A brief history of binaural beats and brainwave entrainment:
Brainwave entrainment has been around for as long as recorded history. Just like the laws of nature, man is always subject even without direct knowledge of the existence of such phenomenon. In ancient times, the repeated drum rhythms and chanting used during rituals for healing and spiritual guidance caused the listeners to be put in a trance-like state. Their brains were ‘entraining’ to a lower frequency bringing the conscious mind’s guard down so they were more receptive to ideas of manifesting health and spiritual guidance. This is still common today when listening to some forms of music.
The Mozart effect is a well known ‘entrainment’ phenomenon where listening to Mozart and other classical music actually increases brain function because the melodic and rhythms repetition ‘entrains’ to a slower and more “whole brain functioning” state called brainwave synchronization.
Later around 200 AD Ptolemy made the discovery that when an observer sat in front of a spinning spoked wheel, with the sun shining through the opposite side, the flickering sunlight after time would cause the observer to see different patterns and colors and would also create a feeling of euphoria. This was called photic stimulation. Photic stimulation would be the earliest recognition and later the first developed form of brain entrainment.
By 1665 Dutch Mathematician and Physicist, Christian Huygens really began to understand the concept of ‘entrainment’. He discovered that when you place two or more pendulum clocks in a room or against a wall together, the pendulums would eventually sync up and swing perfectly together. Not just close, but with perfect precision. Later it was discovered that this follows the Law of Vibration where like waves are attracted. A great example of this is when two pianos are in the same room and a string is struck on one piano which causes the same string on the other piano to vibrate without having been struck.
Early 20th century
Not a lot of research and application was put into Huygens discovery until the early 1900’s when Hans Berger started experimenting with measuring the brain’s electrical output. His discoveries led to the modern understanding of brainwave entrainment. He discovered alpha waves and generated history’s first ever brainwave recording which led to the invention of the EEG or electroencephalography.
By the mid 1930’s scientists like Berger started to do actual research on the effects of entrainment on the brain with EEG. They were still mostly using visual or photic based stimulus. But, the research was more specific and started measuring the rate of stimulus in hertz. They discovered with certainty and scientific exactness that electrical rhythms of the brain were ‘entraining’ to outside stimulus. This led to the acceptance of brain entrainment as a valid and scientific practice.
In 1959 Dr. Chatrain discovered sound stimulation by repetitive clicks in each ear. This led to the discovery of auditory brain entrainment.This was the start of the brainwave entrainment revolution that we typically enjoy today.
Then in 60’s scientists started using entrainment as a tool for medical procedures. M.S. Sadove, an anesthesiologist used photic stimulation to reduce the use of anesthesia in surgery and believed that eventually most drugs would be obsolete. Quite the visionary! This discovery led to many doctors using visual entrainment practices in place of drugs for anesthesia .
1968 Joe Kamiya, first scientist to introduce the idea that people can be trained to voluntarily control their brainwaves through the practice of brainwave entrainment.
Throughout the 60’s and 70’s artist like Brion Gysin were interested in altered states of consciousness. This led to Gysin developing the Dreammachine which combined light and sound stimulus for brain entrainment.
Then in 1973, Gerald Oster wrote an article on the effects of binaural beats in the publication Scientific American. He used brain entrainment research to describe the difference between binaural beats and monaural beats and how they can be mixed with other tones.
In 1975, Willians and West from the University Hospital in Wales, Great Britain, studied the effects of entrainment on people who actually practiced meditating and people who do not meditate. They found that meditators entered a brainwave entrainment endured meditative state much faster than the non-meditator group and were less drowsy. This was found to be because the mediators had already learned the attention skills that that it required to be alert when inducted into the alpha brainwave state.
Then by the early 1980’s Norman Shealy and his colleagues did a study on the effects of 30 minute sessions of photic entrainment. Their discoveries showed that brain entrainment drips the level of melatonin and substantially increases levels of endorphins, seritonin, and norepinephrine. This basically means you have more energy and you feel happier and relaxed after brain entrainment.
In 1981, Arturo Manns published a study showing the effectiveness of isochronic tones or evenly spaced tones. His research was on facial pain, specifically jaw tension. After 15 minutes of exposure to isochronic tones, facial pain, insomnia, and emotional tension were reduced greatly.
Michael Hutchins wrote an article called MegaBrain in 1981 on the many possibilities of entrainment meditation to super learning.
Another interesting study in the 1980’s was by neurologists Ruuskanen-Uoti and Salmi. They documented a case of a woman who experienced a seizure while using a photic stimulus brain entrainment product. The woman wad no previous history of seizures and after the seizure, she had no side effects and continued her life as normal. Around the same time, there was another study of video games causing teenage boys to have seizures without any seizure history but also having no long term side effects and no continued problems after they quit playing video games. This was a rare case of a negative effect of brain entrainment, but never-the-less a serious one.
In 1989 D.J. Anderson tested entrainment on migraine patients who had no results with drugs. 49 out of 50 patients rated brain entrainment as helping the migraine and 36 of the 49 rated their migraine as being “stopped”.
1990’s and beyond
Throughout the 1990’s many more studies were done proving the abilities of brainwave entrainment to relieve pain, increase IQ, improve behavior in children, relieve PMS, alleviate ADD, alleviate depression, stimulate dendritic growth, relive anxiety, and cure chronic pain.
Brainwave entrainment has evolved in the 21st century to target more than just physical needs. Although these benefits are great, the potential of this technology is really being discovered in experimenting with using brainwave entrainment for more spiritual, emotional, and metaphysical needs.
As more and more people in western culture embrace the need for meditation practices, I see this technology as the perfect opportunity to bridge the gap. Brainwave entrainment is the perfect tool to help those who wish to stat a meditation practice but have difficulty relaxing and letting go.
If you would like to get started today, download my free isochronic mp3 and accompanying ebook packed with information on brainwave entrainment and it’s wonderful uses.