[ Therapeutic use of brainwave entrainment || Proof of benefit of any therapeutic intervention is individual || How does BWE create lasting change || How to make BWE last long term ]
Firstly let me just say that.., this is like asking if meditation lasts? It doesn’t. And it does.
There is NO permanence in the nervous system.
And the reality is that this article could end right here with the knowledge that anything left unused or unpractised will lose it’s effect over time. If you are a meditator and then one day you decide to stop.., you WILL notice over time that your emotional and physical state will change.
There are some permanent effects that you will probably never lose.., but the level of benefit will not stay the same as if you had continued.
This article therefore is as much inspiration for you to take ownership of your own results, as it is answering the question as to whether Brainwave Entrainment (BWE) lasts.
By the very nature of asking the question in the title of this article, we accept the fact that BWE is a real thing and that an external stimulus can and does effect internal brain activity.
It is and it does.
BWE stated in another way is the brains habit of synchronising to an external stimulus by way of the Frequency Following Response.
And I think you would find that any scientist aware of neurology would say that the brains Frequency Following Response to external stimulus is proven and easy to replicate.
But the ultimate question for users of brainwave entrainment (BWE) and audio visual entrainment (AVE) is whether the use of such technology can or does have a lasting effect. After the technology is no longer used are the benefits still there, or are the benefits only apparent during it’s use?
Therapeutic use of brainwave entrainment
Early in the 1900’s a French psychiatrist explored the use of a spinning fan blade in front of a light and found that it had a calming effect on the patients who looked at it.
Much earlier than that and through time people have enjoyed the ability of our brain to synchronise to the environment and change state accordingly. From drumming and flickering flames from a fire to modern music and strobe lights.
The advent of the EEG device for measuring brain activity showed that such external stimulations had a significant matched affect on the brain.
A number of studies have been conducted over the years showing positive results of sound and/or light entrainment therapy lasting beyond the treatment itself. Decreasing pain and anxiety, improving mood, increasing brain metabolism and blood flow, decreasing treatment resistant depression, and increasing academic performance.
When possible becomes probable
Even for medically approved practices or drugs.., a doctor will often say something along the lines of “let’s see if this works for you”. There is no magic drug or practice that helps everyone. A drug gets approved for medical use when it outperforms a placebo. And that could be a sugar pill.
Attached to this article for exploration if you choose, are links to research that either explicitly or by reference show that brainwave entrainment, audio visual entrainment and older references to light and sound neurotherapy do have lasting effects. And I want to add to that my own thoughts from extensive research and experience interacting with thousands of BWE users showing lasting and hugely beneficial results of using it.
There are still those that would argue that (for example) Hypnosis is fake yet why then do so many people use it and get amazing results with it?
Many a technique or technology has been dismissed for decades before being accepted as either obvious or self evident.
I would argue that even if the positive effects are only apparent during a session, that this alone brings relief and an associated boost in mood that is in itself a worthwhile result.
Combining the technology with other therapies such as Hypnotherapy, NLP, breathwork, psychotherapy, CBT and/or self affirmation and belief work then adds another layer to this.
And the benefits of a practice of regular focus on relaxing, meditating or on a specific goal which such technology can be a reason to keep going with are well documented also.
Based on this understanding alone, I think it is accurate to say yes to BWE having a lasting effect.
Proof of benefit for any therapeutic intervention is individual
Not only is there no such tool to fix every problem, but proof of anything not mainstream can be hard to find.
You can prove or disprove pretty much anything with the right methods of testing or samples of evidence.
I am happy to admit that even some of the examples of research I find to support a positive effect could be rejected due to the size of the study group for example.
You’ve got to remember that most studies are done with small groups for logistical and funding reasons.
Cause and effect
And what do you do if you want to prove a link between one thing and another? You place them as close in time together as possible to avoid interference by other things. Therefore there will almost always be more evidence of shorter term results.
In other words, to show causality between brainwave entrainment and physical or mental benefit, you place the brain stimulation as close as possible to the testing of any effect.
