Not surprisingly the most common question I get asked is what is brainwave entrainment? Brainwave entrainment (BWE) is also known as audio visual entrainment, neural entrainment, light and sound stimulation, and brainwave synchronization to name a few. BWE states that electrical oscillations in the brain called brainwaves synchronise to an external repetitive rhythm. And this rhythm can be sound beats & tones, music, stroboscopic light, vibration, or electromagnetic pulses. Various states of consciousness relate to specific bands of brainwaves and frequencies. Therefore the assumption is that entrainment to that frequency can result in that desired state. Entrainment has been shown to be possible with the use of modern EEG equipment. For further information on this see the science of brainwave entrainment. And entraining to desired states has also been proven possible through studies and subjective feedback from users.
Patterns of neurochemical activity called brainwaves (measured in cycles per second or Hertz (Hz)), match mental states of relaxation or arousal. These brainwaves are loosely categorised into Delta (0.5-4Hz), Theta (4-8Hz), Alpha (8-12Hz), Beta (12-32Hz), and Gamma (>32Hz). The Frequency Following Response effect of brainwave entrainment can be used for many purposes. This includes deep trance states, hypnotherapy, and meditation. And this often occurs quickly to levels that would otherwise take years of practice. Or it can enhance motivation and focus. With care and a doctors advice, it may even help with things like depression and reducing stress & anxiety.., arguably the biggest troubles of our time. And users often report other benefits such as improved sleep and elevated mood to name a few.
Does entrainment occur naturally
Many claims are made of what brainwave entrainment can do and for most people it is a safe way to explore altered states. It does this by guiding the brain into less explored or less used states of mind. Ancient cultures have used forms of entrainment style trance states for thousands of years. Examples being rhythmic drumming, dance, and the flicker of a fire.
Sometimes this brain/stimulus synchronisation happens naturally in our lives. For example.., the ticking of a clock can put some people to sleep as the brain starts to entrain to the constant tick, tick, tick.
The same thing can happen when travelling in a car with the constant flashing past of light poles or road markings at regular and repeating intervals. It can actually contribute to feeling drowsy.
[ANY constant and stable external frequency will cause a response in the brain to synchronise to that frequency. This effect is what Brainwave Entrainment or Audio Visual Entrainment is.]
What claims are made of brainwave entrainment
Many claims are made for brainwave entrainment. Some are fact and some are random based on individual results. And some are quite frankly wishful thinking. Claims of helping with weight loss for example are a stretch as to what altering brainwaves can do. Although it is true that when we feel better, we tend to do better. And feeling better is one result of entrainment. While other claims like pain relief, increased creativity, spiritual journeys or drug free psychedelic effects are more common.
In fact most claims for BWE are neither made up nor fact. They are based on an individuals persistence of practice and ability to take advantage of unique and deeply relaxing states. In much the same way that a persistent practice of meditation has long lasting benefits
Does brainwave entrainment have misperceptions
Seldom is anyone lacking in one range of brainwaves all of the time. More common is for different parts of the brain to be stronger in a particular frequency than another. Or for a person to be more ‘practised’ in one band of frequency than another.
Someone who gets stressed a lot is likely to have a excess of higher Beta waves and less of the lower Alpha and Theta waves. As a general rule, higher frequencies tend to be present during times of higher brain activity. And therefore have a higher potential for an over active mind and stress. This is a general rule though and does have exceptions. Brainwave entrainment has some similarities to Neurofeedback. The difference being that brainwave entrainment seeks to take your brain to a specific state and hold it there with little effort on the part of the user. Whereas neurofeedback requires effort by the user to move their own brainwaves to the specific state. And by doing so aims to create a skill through practice.
Should you change brainwave patterns
While increasing a particular brainwave might help one person.., it may be mentally uncomfortable or challenging for another. Certain frequencies may be conducive to emotional recall of memories and release of this emotion. There is nothing inherently dangerous about this. But it can be challenging for some people to face emotions memories and process them without help.
Knowing a persons habit of brain patterns as a starting point can be challenging. However assumptions can be made based on a few simple questions about what a person experiences on a regular basis. Thankfully there is little chance of experimenting with different frequencies leading to any long term challenges.
Simply put, if you try a session and find that it leads to any unwanted effects.., you can stop. You could then either try a different one next time, or you can decide that Brainwave Entrainment (BWE) is not for you.
No persons brain will have just one frequency present at any one time. All frequencies are always there but one or two will be stronger and therefore dominant. This dominance is in line with your current mental state of mind. Brainwave entrainment seeks to shift this dominant frequency and therefore dominant state of mind.
What is the past and present history of brainwave entrainment
Current use and understanding of BWE (Brainwave entrainment) and AVE (Audio Visual Entrainment) has never been greater. It may seem like brainwave entrainment is a new method, but the idea and its use are as old as tribal trance rituals are. Early humans dating back beyond the bronze age and ancient Greek times have used BWE way before it got its name. Rhythmic chanting and mystical states have been part of traditions for millenia.
Sound chambers tuned to specific frequencies and light shining and flickering through spinning objects are examples. Or even shamanic practices of a large leaf being waved in front of sunlight and rhythmic drumming have been used to alter people states.
