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Brainwave Entrainment & Bilateral Stimulation

Brainwave entrainment and bilateral stimulation can help reduce the symptoms of:

  • Stress
  • Fatigue, bodily or mental
  • Mental overwork, overthinking
  • Stuck emotions or thought-patterns needing to be processed
  • Bodily or mental-emotional trauma

“Brainwave entrainment” is the use an external stimulus to synchronize brainwave oscillations in ways that are measurable in QEEG. Auditory entrainment is the use of specific sound frequencies and combinations of auditory stimuli to alter brainwave activity. If you’ve ever heard of “binaural beats”, these are a subset of the fascinating technology known as brainwave entrainment or BWE. The form of BWE that will discussed here and which is employed at Source is auditory entrainment.

Just to toot my own horn a little, in 2012 I wrote my Bachelors thesis (in Psychology) on “Brainwave Entrainment: An Impetus for the Future of Medicine”, a lofty and lengthy meta-analysis of all of the scientific literature on BWE to date. At that time, there were only a total of 30 published research articles on the phenomenon of BWE. Now, a quick Google Scholar search of the term “brainwave entrainment” pulls up over 800 results.

I have been experimenting with binaural beats, isochronic tones, and other forms of BWE for ten years. Soon after beginning using alpha and beta brainwaves while reading, I realized that this was a technology that would have change the course of my childhood had I known about it sooner. Focused attention while reading was always something I struggled with growing up. BWE gave me the ability to read with focus and clarity like I’d never experienced in my life. I knew then that this was something I should take seriously, so I went on to study it academically while in my undergraduate program and continue to study it to this day.

How does it work?

 If I were to clap my hands while standing next to you, a certain portion of the temporal lobe of your brain would “light up” in response to the neural input coming in through your auditory sense. If I were to clap my hands at a specific rate, say six times per second (6Hz), then your brain would be “lighting up” at the rate at which I’m clapping my hands (on top of the “light show” that is all the rest of your neural activity).

Neurons fire. They fire at a range of different rates based on what they’re processing. These neural firings are collectively and colloquially known as “brainwaves”. When you look at the range of frequencies produced by the firing of the neurons in the brain, certain patterns begin to emerge. We now know that certain states of consciousness are associated with brainwave patterns that fall into certain frequency ranges. For instance, if you are reading this it means you are awake and that the dominant range of brainwaves in your noggin are in what’s called the Beta range, which ranges from 16-31Hz (depending on who you ask). It’s important to note that none of these delineations are hard-fast and that it’s more helpful to think of these things as existing on a spectrum. If you want to know more about brainwave frequencies, check this out or just ask me.

In the entrainment literature there is something called a “frequency following response” where the entrained frequency is induced in nearby neurons and spreads to other areas of the brain – like synchronous fireflies. If more of your neurons are firing within a given frequency range, then you are more likely to experience the states of consciousness that are associated with that brainwave frequency range. It is really that simple.

There is an old axiom from the early days of neuropsychology that goes: “Neurons that fire together, wire together.” Think about the implications of this regarding what your mind is processing while a majority of your neurons are all dancing to the beat of the same drum.

Bilateral Stimulation

I have been experimenting with home-made BWE for ten years, but it wasn’t until recently that I discovered the magic of bilateral stimulation. “Bilateral stimulation” simply a means of facilitating harmony between the left and right hemispheres of the brain by stimulating one side of the body (and thereby the brain) and then the other, alternating back and forth. This could be as simple as tapping your feet from left to right.

This technique is employed in therapies like EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization & Reprogramming) and EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique, “Tapping”) to facilitate communication between the hemispheres. Elevated states of consciousness during prayer or meditation are often associated with a balanced synchrony between the left and right. When the left and right hemispheres are talking appropriately, there is a sense of balance and of peace.

The sounds I use for BWE with bilateral stimulation phase from left to right to encourage this cross-talk. They also employ Pythagorean intervals in an A Major chord (A=216Hz) (more on my fascination with Pythagorean intervals on my sound healing page, or go straight to the Geesink & Meijer meta-analysis here). This particular set of intervals entrains the brain to a set of Gamma frequencies. Gamma brainwaves are used in high-level cognitive processing and frontal-lobe activity in general. It has been demonstrated in EEG studies that frequent meditators have higher base-level Gamma power in their brains.

In effect, what the BWE sounds I use do is encourage the left and right hemispheres to process information at a deep level. In sessions with me there is often a sense of peace and relaxation – some experience deep states of meditation or spontaneous visualizations. Many clients fall asleep. This is encouraged! They often wake up feeling refreshed and alert.

Ready to try it for yourself?

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