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Binaural Beats

Binaural Beats

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Published by Mitko
Binaural Beats
Binaural Beats

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Published by: Mitko on Jan 15, 2012
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Binaural beats1
Binaural beats
Binaural beats
Binaural beats
or binaural tones are auditory processing artifacts, orapparent sounds, the perception of which arises in the brain for specificphysical stimuli. This effect was discovered in 1839 by HeinrichWilhelm Dove, and earned greater public awareness in the late 20thcentury based on claims that binaural beats could help inducerelaxation, meditation, creativity and other desirable mental states. Theeffect on the brainwaves depends on the difference in frequencies of each tone, for example, if 300 Hz was played inone ear and 310 in the other, then the Binaural beat would have a frequency of 10 Hz.
[1][2]
The brain produces a phenomenon resulting in low-frequency pulsations in the amplitude and sound localization of aperceived sound when two tones at slightly different frequencies are presented separately, one to each of a subject'sears, using stereo headphones. A beating tone will be perceived, as if the two tones mixed naturally, out of the brain.The frequencies of the tones must be below 1,000 hertz for the beating to be noticeable.
[3]
The difference betweenthe two frequencies must be small (less than or equal to 30 Hz) for the effect to occur; otherwise, the two tones willbe heard separately and no beat will be perceived. An on-line sound example of a sound with binaural beats can befound here.
[4]
Binaural beats are of interest to neurophysiologists investigating the sense of hearing.
[5][6][7][8]
Binaural beats reportedly influence the brain in more subtle ways through the entrainment of brainwaves
[3][9][10]
andhave been claimed to reduce anxiety
[11]
and provide other health benefits such as control over pain.
[12]
Acoustical background
Interaural time differences (ITD) of binauralbeats
For sound localization the human auditory system analyses interauraltime differences between both ears inside small frequency ranges,called critical bands. For frequencies below 1000 to 1500 Hz interauraltime differences are evaluated from interaural phase differencesbetween both ear signals.
[13]
The perceived sound is also evaluatedfrom the analysis of both ear signals.If different pure tones (sinusoidal signals with different frequencies)are presented to each ear, there will be time dependent phase and timedifferences between both ears (see figure). The perceived sounddepends on the frequency difference between both ear signals:If the frequency difference between the ear signals is lower than some hertz, the auditory system can follow thechanges in the interaural time differences. As a result an auditory event is perceived, which is moving through thehead. The perceived direction corresponds to the instantaneous interaural time difference.For slightly bigger frequency differences between the ear signals (more than 10 Hz) the auditory system can nolonger follow the changes in the interaural parameters. A diffuse auditory event appears. The sound correspondsto an overlay of both ear signals, which means amplitude and loudness are changing rapidly (see figure in thechapter above).For frequency differences between the ear signals of above 30 Hz the cocktail party effect begins to work, and theauditory system is able to analyze the presented ear signals in terms of two different sound sources at twodifferent locations, and two distinct signals are perceived.Binaural beats can also be experienced without headphones, they appear when playing two different pure tonesthrough loudspeakers. The sound perceived is quite similar: with auditory events which move through the room, at
 
Binaural beats2low frequency differences, and diffuse sound at slightly bigger frequency differences. At bigger frequencydifferences apparent localized sound sources appear.
[14]
However, it is more effective to use headphones thanloudspeakers.
History
Heinrich Wilhelm Dove discovered binaural beats in 1839. While research about them continued after that, thesubject remained something of a scientific curiosity until 134 years later, with the publishing of Gerald Oster's article"Auditory Beats in the Brain" (Scientific American, 1973). Oster's article identified and assembled the scatteredislands of relevant research since Dove, offering fresh insight (and new laboratory findings) to research on binauralbeats.In particular, Oster saw binaural beats as a powerful tool for cognitive and neurological research, addressingquestions such as how animals locate sounds in their three-dimensional environment, and also the remarkable abilityof animals to pick out and focus on specific sounds in a sea of noise (which is known as the "cocktail party effect").Oster also considered binaural beats to be a potentially useful medical diagnostic tool, not merely for finding andassessing auditory impairments, but also for more general neurological conditions. (Binaural beats involve differentneurological pathways than ordinary auditory processing.) For example, Oster found that a number of his subjectsthat could not perceive binaural beats, suffered from Parkinson's disease. In one particular case, Oster was able tofollow the subject through a week-long treatment of Parkinson's disease; at the outset the patient could not perceivebinaural beats; but by the end of the week of treatment, the patient was able to hear them.In corroborating an earlier study, Oster also reported gender differences in the perception of beats. Specifically,women seemed to experience two separate peaks in their ability to perceive binaural beats
 —
peaks possiblycorrelating with specific points in the menstrual cycle (onset of menstruation and approx. 15 after). [15... minutes?days?] This data led Oster to wonder if binaural beats could be used as a tool for measuring relative levels of estrogen.
[3]
The effects of binaural beats on consciousness were first examined by physicist Thomas Warren Campbell andelectrical engineer Dennis Mennerich, who under the direction of Robert Monroe sought to reproduce a subjectiveimpression of 4 Hz oscillation that they associated with out-of-body experience.
[15]
On the strength of their findings,Monroe created the binaural-beat technology self-development industry by forming The Monroe Institute, now acharitable binaural research and education organization.
Unverified claims
There have been a number of claims regarding binaural beats, among them that they may simulate the effect of recreational drugs, help people memorize and learn, stop smoking, help dieting, tackle erectile dysfunction andimprove athletic performance.Scientific research into binaural beats is very limited. No conclusive studies have been released to support the wilderclaims listed above. However, some studies
[16]
indicate that binaural beats may have a relaxing effect. In absence of positive evidence for a specific effect, however, claimed effects may be attributed to the power of suggestion (theplacebo effect).
 
