"When you were a kid were you fascinated by those dog whistles that you could blow, not hear but all the dogs in the vicinity would come running? The high pitch was something that only they could hear, and though it seemed the dogs didn?t seem to arrive in droves as they did in the movies, it was enough for perhaps your pet dog to prick up his ears before sliding back into sleep."
What Are Binaural Beats?
When you were a kid were you fascinated by those dog whistles that you could blow, not hear but all the dogs in the vicinity would come running? The high pitch was something that only they could here, and though it seemed the dogs didn‟t seem to arrive in droves as they did in the movies, it was enough for perhaps your pet dog to prick up his ears before sliding back into sleep.
Imagine being about to use auditory sounds that talked to different parts of your brain directly, instead of needing to be filtered though your thoughts and conscious mind. It‟s a little like that dog whistle- you might not be able to understand or “hear‟ what those sounds mean, but those parts of your brain it‟s designed for sure can.
Our brains are fascinating things. Scientists still struggle to try and determine the very length and breadth of our brain‟s capabilities. Study shows we use only a small proportion of our brains, but the potential in unleashing some of the parts we do not use is astronomic.
The problem is how to access these areas. Certainly regular meditative practices, a holistic lifestyle incorporating eastern practices such as yoga, and a healthy diet that doesn‟t include plenty of mind numbing chemicals definitely helps.
However for many of us, that type of lifestyle is one we either try to follow but fall short, or don‟t even really bother before. Reality normally includes way too much time spent in traffic, the stress of over due work and the chores that never seem to end. For most of us we need a short cut, a simple method of getting our brain trained to think and act to its fullest capacity.
That‟s where Binaural Beats come in. These sounds stimulate your brain without you needing to think, move or do anything. While you listen, these beats stimulate your brain and lead you to deeper levels of relaxation.
Binaural Beats Entrain the Brain
When the two different sounds are heard the brain tries to find the middle ground between them. For instance if you play a sound at 100hz in one ear, and play a sound at 108hz in the other, the brain will make the middle sound: 104hz.
This is what is known as frequency-followed response. The brainwaves want to follow the sound and match it. This process is called entrainment.
While it‟s common to use sounds to get this effect, there are other options. Some people can use visual stimulation, and some use both the visual and aural stimulation together to produce the effect.
There is a need to be cautious of using visual stimulus however as it can trigger epilepsy and cause seizures in those prone to them.
Who found out about them?
Ideas such as Binaural Beats being used to help mediation and relaxation may sound a little out there. So where did the idea come from? Was it some strange thought conceived to sell a pile of new age ideas?
Hundred of years ago it was discovered that if you played one note in one ear, and another in the other, a new note or tone appeared to be heard inside your head. However it wasn‟t until 1839 that the concept was proven to be true after it was scientifically tested and noted to be true.
Prussian physicist and meteorologist Heinrich Wilhelm Dove discovered the effect of Binaural beats on the brain in 1839. Dove had a very broad career which included over three hundred papers
on experimental physics. He discovered this effect early on in his career and then spent long periods of time exploring it in more depth, discovering the ways in which it affects the brain.
He discovered that playing slightly different beats into each ear produces a perception of beats that are not actually there. This is the essence of Binaural Beats. It feels a little like a wah wah sound inside your head, similar to the feeling of all the car windows down as you are heading down the highway, or an opera singers vibrato. If you‟ve ever listened to the sound of a baby‟s heart inutereo, that wah wah sound will sound a little similar. Basically if two slightly different frequencies are playing into either ear the brain tries to find the common ground which gives this wah wah effect.
He also made important discoveries about a raft of other areas, including observing cyclones travel the earth clockwise in the southern hemisphere but anticlockwise in the northern hemisphere. He had a lot of influence over the development of meteorological science, looking at the effect of our climate on the growth of plants, and how heat is distributed over the surface of the earth.
Dove was also the first person to measure the strength of an electrical current in a wire which he found by using a magnetic field. He was a well esteemed scientist and researcher, whose work was respected and valued.
Dove did little more than prove the phenomena occurred. It wasn‟t until one hundred and thirty four years after his paper was published that scientists and researcher Gerald Ostler published an article in Scientific American magazine that provided fresh findings, backed up with laboratory research, which shows how these binaural beats could affect the brain, depending on the frequency.
Ostler recognized that these binaural beats were a tool cognitive and neurological researchers could utilize to learn how animals were able to use sounds to locate their prey in an environment where sounds can ricochet on trees or rocks before they get to their ears. He was also interested in how animals can be surrounded by sound everywhere but can focus on one particular sound and zero in on it.
It‟s something mothers have done for centuries. Put a pile of babies in a room and mothers will happily chat and talk without needing to watch, but the moment one baby cries that mother can identify that cry as being her child, no matter the volume of the others around the baby. This is also known as the “cocktail party” effect as people also adopt it to differentiate sounds in crowded parties.
However the human‟s ability to differentiate sounds is nothing compared to many in the animal kingdom who are able to listen for both prey and predators, knowing the difference in the sounds they make.
Ostler also felt the binaural beats were a potentially useful tool when trying to diagnose different conditions. As well as the obvious advantage of helping determine and hearing or auditory issues, Ostler felt it may also help to diagnose psychological conditions. That is because binaural beats use different pathways in the brain than is used when hearing normal everyday sounds.
One of the differences Ostler noticed was that people suffering from Parkinson‟s disease were unable to perceive binaural beats. Treating Parkinsons alleviated the issue with Ostler noticing the changes within a week of treatment in several patients.
Ostler also found there is a gender difference in being about to perceive binaural beats. Women find it easer to perceive them at two points in their menstrual cycle, first at the beginning of menstruation, and then again about fifteen days later (known to be the time of ovulation) From this Ostler theorizes binaural beat perception may be affected by estrogen levels.
In the 1970‟s people began to use the binaural beats of rhythms to help with a range of psychological struggles, including managing stress, reducing anxiety and helping with concentration.
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