology, digital music makers have created CDs and MP3 libraries of music designed to provide health benefits including stress relief, improved sleep habits, and mental focus.

The mechanism behind the design of these digital stress relievers is the science of binaural beats.

What are binaural beats?

Experiments in audio stimulation and reaction have determined that when two different sounds of similar frequencies are sent one to each ear, the brain initiates a process called entrainment.

Entrainment is a phenomenon that occurs when the brain automatically adjusts itself to the two different frequencies being piped in, and essentially filters out the difference between the two frequencies to create a new differential frequency or “beat”.

Practically speaking, if you play a tone of 250 cycles per second frequency in one ear and a tone of a 265 cycles per second frequency in the other, each tone will be processed by both the left and right hemispheres of the brain. The brain reacts over time by creating a “phantom” frequency in an attempt to “smooth” out the difference between the 2 tones. This frequency (15 cycles per second in this example) is a binaural beat and the brain will adjust its wave output to match this frequency.

Brain wave ranges can dictate focus, mood, and level of relaxation.

Brain waves are nothing more than electromagnetic activity. This activity can be measured, as any other type of current, in increments of cycles per second. Extensive experimentation has established ranges scientists commonly use to define particular states of mind. When our brain waves, or electrical impulses, are being generated in these ranges, particular behaviors can be observed.

The wave range our brain exhibits in our normal day-to-day activities is called Beta. The Beta range occurs in the 15 cycles per second and up range. There is little deliberate organization in the mind in this state, and it is typically just running from one thought to the next. In daily life, this is the brain wave range that supports our multi-tasking oriented lifestyle.

The next level down is Alpha. Alpha waves are associated with a state of mind generally referred to as alert relaxation. The Alpha range is 8-14 cycles per second. This state is commonly exhibited in the minutes just before we wake or just before we fall asleep. It is also the pattern our brain exhibits when we are daydreaming or “dozing off”.

As we move down the brain wave range the next classification is the Theta range. Theta, occurring at the 4-7 cycles per second range, is the brain wave level associated with dream activity, deep meditation, and REM sleep.

The bottom of the known spectrum is the Delta range, which occurs at brain wave rates less than 4 cycles per second. It is usually associated with deep, dreamless sleep and body healing and rejuvenation.

Through the use of designed sound combinations, selected binaural beats can be generated in our brains, placing us in a specific mental state. In addition to lowering ar raising brain wave frequency to relax or excite a listener, there are other more controversial, alleged uses for binaural beats. For example, it has been postulated that by using specific frequencies, an individual can stimulate certain glands to produce desired hormones. As an example, experiments have demonstrated that endorphins, commonly produced in the “runner’s high” state of mind, can be generated by using specific combinations of binaural beats.

In other experimental uses, there are studies that show that learning time and sleep requirements can be reduced by introducing adults to a program of theta wave inducing music. Theta waves are thought to improve learning because children, who usually learn new concepts faster than adults, exhibit stronger theta wave patterns and typically maintain the healthy theta wave state for longer periods than their elders.

Binaural beats are now routinely used by therapists to help people reduce stress and improve mental clarity and focus. Progressive programs are also utilizing binaural beats to assist cancer patients deal with the effects of chemotherapy and other treatments. Binaural beats can also be used for meditation and self-hypnosis and to potentially alter selected behavioral patterns, including smoking and over-eating.

As the science around binaural beats advances, new uses are being discovered and more people are developing binaural beat recordings to achieve specific results. The potential benefits of the healing and rejuvenating powers of binaural beats include weight loss programming, attention deficit disorder therapies, and stress management applications. The benefits are just being tapped and the progress is very encouraging for the future of emotional and physical therapy.

Don’t be surprised if you hear more and more about the medical profession embracing therapies involving the use of stress relief music and other binaural beat relaxation applications. Many people are taking advantage of these advances through the use of custom audio programs designed to induce a desired state of mind, to train the brain to better handle stress and anxiety, or to help the body heal and re-energize itself.

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