The study was conducted by a team of American researchers to explore the physiological effects of binaural beats on individuals experiencing stress and seeking relief.
The results indicated that binaural beats significantly impacted the participants’ brain wave activity, demonstrating the potential for developing musical products that leverage the inaudible sound frequencies to affect human neural rhythms and states of consciousness.
Binaural beats are a perception created by the brain when sounds with slightly different wave frequencies are fed directly to both ears. When the brain processes these differing frequencies, an auditory illusion known as a frequency following response is produced, stimulating neural phase locking.
For example, if a sound frequency of 440 Hz is transmitted to the left ear and 430 Hz to the right ear, the brain will generate a sound with a middle frequency of 435 Hz.
These differences in sound frequencies will also cause the brain to create a new inaudible pulsating tone, approximately the mean value of the two initial sounds. In the example, a binaural beat of 10 Hz would be produced based on the differing frequencies of 440 Hz and 430 Hz.
Binaural beats originate exclusively from within the brain’s auditory system and are not a result of acoustic mixing of the different sound frequencies.
While binaural beats have been of scientific interest since their initial discovery by German physicist Heinrich Wilhelm Dove in 1839, researchers have faced challenges in measuring their effects due to the weak signals they generate.
Thanks to technological advancements like Electroencephalography (EEG), which have allowed scientists to monitor electronic brain activity, researchers have become increasingly interested in the ability of binaural beats to affect brain waves and areas of the brain not associated with hearing.
Specifically, some research has suggested that binaural beats can stimulate brain wave activity to alter states of consciousness to promote relaxation, sleep, or concentration.
Today, several smartphone apps offer different binaural beat programs that claim to induce brain activity that can stimulate alertness, reduce anxiety and stress, promote creativity, etc.
And while many users have subjectively reported significant results from the personal use of binaural beats, these claims are primarily unexplored by science.
To address this issue, Dr. Elizabeth Krasnoff from the California Institute for Human Science and Dr. Gaétan Chevalier of the Department of Family Medicine and Public Health at the University of California explored the ability of binaural beats to induce states of relaxation in individuals who were experiencing stress.
Selected through random sampling, which involved posting flyers, electronic marketing, and snowball sampling, four adults- two males in the first week and two females in the second week- were chosen to participate in the pilot study.
Each participant participated in two sessions held on consecutive days, resulting in four auditory stimulations.
The study occurred in a dark and quiet room, with the participants reading a standardized 1-minute relaxation script before each session. The same relaxation script was used for both sessions.
The musical track used in the study was composed in the ambient relaxation genre, incorporating piano music and synthesizer pads with a tempo of 60 beats per minute. Binaural beats were added to the track using professional audio production software.
The chosen frequencies for the binaural beats were Theta at 4 Hz and Alpha at 8 Hz, which are associated with deep meditative states. The resulting track, titled “Relax 1,” served as the auditory stimulation for the study.
Analysis of the data collected during the study revealed that each participant responded differently to the four auditory conditions. However, when examining the brain activity of all four participants, researchers observed consistent visual and numerical representations indicating the profound impact of binaural beats on the mind.
All participants experienced improvements in brain function and displayed a calmer brain after listening to music combined with binaural beats or brown noise.
Notably, since the binaural beats used in the study were not audible to the participants, the observed effects could not be attributed to the placebo effect.
Most participants also exhibited enhanced microcirculation or cardiovascular scores after exposure to auditory stimulation. However, researchers caution that the measurements of the cardiovascular system in response to the auditory stimulus were inconclusive.
Past research has suggested that binaural beats are more effective in persons with extroverted personalities, based on the Big Five personality traits of extraversion/extroversion, agreeableness, openness, conscientiousness, and neuroticism. However, in this recent study, researchers said the correlation between the effectiveness of the auditory stimulation and participant’s personality scores was “less conclusive.”
Researchers note that the small sample size of their pilot study may make it difficult to determine if a particular outcome is a true finding and limits the results to being generalized to a larger population.
Nevertheless, the promising findings suggest that further research with larger sample sizes, different frequencies of binaural beats, and varying music tracks is warranted to explore the potential of incorporating binaural beats into musical products to influence human neural rhythms and promote states of relaxation.
As researchers delve deeper into the fascinating world of binaural beats, their discoveries offer hope for those seeking relief from stress and a pathway to profound relaxation.
The study’s results shed light on the objective induction of a relaxed state through inaudible binaural beats, potentially opening new avenues for harnessing the power of sound to positively impact our well-being.
Tim McMillan is a retired law enforcement executive, investigative reporter and co-founder of The Debrief. His writing typically focuses on defense, national security, the Intelligence Community and topics related to psychology. You can follow Tim on Twitter:@LtTimMcMillan. Tim can be reached by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or through encrypted email:LtTimMcMillan@protonmail.com