And that’s exactly the case for most peer reviewed studies. IE: Apply the technique or technology and then test the effect straight afterwards.
The evidence therefore of that is actually abundant, and tested with both EEG and fMRI under controlled conditions.
And that very fact creates a problem. How can you definitively prove that a session of BWE had a lasting effect when months later the person has done so many other things outside of a controlled experimental environment. Someone’s ongoing personal experience is harder to measure.
How does brainwave entrainment create lasting change
It’s well known that the more you practice a physical or mental state the easier it becomes.
Would that not also apply to practising a brainwave state?
What is the benefit of meditation for example? Is it the activity, the lowering of brain activity (brainwaves and thoughts), or both?
Why would artificially creating that activity and lowering of brain activity not have the same benefit?
If we relate this to someone requiring physical therapy to get movement back then what happens there..,
The therapist moves the person’s limbs etc FOR them, until at some point the persons own relearning (Neuroplasticity) ability kicks in and takes over. The external help becomes needed less and less.
The brain is the same!
How can it not be? Even science is discovering that trying to separate the body and mind is becoming more and more difficult.
I can’t tell you how many stories I have from users of audio and/or visual brainwave entrainment that are miraculous, relieving, motivating and at times touching from just using this technology.
From pain reductions of 80% from long term pain in just one or two sessions, and complete relief of short term pain.., to being motivated and productive again where once there was anxiety or depression.
[No outright claims being made here, just personal experience and feedback]
And yes the digital psychedelic trips too possible with light machine varieties of BWE device, lol. That’s the entertainment. Worth noting that people who enjoy those get lasting benefits often there too. The stories I’ve heard, haha.
And yes there are peer reviewed research papers showing improved cognition and performance that builds on itself over time using BWE. Click on the links at the end to see a select few.
How to make brainwave entrainment last long term
Any new behaviour or state can be reversed or undone by returning to old habits.
If using technology helps you to be more relaxed but you then stop using the technology and don’t replace it with something else, then you can’t expect the same level of relaxation to remain as part of your life!
So don’t blame a technique or device for not taking away your choice to go back to old habits.
You always have choice.
Consistent practice beats once only practice every time
Consistency is key then with making AVE and BWE last long term. That does not mean using the technology has to be the form of consistency though. Using technology regularly as an ongoing means to get the result you want is a valid and powerful choice to make.
Only using the technology for a period of time to get you past a mental/physical stuck point, before then maintaining the new habits with another practice is a valid and powerful choice also.
Consistency (creating and maintaining routines) of something is for most people vital in maintaining a positive change in their life. Otherwise entropy (defined as a gradual decline to disorder) will take over and your hard work will undo itself.
So part of ANY therapeutic intention is the development of new habits of thought and/or action. That is your goal with any technique or tool for personal change.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.., “The best techniques and strategies for change in the world only work, when you do!”
Conditioning new habits to last
There are things you can do while using entrainment that will increase your chances of lasting success as well. Some of them are already discussed on this website like the use of breathwork, affirmations or hypnosis.
And then there is related to that idea the concept of conditioning (called anchoring in NLP).
Simply put, the things you practice together in a specific state of mind and body, will tend to get linked neurologically.
The common example I use is adopting a breathing practice of slow controlled deep breathing during a relaxing BWE session. In a relatively short period of time and repetitions, the brain state induced by the BWE session will link itself to the breathing pattern.
This then allows you to breathe the same way in another context without the BWE device and get a very similar brain state just with the breathing pattern. This is one way to transfer the desired state from one context (BWE use) to another context (sitting at your desk in your work environment).
And again with repetition the new state will become automatic without you even needing to think about it.
Breathing purposely is a great example as it has it’s own unique benefits to your mind and body.
See the links below for articles on this and other ways to enLIGHTen your life.
Enjoy the explorations.
And remember the power of routine. Consistent and repeatable actions will change your life faster than anything else.