Is it possible to hack the brain using sound

Is it possible to hack the brain using sound

Binaural beats, it is possible, can affect brain waves. And magic this is actually less than it might seem.

What if I told you that there is a way to improve concentration and attention, to facilitate painto reduce anxietyto help meditation and enhance the quality of sleep night? And all this — free and virtually without side effects. Too good to be true, you say? But these are qualities attributed to the “magic” binaural rhythms.

Binaural beats is, in fact, an auditory illusion that occurs if you listen to the audio signals of two close frequencies, each of which is served in only one ear (“binaural” means “pertaining to both ears”). The brain tries to combine these two sounds and you hear the third sound at the frequency that represents the difference between the first two (this illusion is created in the brain stem). For example, if the right ear sound of frequency 400 Hz and in the left — 410 Hz, then you will feel the pulse at the frequency of 10 Hz is the binaural beat. (Examples can be streamed here.)

And here begins the “magic”: the brain activity adapts to the frequency of the binaural beat. In the example above, the brain starts to “work” at a frequency of 10 Hz. This process is called “imposition” frequency of brain waves and represents one of the ways that you try to “hack” the brain to achieve a desired mental state.

Miguel Garcia-Argibay — scientist from the Swedish University of örebro, in the area of interest which include binaural beats says:

“The attractiveness of binaural beats is that, in theory, a small difference in the frequencies of the two signals causes the brain to operate at the desired frequency.”

The aim of this action is to get the brain cells working frequency corresponding to the desired mental state.

Based on the work of the brain is the transmission of electrical signals, and depending on the kind of brain activities of neurons transmit the signals with different frequency. Certain frequencies brain waves (usually they are measured using electroencephalogram — EEG) are associated with different cognitive and emotional States.

  • The highest frequency — from gamma waves (30 Hz and higher): when the brain is in the gamma rhythm neurons send signals with a frequency of 30 times per second. It is a condition of the brain associated with deep concentration.
  • Beta-rhythm to a frequency of 12-30 Hz and is associated with feelings of arousal, attention and anxiety.
  • Alpha rhythm is 8-12 Hz: it is associated with a more relaxed state of passive attention, as well as with the feeling of sleepiness.
  • Theta rhythm corresponds to a frequency of 4-8 Hz and indicates a deep level of relaxation, focus on internal sensations. This rhythm is often observed during meditation.
  • The Delta rhythms are the slowest: 0.5–4 Hz. If the EEG — Delta waves, the person is probably asleep.

The phenomenon of imposing frequency of brain rhythms is that the brain begins to work at the frequency of an external stimulus — for example, the binaural beat: region of the brain that usually operate on different frequencies, begin to synchronize. The aim of this action is to get the brain cells working frequency corresponding to the desired mental state. For example, if you to prepare for the test or focus on worksetting of brain activity in the gamma – or beta-rhythms can improve care. Or Vice versa: if you have insomnia, you can try to trick the brain so that it slowed to a theta or Delta rhythms — this will help you sleep.

In theory this sounds great, but the question of how effective binaural beats to change brain-wave frequencies and does it really affect mood and thought processes, still remains a subject of debate.

Developer in machine learning Hector Perez, who researched binaural beats while studying at McGill University (Canada), says that research claiming that binaural beats improve brain ability, was very wishy-washy: “it was Not clear, did the binaural beats at all any influence.”

The study of binaural beats give conflicting results. In a recent the meta-analysis Garcia Argibay compared 22 work on this phenomenon and concluded that theta frequency can actually reduce the level of anxiety, and gamma-frequency — increase productivity when working on tasks that require attention. However, the effect of binaural beats on memory was not so convincing: in some studies the subjects after exposure to beta, alpha and theta frequencies improved results when performing tasks on memorization, while others on the contrary — it was reported about the deterioration of the results when using these binaural frequencies.

It is also not clear if binaural beats actually change the frequency of brain waves. In one particularly noteworthy study has shown that binaural beats of any frequency did not affect EEG. However, in another study when measuring the EEG inside the skull of patients, who underwent brain surgery, in response to four of these frequency changes in brain activity still was observed. In another the study showed the imposition of theta rhythms in several areas of the brain after 10 minutes of exposure to the binaural rhythm at the appropriate frequency.

Garcia Argibay explains that one reason for these differences is that the conventional Protocol for the study of binaural beats is that there is, therefore, in these experiments we used different approaches: varied frequency rhythms, volume, duration, background music, moment in which were reproduced record (before or during task execution). According to the meta-analysis, best results are obtained if the frequencies are played by themselves (without background music or white noise) for at least 10 minutes before running the job.

This story has an interesting twist: it turns out, binaural beats is not the only auditory stimulus that can impose the brain waves of the desired frequency. In the study of Perez, published last month in journal eNeuroit was shown that not only do binaural beats produce an effect of “imposing”: the same can be achieved monaural rhythms pulsating sound that is played in both ears with the same frequency. And monophonic rhythm had even greater impact on brain waves but did not change neither the mood nor the mental state.

Perez said that the influence of binaural beats on the brain, it seems, nothing is unique, and scientists in the field of auditory cognitive neuroscience has long known that even a simple rhythmic sound (e.g., claps), will impose brain a certain frequency: “Any rhythmic sound will cause the brain to adapt to its frequency. Why would people lose your head over such a trivial phenomenon?”


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