Binaural beats3
Physiology
The sensation of binaural beats is believed to originate in the superior olivary nucleus, a part of the brain stem. Theyappear to be related to the brain's ability to locate the sources of sounds in three dimensions and to track movingsounds, which also involves inferior colliculus (IC) neurons.
[17]
Regarding entrainment, the study of rhythmicityprovides insights into the understanding of temporal information processing in the human brain. Auditory rhythmsrapidly entrain motor responses into stable steady synchronization states below and above conscious perceptionthresholds. Activated regions include primary sensorimotor and cingulate areas, bilateral opercular premotor areas,bilateral SII, ventral prefrontal cortex, and, subcortically, anterior insula, putamen, and thalamus. Within thecerebellum, vermal regions and anterior hemispheres ipsilateral to the movement became significantly activated.Tracking temporal modulations additionally activated predominantly right prefrontal, anterior cingulate, andintraparietal regions as well as posterior cerebellar hemispheres.
[18]
A study of aphasic subjects who had a severestroke versus normal subjects showed that the aphasic subject could not hear the binaural beats whereas the normalsubjects could.
[19]
Hypothetical effects on brain function
Overview
Binaural beats may influence functions of the brain in ways besides those related to hearing. This phenomenon iscalled
 frequency following response
. The concept is that if one receives a stimulus with a frequency in the range of brain waves, the predominant brain wave frequency is said to be likely to move towards the frequency of thestimulus (a process called entrainment).
[20]
In addition, binaural beats have been credibly documented to relate toboth spatial perception & stereo auditory recognition, and, according to the frequency following response, activationof various sites in the brain.
[21][22][23][24][25]
The stimulus does not have to be aural; it can also be visual
[26]
or a combination of aural and visual
[27]
(one suchexample would be Dreamachine). However, using alpha frequencies with such stimuli can trigger photosensitiveepilepsy.Perceived human hearing is limited to the range of frequencies from 20 Hz to 20,000 Hz, but the frequencies of human brain waves are below about 40 Hz. To account for this lack of perception, binaural beat frequencies are used.Beat frequencies of 40 Hz have been produced in the brain with binaural sound and measured experimentally.
[28]
When the perceived beat frequency corresponds to the delta, theta, alpha, beta, or gamma range of brainwavefrequencies, the brainwaves entrain to or move towards the beat frequency.
[29]
For example, if a 315 Hz sine wave isplayed into the right ear and a 325 Hz one into the left ear, the brain is entrained towards the beat frequency 10 Hz,in the alpha range. Since alpha range is associated with relaxation, this has a relaxing effect or if in the beta range,more alertness. An experiment with binaural sound stimulation using beat frequencies in the Beta range on someparticipants and Delta/Theta range in other participants, found better vigilance performance and mood in those on theawake alert state of Beta range stimulation.
[30][31]
Binaural beat stimulation has been used fairly extensively to induce a variety of states of consciousness, and therehas been some work done in regards to the effects of these stimuli on relaxation, focus, attention, and states of consciousness.
[9]
Studies have shown that with repeated training to distinguish close frequency sounds that a plasticreorganization of the brain occurs for the trained frequencies
[32]
and is capable of asymmetric hemisphericbalancing.
[33]

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