Modern technology has given rise to a range of techniques including binaural beats, isochronic tones, strobing lights, and electrical stimulation such as rTMS (Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation). The invention of EEG brain measuring technology made the practice of brainwave entrainment and audio visual entrainment more accessible to science studies. And this led to evidence to the lasting effect of brainwave entrainment.
What is brainwave entrainment used for
Deep meditative states and trance states are the most common benefits of brainwave entrainment. Including in the use of hypnotherapy. Often these states are achieved quicker and more profoundly than non aided meditation. And one specific use of this level of relaxation is in reducing stress and anxiety. Insomnia relief and improved sleep is a common side affect also. Not to mention pain relief. Also states of high alertness, peak perfomance & flow and creativity are possible. And there is even some evidence to suggest that it can help with immunity. As a result of synchronising both sides/hemispheres of the brain and increased blood flow, there can be beneficial results in whole brain communication and health. Drug free psychedelic states and visions are also achievable particularly with photic/light based psychedelic brainwave entrainment. As you can see, the uses are as varied as your imagination. And brainwave entrainment can become part of a balanced approach to personal development and a sense of spiritual awakening.
Medical approval is rare for BWE but therapeutic uses are common with sometimes miraculous results. And there are studies of stimulation by light and sound that show therapeutic benefit particularly with mental health. Brainwave entrainment is used for a range of personal benefits. And by combining it with other practices, the effects can be enhanced. As a tool for personal or professional change, entrainment can become a part of your health care routine. And with intelligent use, the results of brainwave entrainment last beyond stopping its use.
Does entrainment enhance personal development
There is no doubt that audio visual entrainment and brainwave entrainment create deep profound trance similar to hypnosis. And this is the easiest result to leverage for your own or your clients personal benefit. The hypnotic state created is sometimes called the twilight state or Theta state. And it is called this because a brain dominant in Theta brainwaves is suggestable to new idea’s and changing habits. Traditional hypnosis gets people into a Theta state where therapeutic work can be done. And brainwave entrainment can achieve this state very quickly and reliably. Owners of the Roxiva RX1 for example include hypnotherapists, psychologists and health spa professionals. And personal users get an expanding range of purpose made sessions to explore consciousness, relax deeply, and get all the benefits of meditation instantly and repeatably.
What types of brainwave entrainment are there
Auditory, visual and electromagnetic forms are the most common. Some are more impactful than others and some devices like the Roxiva RX1 combine both Auditory and Visual as a form of audio visual entrainment.
Auditory forms include Binaural beats where a different tone is played into each ear causing the brain to entrain to the difference of the two tones. This requires the use of headphones. Or Isochronic tones and monaural beats where a single tone equal to the frequency desired is played. Often these tones are played at a subdued level with music so that the tone is less audible than the music.
Visual or photic BWE uses a strobing light source at the desired frequency. This is usually done with the eyes closed and therefore works through the eyelids. Some very interesting visual effects similar to drug induced psychedelic effects can be experienced using this form of BWE. These light based devices are often called light machines.
Electromagnetic BWE is a more recent development. This uses mild magnetic stimulation via electrodes on the scalp to deliver electric stimulation. This has the potential to target specific parts of the brain more easily than the whole brain effect of auditory and visual entrainment. However the low levels of current allowed and precision required for placement in home devices may limit this potential.
Warnings about brainwave entrainment, is brainwave entrainement safe
Most people using brainwave entrainment have pleasant experiences of deep trance, meditation and relaxation. And this is a safe way to enjoy these benefits. However, there are cautions of brainwave entrainment and some side effects to be aware of.
In rare cases using BWE has caused those who are sensitive to vertigo or seizures to have an episode. So care should be taken and training given if you give sessions to other people. Particularly when using photic/visual stimulation it is advisable to be supervised for your first few sessions.
History has shown that those sensitive to light in particular can even be triggered by flashing lights on TV. This is why most TV stations will now pre warn people.
There is an example of a Japanese cartoon that used flickering light in the late 90’s that caused a seizure in some of the children who watched it. Dizziness and headaches or feeling nauseous are possible also in some people. Although this is usually from too much use or contributing factors such as dehydration.
Do not use brainwave entrainment if you are prone to seizures and avoid BWE also if you are pregnant or under 18 as you may be unaware of being sensitive to it. If you give regular sessions to people it is useful to have knowledge of first aide for seizures.
Most uncomfortable results can be avoided with some general guidelines.
What are recommended entrainment practices
[Providers of any sessions or devices should provide you with a comprehensive risk assessment/safety list or form so please ask]
Start slow and don’t do too much. Most side effects are a result of overuse. You will react to BWE in a unique way so measure your own ideal use pattern.
Stay hydrated (drink water).
If you experience discomfort then stop using it and if the discomfort persists seek medical advice.
Do not use is you have epilepsy or suffer from brain abnormalities such as seizures or blackouts.
Be aware that people who have had head injuries or a stroke are more susceptible to seizures.
Check with your doctor if you are on any medication that there are no contraindications to using BWE before use and indicate to the doctor what type of BWE you intend to use.
Avoid combining alcohol or recreational drugs with BWE.
Do not use if pregnant to avoid possible risk to the baby.
That said, it’s rare for anyone to have negative effects. You may simply feel different or a bit spaced out (like in a mini trance) for a short time after a Brainwave entrainment or audio visual entrainment session. Most people have a positive experience and most minor side effects if they occur will disappear quite quickly.